By Lance Mihm
A House Democrat who was the state's youngest elected lawmaker when he took office four years ago switched political parties this morning.
78th District Rep. Derrick Seaver, 22, of Minster earlier endorsed President Bush for re-election but said at the time he would remain a Democrat.
"Six months ago while in Celina I made a decision to endorse the president in the election," Seaver told The Daily Standard this morning. "My decision to switch began there."
Seaver said his disappointment with the Democratic party began with attacks from party members at the national, state and local level.
"It was plain to see the party would rather have a Democrat like John Kerry in there instead of a (conservative) Democrat like me," he said. Seaver, who was chairman of the Democratic Party in predominantly Republican Auglaize County, in September said he supported Bush's plan to fight terrorism abroad and his efforts to reduce taxes.
Seaver's switch gives Republicans a 60-39 edge over Democrats in the House and diminishes the gains from the Nov. 2 election, when Democrats picked up three seats.
Newly elected House Speaker Jon Husted, of suburban Dayton, said Seaver approached him during the summer about switching to the GOP.
''I said we definitely would welcome him,'' Husted said Wednesday. ''He had shown he wanted to help the president be successful and felt he was more at home in the Republican Party.''
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett also said he had spoken with Seaver several times about the lawmaker's party affiliation.
''He voted like a Republican,'' Bennett said.
Seaver has called himself a conservative in a like-minded district.
But Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton, the top-ranking House Democrat, said in a statement that Seaver would disappoint his constituents by changing parties.
''Seaver ran as a Democrat. He assured voters he was a Dem-ocrat,'' Redfern said. ''But two weeks after voters reaffirmed their trust in him, Derrick Seaver went back on his word.''
Seaver, who was uncontested, was re-elected as a Democrat in November.
"I informed the party leader (Redfern) last night and he was disappointed," Seaver said. "But he has been great with me through this whole thing and been respectful."
Seaver said the change will not change his outlook on issues.
"I'll be the same person when I wake up tomorrow with the exception of being in a different party," he said. "My issues won't change."
-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.