Rating the Legislators

Dave Ghose

The Good, the Bad, the Poorly Dressed

It's been nine years sinceColumbus Monthly last put the Ohio General Assembly under the microscope. Back then, the most effective legislator was Jon Husted (now Ohio Secretary of State), the rookie of the year was Josh Mandel (now Ohio Treasurer), the best dressed was Joyce Beatty (now looking sharp in Congress) and the least effective was Diana Fessler (now a consultant for a Bellefontaine artisanal cheese maker). Needless to say, an update was long overdue.

This summer, we surveyed lawmakers, legislative aides, lobbyists, journalists and Kasich administration officials to find out what they think of the current General Assembly. More than 100 Statehouse insiders responded, giving us an unvarnished view of those tasked with representing our interests in Ohio's most important legislative body (the surveys were anonymous). To be sure, the results aren't perfect. With Republicans dominating both the House and the Senate, it's hard for a Democrat to do well in our survey. The results are also biased against women and minorities, with the legislature still largely a white boys club.

That said, the project does offer a nice peek inside the doors of the Capitol, answering questions inquiring Statehouse observers want to know: Who's the laziest? The funniest? The most ambitious? The most annoying social media user? And there's hope for those who get dinged. Consider the response of state Rep. Tom Brinkman, who was named worst legislator in our 2003 feature. He took it as an honor. "I'd be embarrassed to compromise as much as these others do-I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror," he told theCincinnati Enquirer back then. Well, this time around, Brinkman didn't get a single vote for "least effective." Better get rid of your mirrors, Tom.

The following profiles are excerpts from the feature story that appears in the October issue ofColumbus Monthly,available on newsstands now and will be available in its entirety on at the end of October.


Rep. Ryan Smith (House District 93)

Most Effective, Hardest Working, Best Listener (tie)

A conservative but not an ideologue, Smith is from southern Ohio, where he runs a financial advisory firm in Gallipolis with his father and uncle. The 43-year-old Republican has won over lobbyists and fellow lawmakers alike with his intelligence, accessibility and work ethic.

"There's not a better legislator at the Statehouse than Ryan Smith," says a longtime Republican insider.

"He comes out of a very humble setting and he's a humble guy," says a state representative. "He's not flashy. He's not self-absorbed. He appears to everybody who deals with him to be in the game to get things done that he believes need to get done."

Sen. Bill Seitz (Senate District 8)

Savviest, Funniest, Most Knowledgeable, Best Orator

Seitz is a bombastic big-city attorney from Cincinnati with a keen intellect and a sharp wit. He's loud, unfiltered and combative, who once compared the beneficiaries of Ohio's shale boom toThe Beverly Hillbillies. "Donald Trump with more intelligence," says one longtime Statehouse insider.

"He's unleashed at all times," says a fellow Republican lawmaker.

"It's not nearly as much fun to deal with him when you're on the opposite end of an issue, but even then it is very entertaining," says a veteran contract lobbyist.

"If you tell the truth every day, you don't have to worry about who you lied to yesterday," Seitz says.

Sen. Keith Faber (Senate District 12)

Most Ambitious, Most Humorless, Least Compassionate, Most Arrogant, Most Aggressive Campaign Fundraiser

The Republican from Celina will step down as president of the Ohio Senate at the end of the year. And plenty will be happy to see him go. Faber took the biggest beating of any of the top legislative leaders inColumbus Monthly'ssurvey.

"Nobody wants to be around Keith Faber," says a Democratic lawmaker. "He's prideful. He's boastful. He's gleaming in his arrogance."

"Some of my colleagues have joked that if you give Keith a big check, all that means is he asks for a bigger check the next week," says a lobbyist.

One longtime lobbyist defends Faber, saying many of the complaints-especially from other lobbyists-are sour grapes because Faber doesn't play their game. He doesn't "bait" people with kind words and reassuring phone calls. And he's not one to leave anything on the table to help a lobbyist on the losing side of a debate save face with his or her client. Faber is a tough guy, and he expects others to do battle with him. "If you don't, then he doesn't respect you," says the lobbyist.

"It'll be interesting to see how many people actually give Keith money when he's not the president of the Senate, or give him time or take his phone call," says a veteran politico. "I think his phone will go dead."

Rep. Nino Vitale (House District 85)

Least Effective, Least Savvy

Vitale is a champion of conservative causes. He supports gun rights and fights against unions, abortions and gay marriage. But Vitale approaches his job differently than many conservatives, including his predecessor, Jim Jordan. "[Jordan's] going to stick to his guns on the issues that matter to him, but he will work with you on the things he can work with you on. And when you're not working with him, he's at least going to be friendly," says a Republican lobbyist. "[Vitale] is a guy who's come in here to vote no and be against everything, and you can't get anything if that's your approach."

"[Vitale] seems to be a caucus of one," says a Democratic lawmaker. "He sits at his desk in the House chamber kind of seething in his own juices."

Rep. Teresa Fedor (House District 45)

Worst Orator

This Democrat from Toledo was chosen as the worst orator in our poll nine years ago as well.

"You can almost feel a groan come over the chamber when she stands up to speak, even from her fellow Democrats," says one respondent.

"It's just so bland and boring and plodding and preachy at the same time," a lobbyist says.

Sen. Shannon Jones (Senate District 7)

Most Compassionate, Most Burned Out

Jones, who will soon leave the Ohio Senate for a spot on the Warren County Board of Commissioners, was the sponsor of 2011's polarizing Senate Bill 5 that attempted to roll back the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. That failure scarred her says a Republican lobbyist. "She was the only name that was ever on that bill," the lobbyist says.

