Valley legislators praised the incoming minority leader for his interest in local issues.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
COLUMBUS -- State Sen. Greg DiDonato, whose district includes Columbiana County, will serve as the Senate's next minority leader.
DiDonato, a New Philadelphia Democrat, will succeed Leigh Herington of Ravenna, who announced his resignation as minority leader Wednesday, effective Feb. 28, to run for attorney general. Senate members who seek office outside the legislative body traditionally step down from leadership positions to run.
The Democratic Senate Caucus unanimously elected DiDonato as minority leader Wednesday.
His response: "It is an honor for me to have the trust and confidence of my peers here in the Senate," DiDonato said. "During the past year, the Senate Democratic Caucus has taken enormous leaps on behalf of the people of Ohio. With this momentum, I plan to lead efforts by my caucus to advance the Democratic principles of the people while ensuring a smooth transition in leadership."
DiDonato was elected assistant minority leader in January 2001. He was the first legislator representing a portion of the Mahoning Valley to serve in a Senate leadership position since the 1980s, when Harry Meshel of Youngstown was Senate president and minority leader.
DiDonato's district includes Columbiana, Jefferson, Harrison, Guernsey and Tuscarawas counties. He was re-elected in 2000 to his second four-year term in the Senate. He cannot run in 2004 because of term limits.
State legislators from the Mahoning Valley have praised DiDonato for his interest in local issues, including the fate of the Lordstown General Motors complex and brownfield redevelopment. He also regularly meets with the Valley legislative caucus to discuss local concerns.
"He's been a good friend of the Valley," said state Sen. Timothy Ryan, a Warren Democrat. "He's got real good political instincts. I'm very excited about it."
Background: DiDonato, 40, entered the political arena more than 20 years ago when he was appointed to the Dennison Village Council during his senior year of high school. He also served as Dennison's mayor at the age of 21 and was first elected to the Ohio House at the age of 29.
Republicans hold a 21-12 advantage in the Senate, have a majority in the Ohio House and hold every elected executive position in the state.
The Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday also elected state Sen. Dan Brady of Cleveland as assistant minority leader, state Sen. Mark Mallory of Cincinnati as minority whip and state Sen. C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland as assistant minority whip.