Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin has pulled petitions to seek the Republican nomination for state representative from the 91st District, the seat currently held by Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, who is term limited.
Election officials confirmed Wednesday that Wilkin pulled petitions Monday.
If he files for the seat, Wilkin will be joining a GOP primary election field that includes Clinton County businesswoman Beth Ellis, who announced her intention to seek the Republican nomination for the same seat several months ago and has Rosenberger’s backing.
The 91st District includes Highland, Clinton, Pike and a part of Ross County.
Wilkin said Wednesday he had considered the race for several months but wanted to make sure he could balance family duties with the campaign and with serving if elected.
Wilkin and his wife, Kristy, a local attorney, are the parents of two young daughters, Piper, who turns 8 on Thursday, and Parker, who turns 7 on Friday.
Wilkin said that while walking into church recently, Piper turned to him and said, “Daddy, you should run for state representative.”
“That was the icing on the cake,” said Wilkin. “I want to do what I’ve tried to do in Highland County, make the area more prosperous economically so that kids who want to stay here can do so, not just for jobs but for careers.”
Wilkin is in his 10th year as a commissioner, having been re-elected in 2016 to his third term. He is a 1988 graduate of Lynchburg-Clay High School, a licensed real estate agent and a small business owner of a carry-out store on Muntz Street in Hillsboro.
He has long taken the lead on the commission on economic development issues, frequently attending meetings in Columbus and elsewhere, and serving as the commission’s primary liaison with state and federal leaders.
In addition to Wilkin and Ellis, others who have taken out petitions for the state representative race include James Bowling, a Republican from Blanchester, and Justin Grimes, a Democrat from New Vienna who is registered to vote in Clinton County, according to election records. The filing deadline is Feb. 7.
Ellis’ announcement last year that she was a candidate for the seat included an endorsement from Rosenberger, a move that upset some Republicans in Highland County.
Ellis’ press release at the time of her announcement quoted Rosenberger as saying, “Beth Ellis is the ideal choice to continue the work I have done to move the 91st District forward. … Beth will be an outstanding advocate for my constituency and I have full confidence in her to work for the people of Highland, Clinton, Pike, and Ross Counties and be sure that their voices are heard in Columbus.” Ellis later received the endorsement of the Clinton County GOP.
In regard to Rosenberger’s backing of Ellis, Wilkin said Wednesday, “I hope the voice of the people of the 91st District decides this race, not Columbus.”
The Highland County Republican Party voted Tuesday to endorse Wilkin, according to party chair Paulette Donley. Also endorsed were incumbent Congressman Brad Wenstrup and the gubernatorial ticket of Mike DeWine and Jon Husted.
“It made sense to support this conservative ticket in the primary so we can get down to the real task at hand – beating the progressive liberal Democrats in November,” according to a party statement.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @AbernathyGary.
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