A brief Highland County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday was overshadowed by uncertainty surrounding the appointment of Commissioner Shane Wilkin to Ohio’s 91st House District.
Wilkin, who won the Republican nomination for the seat last week, spent the day in Columbus Tuesday as the Ohio House of Representatives met in open and closed sessions discussing his appointment and other matters.
Earlier this week, Wilkin said he was told he would be sworn in Wednesday afternoon, but as the day wore on and House members grappled with procedural issues, the appointment became more and more tentative.
Because of the resignation of Cliff Rosenberger – the speaker of the House who represented the 91st District – GOP caucus members had agreed prior to the May 8 primary that the winner would be seated immediately to fill the remainder of Rosenberger’s term this year. But it was not clear on Wednesday just how immediate the appointment might be.
In fact, Wilkin said on Wednesday that he may not be seated until after the House’s summer recess, in which case no one would be seated until January 2019. Wilkin will face off in November against Democratic candidate Justin Grimes.
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley noted that the situation is historic.
“As far as I know, and from what I’ve read… we’ve never had a situation like this,” Fawley told The Times-Gazette. “Unfortunately, even taking Shane out of the picture, it’s just kind of unfortunate that the House can’t get together enough to elect a speaker… We’ve just got a lot of people on hold right now.”
Fawley referenced an upcoming battle for speaker of the Ohio House featuring state Rep. Larry Householder and state Rep. Ryan Smith.
House Republicans met Tuesday to nominate a new speaker, but neither Householder nor Smith secured the necessary votes, according to various news outlets. Rep. Kirk Schuring is currently serving as house speaker pro tempore.
Wilkin’s campaign was supported by forces aligned with Householder, while his opponent, Beth Ellis, was backed by the Ohio Republican Organizational Committee (OHROC), controlled by Smith after Rosenberger’s resignation.
The Columbus Dispatch reported last week, “In the 11 open primary races in which OHROC spent time and/or money supporting a candidate, the Householder-backed opposing candidate won or is leading in 10 of them…”
The newspaper added that Householder’s supporters “have said that, all told, up to 20 Republican candidates who won Tuesday are on his side. Some people question that number, but regardless, Householder had a good day.”
County GOP officials have been making plans to appoint a replacement for Wilkin on the commission when he eventually resigns, but before they can begin accepting applications or conducting interviews they need Wilkin’s resignation to be official.
On Wednesday, the commissioners met for a few minutes in regular session for housekeeping items, then conducted two bid openings later in the morning.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.
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