One election this year provides an intriguing test of the impact of term limits.
As Greene County gets a new congressional representative, because of the retirement of David Hobson, R-Springfield, so it gets a new state senator. Republican state Sen. Steve Austria is term-limited (and running for the congressional seat).
The 10th District, which extends to Clark and Madison counties, is generally considered Republican. That party's March 4 primary could be where the important action is.
One leading candidate is state Rep. Chris Widener, whose mainly rural 84th Ohio House District includes a small portion of Greene County in the southeast, around Bellbrook and Sugarcreek Twp. The other is Reed Madden, a 20-year Greene County commissioner until 2005 and a fixture on the local scene.
Both men have respectable advocates and reasonable qualifications for the office.
Also running is James Howard, 18, a student at Wittenberg University.
Rep. Widener, an architect, is campaigning as the "conservative" choice. But Mr. Madden is that rare Republican who declines to use the word conservative, settling instead for saying that "government should be run like a business."
Mr. Madden has been active in all manner of local causes. He has been big in promoting the region's aviation heritage and in pushing environmental concerns. (He has an endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters.) He is dedicated to regionalism, that is, cooperation among local communities in various projects, as opposed to competition.
He has a reputation for being easy to work with, for infectious enthusiasm and for reaching across barriers, geographical and political.
Rep. Widener has been a fairly conventional legislator. He cites his work on school funding and farm preservation issues. But he has been disappointingly accommodating to lenders on the issue of predatory lending. (He had a committee position that gave him influence.)
Mr. Madden is the better choice for the people of Greene County. He knows the county backward and forward. He knows the issues faced by local and county governments, as they relate to the state government. (As he notes, county government is pretty much an arm of the state.) He would be an authentic representative of the county.
Moreover, in a time of divided government in Columbus, with a Democratic governor who is trying to minimize partisan conflict, Mr. Madden is a better fit than Rep. Widener.
Mr. Madden would be unusual among lawmakers in Columbus. At 70, he is hardly an ambitious young climber. That can be a good thing. Voters could rest assured that his overriding motive is service.
Anyway, the legislature can use a little diversity in its makeup, so that it might more closely approximate the state.
Rep. Widener might be more the conventional choice for the Republicans. (He has major party endorsements.) But in these troubled times for that party, the conventional needs to be questioned. The party could use some broadening.
When the voters adopted term limits for the state legislature in the 1990s, they were not trying to create a career path for young state representatives. They were looking for a way to bring in new types of legislators. That dream has generally not worked out.
But this is one chance for it to live. Even at 70 — younger than Sen. John McCain — Reed Madden is the fresher, newer choice.