COLUMBUS (TNS) — State Sen. Cliff Hite, R.-Findlay, abruptly resigned.
The resignation, effective immediately, came as a surprise given that the former Findlay High School football coach, state representative, and teacher had been talking about seeking re-election to another four-year term in 2018.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve my constituents and the people of Ohio,” Hite wrote in his one-paragraph resignation letter dated Monday. “I look forward to focusing on my personal health and spending more time with my family.”
Hite could not be reached for comment. Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, had been set to lead a nonvoting session of the Senate Tuesday but bowed out.
“Senator Hite submitted his resignation to me on Monday evening, and I accepted it, effective immediately,” Obhof said. “I will announce an application process for selecting a replacement to the 1st Senate District seat by the end of the week.”
Hite, 63, chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee and has a number of bills pending in the Senate, including those dealing with wind farm setback rules and creation of a violent offender registry. He was also involved in passage of reforms designed to reduce fertilizer runoff from farmland that contributes to Lake Erie algal blooms.
The move creates an immediate vacancy to be filled by the 22 other senators in the Republican caucus. The 1st District includes three state representatives in House districts — Reps. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, and Craig Riedel, R-Defiance. All could be considered potential replacements.
Sprague is the most senior of three, but he has already announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for state treasurer next year. Riedel has been in the House a few months.
McColley, serving his second two-year term and at one point considered a contender to be the next House speaker, said he will seek the Senate appointment.
“I think it is something I would consider,” he said. “When you look at where things are in the era of term limits, when given the opportunity to serve the people in a different capacity, I would at least consider it.”
He said Hite spoke briefly with him on Monday to let him know about the pending resignation.
Hite joined the House in 2007 and was appointed to the Senate in early 2011 to replace the recently re-elected Sen. Stephen Buehrer, who’d been appointed administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
The senator was elected to his own full four-year term in 2014 and could have sought a second next year before running up against term limits.
The 1st District includes much of the rural, Republican-friendly northwest corner of Ohio, including Henry, Williams, Hancock, Putnam, Defiance, Van Wert, Paulding, and Hardin counties and portions of Logan and Auglaize.
Reach Jim Provance at email@example.com or 614-221-0496.