Widener to step down from his Ohio Senate seat

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
State Senator Chris Widener, R-Springfield, announced Thursday he is leaving office on Jan 31.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

He represents Greene, Clark and Madison counties; served as No. 2 Senate leader.


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In a surprise move, Springfield Republican Chris Widener announced he is retiring from the Ohio Senate as of Jan. 31 with nearly a year left on his term in office.

Widener is the second-in-command in the Ohio Senate, sits on the powerful state Controlling Board and is a former chairman of the Senate finance committee.

Widener, an architect, issued a written statement Thursday that said he would focus on his private design and construction business but will remain involved in public issues.

“I will continue to be a tireless advocate for the people I love and the issues they care about. I plan to work for the quality and affordability of public education, giving students the skills they need to fill available jobs in the current Ohio market, working to insure that our veterans receive credit for their military training and education, and continuing to advocate for further investments in a healthy outcome for all Ohioans,” he said.

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, described Widener as a key team member.

“Chris’ public service legacy has touched every Ohioan. We will miss his dedication and passion for improving education, creating jobs, protecting our military infrastructure and streamlining government, but I know wherever he goes in private life, he will continue to serve the greater good. He has been a tireless leader and statesman in the Senate and an encouraging mentor to our members and staff. His work leaves our state in a better place than he found it,” Faber said in a written statement.

Senate Republicans will pick someone to fill out the remaining 11 months in Widener’s term.

Two Republicans are running for the 10th Senate district — Rep. Bob Hackett, R-London and Brian Walton of Beavercreek. Two Democrats are running — Matthew Kirk of Yellow Springs and Michael Sergio Gilbert of Springfield. The winners from each party’s March 15 primary will run in November for the next term which starts in January 2017.

Widener was a high-ranking Republican in the Ohio Senate, so his departure might mean a loss of political clout in Columbus for Clark and Greene counties, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said. However, Hackett knows both the area and the Ohio legislature well, Detrick said, so he will also be a good representative.

Locally, Widener also played an important role in opening the Global Impact STEM Academy in downtown Springfield, Detrick said.

Widener made headlines in 2012 when it came to light that he stuck an amendment into a state budget bill that eventually allowed the Clark County Convention Facilities Authority to levy a bed tax and then give $412,890 of the money generated to a struggling nonprofit that Widener helped found. Widener co-founded the non-profit in 2002 to run the Champions Center at the Clark County Fairgrounds and was among several community leaders who backed bank loans to the center. Widener maintained that he did nothing wrong or unethical.

Widener began his legislative career when he was appointed to an vacant House seat in 1999 but the following year Merle Grace Kearns beat him in a GOP primary for the seat. Widener returned to the House and served from 2003 to 2008 and joined the Senate in 2009. Due to term limits, he is not eligible to serve in the Senate after the end of this year.

Staff Writer Matt Sanctis contributed to this report.