WASHINGTON – Rep. Troy Balderson is officially Ohio’s newest congressman.
Balderson, R-Zanesville, took the oath of office late Wednesday afternoon on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, marking the culmination of a special election that began when U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi resigned in January to take a job at the Ohio Business Roundtable.
Balderson, who narrowly beat Democrat Danny O’Connor in the August 7 special election, began his official duties with a ceremonial swearing in at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s offices. Flanked by his son, Joshua, and his girlfriend, Melanie Coyle, Balderson placed his left hand on the Bible, held up his right hand, and posed for photos with Ryan.
Then, it was time for the real deal.
Balderson stepped on the House floor at the end of a House vote and was quickly mobbed by his fellow Ohioans. First Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, approached, shaking his hand and talking to him at length. Reps. Bill Johnson of Marietta and Jim Renacci of Wadsworth joined him next, and before long they were joined by Reps. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, Bob Gibbs of Lakeville, and, eventually the entire Ohio GOP contingent.
The Democrats were next. Eventually, the other 15 lined up as Balderson faced the dais, then raised his right hand.
"Do you solemnly swear that you support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Ryan began, rattling off the oath at length.
"I do," Balderson replied.
"Congratulations, you are now a member of Congress," Ryan replied, to cheers from the House.
The dean of the Ohio members, Kaptur, welcomed him to the delegation by noting the $10 million spent on the race "is 60 times what the job pays." She took her chance on the floor to call for limiting campaign spending to the annoyance of some of the Republicans in the chamber, then recited Balderson’s biography – an Ohio House member, then a state senator.
Chabot, meanwhile, rose to "welcome the newest Buckeye to our delegation," touting Balderson’s background as a farmer, an athlete and an elder at the First Christian Church of Zanesville.
"Troy has proven time and time again that hard work and a little grit make a very strong leader," he said.
Then it was Balderson’s turn. He thanked his friends and family. He thanked his parents, watching from home in Zanesville. He thanked God.
"I’m humbled to serve in the people’s house," he said. "I look forward to fulfilling my duty of serving the 12th district of Ohio."
Balderson took the oath on the same day that he announced the first members of his staff. He hired Teri Geiger, a longtime aide to Sen. Rob Portman, as his chief of staff. Geiger has been state director for Portman since 2011 and before that served as chief of staff to three Ohio Senate Republican presidents. She will be based in Columbus, but Balderson aides she will travel to Washington "as needed."
Balderson also named Laura Engquist, who served as an adviser to Tiberi, as deputy chief of staff. Engquist is a graduate of Miami University. Finally, he named Walter Taylor as interim district director. Taylor previously served on staff the district for both Tiberi and Gov. John Kasich.
Dispatch Washington bureau chief Jack Torry contributed to this story.