COLUMBUS -- Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) is stepping down as minority leader in the Ohio Senate, effective next week.
Schiavoni, who announced earlier this year he is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, said that campaign will take too much of his focus away from leading the the minority caucus in the Senate.
"As I'm traveling the state, I'm either in the community, doing work in my district or here at the Statehouse working on legislative issues," he said. " When you're running for governor, you can't do that in a part-time way, and I didn't want to sell the caucus short when it comes to fund raising, when it comes to candidate recruitment. I think the time was right in order to make the move as minority leader, go back to a lot of legislative work I can work on the legislative issues. On the campaign end, I can devote full time to running for governor in 2018 and allow Sen. Yuko to take over as the minority leader."
Schiavoni was appointed to the Senate in 2009 and won election in 2010 and reelection in 2014. He has served as the Senate's minority leader since 2013. He'll remain in his current Senate seat, representing Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
"I think we've done a good job of bringing issues to the forefront that affect all Ohioans," Schiavoni said of his time as minority leader. "I've tried to push my members to bring issues when it comes to proper funding of education and accountability and transparency for charter schools, when it comes to job creation, when it comes to safe communities. We've really pushed hard on dealing with the opioid crisis. These are issues that I hear every single night as I travel the state."
The move was announced Wednesday, as Senate Democrats held a caucus meeting in Columbus in advance of coming state budget deliberations.
Sen. Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), who recently completed cancer treatments, will take Schiavoni's place as minority leader. He'll take over on Wednesday, when senators return to session at the Statehouse following their spring break.
Yuko represents portions of Cuyahoga and Lake counties. He was a union organizer for 25 years before being elected to the Ohio House in 2005. He won his Senate seat two years ago.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) offered his congratulations to Yuko, saying in a statement, "We've all been inspired by the character and determination he's shown in taking on the toughest challenges, and I look forward to working with him on the important issues facing our chamber and our state in the days ahead."
Schiavoni was the first Democrat to officially announce his gubernatorial campaign. He's been joined by former Congresswoman Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and former Wayne County Commissioner Dave Kiefer among those who have announced their 2018 intentions, with other candidates expected to join the race.
" You put in the work every single day and every single night," Schiavoni said of the campaign. "You travel to every community, you talk to people about what's important to them I tell them, look, I'm a state senator from Youngstown, but allow me to be your voice if you don't feel like you have a voice in the Statehouse."
On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Congressman Jim Renacci have launched gubernatorial campaigns, while Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine are expected to announce their candidacies.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.