Ohio board deadlocks on state senator's residency

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - The question of whether state Sen. Jon Husted legally resides in his Dayton-area district was thrown back to the Ohio secretary of state on Monday.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections again deadlocked on the issue, voting 2-2 along party lines. The board also split during a vote in February. The board began investigating after questions were raised about whether Husted was actually living in the suburban Kettering home where he's registered to vote.

Husted says the Kettering home is his legal residence, but that he often stays with his wife and children at her home in Columbus because of the demands of his job in the legislature. Husted said the law allows for absences from the Kettering residence on state business and that he intends to return there.

Jeff Ortega, spokesman for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said Brunner will make a decision after a staff attorney makes a recommendation following a review of the county board's deliberations.

The board has 14 days to submit its findings to Brunner's office. The board was considering Husted's residency only for the purpose of determining whether he is eligible to vote in Montgomery County. Any potential implications on how a final decision might affect Husted's Senate seat would have to be determined by the Senate.

"Jon Husted is a duly elected Senator from Kettering; end of story," said Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland. "After eight months of foot-dragging and wasting tax dollars, it is time to put an end to this political witchhunt and let Jon Husted get on with the job his constituents elected him to do, especially considering the great challenges this state is facing."

Husted, former Ohio House speaker, is Republican. Brunner is a Democrat. During the board's hearing Monday, Democrat Dennis Lieberman said utility records show a sharp decrease in electrical and water usage at Husted's Kettering home after he was elected to the legislature in 2001.

Lieberman said he can only conclude that Husted does not have a fixed habitat in Kettering. Republican James Nathanson said the board should leave it up to voters to decide whether Husted and other lawmakers spend enough time in their districts.

"In the end, the ballot box is the corrective tool," Nathanson said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)