Keith Faber: All the President's Enemies

Dave Ghose

The trouble with Keith Faber

At the end of the year, Keith Faber will step down as the president of the Ohio Senate, one of the three most powerful positions in state government, along with governor and speaker of the House. And plenty of people are happy to see him go. Faber took the biggest beating of any of the top legislative leaders in Columbus Monthly's survey. "Nobody wants to be around Keith Faber," says a Democratic lawmaker. "He's prideful. He's boastful. He's gleaming in his arrogance."

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more polarizing figure at the Statehouse. Political insiders use terms like "prickly," "difficult to work with," "dictatorial" and "bully" to describe the Celina Republican. They say he's unapproachable and humorless, abhors compromise and pushes hard for campaign donations. "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. It also doesn't help that his style is so different than many of his Senate president predecessors, such as the gracious and charming Stanley Aronoff or the funny and easygoing Doug White. "When you're the president of the Senate, you should be maybe the most friendly person in the General Assembly," says a veteran Republican operative. "That's been the pattern for a long time."

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.

Term-limited out of the Senate, Faber is now seeking to return to the Ohio House. But that job seems to be a landing spot as he prepares for a run for Ohio auditor in 2018. Statehouse insiders wonder how this next stage in his political career will play out after his polarizing Senate presidency. "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 could go dead."