First woman to lead Ohio; Hollister to be governor for brief period in January

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s next governor will be a woman.

No, Bob Taft isn’t hiding something. But a quirk in inauguration scheduling means that Lt. Gov. Nancy Hollister will spend about a week in early January as the state’s chief executive.

Here’s the situation: Governor Voinovich, newly elected to the U.S. Senate, will start that job at noon on Jan. 3, when the Senate session begins. But his term as governor doesn’t end – and Mr. Taft’s doesn’t begin – until Jan. 11.

Ohio state law prevents a governor from holding any other office, so Mr. Voinovich will have to resign his current position.

And, under state law, that means that Lt. Governor Hollister will become Governor Hollister, if only for seven days. She will be the 66th person – and first woman – to hold the office.

Ms. Hollister is disappointed that she gets the chance to be governor, though. On Tuesday, she lost her race for the U.S. House of Representatives in southern Ohio’s Sixth District to incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland.

Had she won, she would have been sworn in at the same time Mr. Voinovich was and would have lost out on being governor.

Through a spokesman, Ms. Hollister, former mayor of Marietta, said she did not want to talk about her impending role as Ohio’s chief executive.

Had Ms. Hollister landed the House seat, Senate President Richard Finan (R., Cincinnati) would have been next in line for the governor’s mansion.

Or, more likely, Ms. Hollister would have resigned early, allowing Mr. Voinovich to appoint a lieutenant governor who would be interim chief executive.

Some political leaders had suggested that interim governor could have been outgoing senator and freshly minted American hero John Glenn.

Ms. Hollister’s promotion will not affect her state pension. But she will receive pay for that week at the governor’s rate, $115,762 a year, instead of the lieutenant governor’s $59,861.

There is a precedent for all this. In 1957, Gov. Frank Lausche was in a similar situation – leaving the governor’s mansion early to head for the U.S. Senate.

Back then, lieutenant governors were elected separately from governors, and the Democratic Mr. Lausche’s lieutenant governor was Medina Republican John W. Brown.

Mr. Brown certainly made the most of the 11 days he spent as governor. He moved into the governor’s mansion, replacing portraits of Democrats with Republicans.

He called a joint session of the General Assembly to deliver a State of the State address. Mr. Brown tried to get involved in a strike settlement, and sent a letter to Vice President Richard Nixon asking for a federal job after his abbreviated term was up.

Most controversially, he commuted the life sentences of five convicted murderers, all of whom eventually were paroled.

Two of the five were involved in the killing of a Cleveland police officer.

After his term as governor, Mr. Brown served in the Ohio House and Senate, and then 12 more years as lieutenant governor under James Rhodes and John Gilligan. He died in 1993.