Friday, December 15th, 2006
Zehringer to try for House seat
By Timothy Cox
Mercer County Commissioner Jim Zehringer plans to seek appointment to the Ohio House of Representatives seat that will be vacated early next year by Rep. Keith Faber.
Faber is leaving the seat because he has been tapped by state Senate Republicans to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jim Jordan, who was elected to Congress in November. Faber also had recently won re-election to the House, so the full two years of his term remain.
Zehringer, a Fort Recovery Republican, is about to complete his first four-year term as a county commissioner. Zehringer also was recently re-elected by Mercer County voters to a second four-year term set to begin early next year.
Zehringer, 54, who runs a rural Fort Recovery poultry and fish farm, said he has no reservations about leaving the term he was just re-elected to serve.
"This is a unique situation," Zehringer said, referring to the appointment process instead of a lengthy campaign. "I think I'm up to the challenge. I don't think I'd consider it if it wasn't the best thing for Mercer, Darke and Preble counties. Political opportunities like this don't come along very often."
The 77th House District includes all of Mercer and Preble counties and a portion of Darke County.
The Ohio House leadership is accepting applications through Jan. 5 to fill Faber's seat. House Republicans then will interview candidates and eventually vote on the issue. Zehringer said he expects numerous strong candidates to emerge before that date.
"I think I represent the values and work ethic of the district, but I'm sure there will be plenty of candidates," Zehringer said.
Mercer County Commissioner Bob Nuding said he had been interested in pursuing the Statehouse seat but opted not to join the fray in deference to his friendship with Zehringer.
Zehringer already has the support of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Mercer County Farm Bureau. He hopes to earn a recommendation next week from the Mercer County Republican Party.
The House position pays $51,674 annually. Zehringer now earns about $40,000 annually as commissioner.
If Zehringer is chosen to fill Faber's seat, it would open up a seat on the county commission for the first time since 1997 when it happened twice in the span of a couple of months. The local Republican Party would choose Zehringer's successor, who would be appointed to two years of the term and would have to run in 2008 for the remaining two years of the unexpired term.
In May 1997, former Commissioner Ron Puthoff retired from the office and was replaced by Orville Dues, nominated by the Democratic Party. Dues was killed in a farm accident just 15 days after taking office and was replaced by former Commissioner Tom Gagel. Nuding now has Gagel's seat.