"What led to the burnout is she takes on issues that are just not easy-poverty, infant mortality, Medicaid and all these things," says the Republican lobbyist.

"Shannon is too passionate about every issue, and it's exhausting," says a friend.

Rep. Sarah LaTourette (House District 76)

Rookie of the Year

The daughter of the late Congressman Steve LaTourette impressed Statehouse insiders with her humility, work ethic and curiosity. The 33-year-old freshman representative "understands the legislative process, understands what you have to do to get things done, understands that it's not glamorous," says one respondent.

"She knows what she doesn't know, and she knows what she wants to learn, and she will ask anybody about it," says a lobbyist. "That's a great trait in a young legislator."

Other insiders describe her as "thoughtful," "easy to talk to," and "savvy beyond her years." "She's got a chance to be a star," says a lobbyist.

The Results (including home counties)

Hardest Working

1. Rep. Ryan Smith (Gallia)

2. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

3. Rep. Kirk Schuring (Stark)


1. Rep. Wes Retherford (Butler)

2. (tie) Rep. Ron Hood (Pickaway)

2. (tie) Rep. John Barnes (Cuyahoga)

Most Effective

1. Rep. Ryan Smith (Gallia)

2. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

3. Rep. Kirk Schuring (Stark)

Least Effective

1. Rep. Nino Vitale (Champaign)

2. Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (Warren)

3. Sen. Kris Jordan (Delaware)

Most Effective from Franklin County

1. Rep. Mike Duffey

2. Sen. Jim Hughes

3. Sen. Kevin Bacon

Least Effective from Franklin County

1. Rep. Hearcel Craig

2. Rep. Cheryl Grossman

3. Rep. Anne Gonzales


1. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

2. Kirk Schuring (Stark)

3. (tie) Ryan Smith (Gallia)

3. (tie) Cliff Rosenberger (Clinton)

Least Savvy

1. Rep. Nino Vitale (Champaign)

2. Rep. John Becker (Clermont)

3. Rep. Jim Butler (Montgomery)

Biggest Publicity Hound

1. Sen. Jim Hughes (Franklin)

2. (tie) Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

3. (tie) Rep. Niraj Antani (Montgomery)

Best User of Social Media

1. Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (Clinton)

2. Sen. Shannon Jones (Warren)

3. Sen. Frank LaRose (Summit)

Most Annoying User of Social Media

1. Rep. Andrew Brenner (Delaware)

2. Rep. Christina Hagan (Stark)

3. Rep. Niraj Antani (Montgomery)

Most Ambitious

1. Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

2. Sen. Frank LaRose (Summit)

3. Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (Clinton)


1. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

2. Sen. Cliff Hite (Hancock)

3. Sen. Tom Patton (Cuyahoga)

Most Humorless

1. Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

2. (tie) Rep. Teresa Fedor (Lucas)

2. (tie) Sen. Bill Coley (Butler)

Most Compassionate

1. Sen. Shannon Jones (Warren)

2. Sen. Charleta Tavares (Franklin)

3. Sen. Peggy Lehner (Montgomery)

Least Compassionate

1. Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

2. Rep. John Becker (Clermont)

3. Sen. Bill Coley (Butler)

Most Knowledgeable

1. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

2. Rep. Ron Amstutz (Wayne)

3. (tie) Sen. Larry Obhof (Medina)

3. (tie) Sen. John Eklund (Geauga)

Least Engaged

1. Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (Warren)

2. Rep. Wes Retherford (Butler)

3. (tie) Rep. Marilyn Slaby (Summit)

3. (tie) Rep. Nino Vitale (Champaign)

Best Dressed

1. Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (Union)

2. Sen. John Eklund (Geauga)

3. Rep. Emilia Sykes (Summit)

Worst Dressed

1. Rep. Terry Boose (Huron)

2. (tie) Sen. Tom Sawyer (Summit)

2. (tie) Sen. Capri Cafaro (Trumbull)

Most Arrogant

1. Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

2. Sen. Bill Coley (Butler)

3. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

Most Principled

1. Sen. Kris Jordan (Delaware)

2. Rep. Tom Brinkman (Hamilton)

3. (tie) Sen. Shannon Jones (Warren)

3. (tie) Rep. Ryan Smith (Gallia)

Least Principled

1. Rep. Wes Retherford (Butler)

2. (tie) Sen. Bill Coley (Butler)

3. (tie) Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

Most Aggressive Campaign Fundraiser

1. Sen. Keith Faber (Mercer)

2. Sen. Jim Hughes (Franklin)

3. Rep. David Leland (Franklin)

Best Orator

1. Sen. Bill Seitz (Hamilton)

2. Sen. Cliff Hite (Hancock)

3. Rep. Fred Strahorn (Montgomery)

Worst Orator

1. Rep. Teresa Fedor (Lucas)

2. (tie) Sen. Tom Sawyer (Summit)

2. (tie) Rep. Mike Henne (Montgomery)

Best Listener

1. (tie) Rep. Ryan Smith (Gallia)

1. (tie) Sen. Scott Oelslager (Stark)

3. Sen. Peggy Lehner (Montgomery)

Rookie of the Year

1. Rep. Sarah LaTourette (Geauga)

2. Rep. Rob McColley (Henry)

3. Rep. Jonathan Dever (Hamilton)

Most Burned Out

1. Sen. Shannon Jones (Warren)

2. Sen. Tom Sawyer (Summit)

3. Rep. Mike Curtin (Franklin)