Rep. Craig Riedel talks with Rep. Jason Stephens as he leaves the House Chamber for the last time as a member of the Ohio General Assembly on the morning of Thursday, December 15, 2022. In the background is Rep. Dick Stein. (Photo/Adam Papin)

COLUMBUS – It’s 5:30 a.m., and the state representatives are growing restless as they wait for the final piece of legislation they need to vote on before adjourning for the holidays. They’ve been in session since 1 p.m. the previous afternoon, caucusing behind closed doors with the Senate in attempts to agree on legislation and then returning to vote through the night on unfinished business from the term.

A few minutes earlier, Rep. Bill Seitz announced the arrival of donuts and coffee to help pull the legislators across the finish line. While they wait for the Senate’s $6.6 billion spending bill, Speaker Bob Cupp invokes another tradition, honoring those representatives who won’t be returning in January.

Among them is Craig Riedel, who serves Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and part of Auglaize counties, representing the 82nd district. After six years in the General Assembly, he is leaving, but not the way he had hoped.

When new Congressional maps were drawn, Defiance was put in the new 9th district, and Republicans saw a chance to take out Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in U.S. history.

Riedel was the last candidate in a crowded primary, where he joined state senator Theresa Gavarone and J.R. Majewski. Ultimately, Majewski narrowly prevailed in the primary, and after questions were raised about his military service, he was soundly defeated by Kaptur.

Now Riedel must decide what comes next, although another attempt at the Congressional seat is possible.

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do going forward,” said Riedel. “We’re praying over it, but we’re going to take a really hard look at that Congressional seat. That’s a decision we’re going to try and make through the holidays. If we’re going to do it, we need to make a decision by January for sure.”

When it comes to Riedel’s legacy, the only lens to view Riedel is his faith because his faith is the lens through which he views the world. For Riedel, the only way he could serve his constituents is by serving God first.

That faith manifested itself throughout his tenure, not only in the legislation he supported but, more importantly, in how he treated his colleagues and staff in Columbus.

When asked about his most significant accomplishment during his tenure, Riedel responded, “The one that stands out more than any other was the day we passed the “heartbeat bill,” which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The controversial bill was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine; however, it didn’t go into effect until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade during its most recent session, returning the issue to the states.

For Riedel, it was clear the battle was one of good versus evil.

“There were thousands of people here. Many, many protesters were opposed to the heartbeat bill. There was no question that Satan was in that chamber that day,” said Riedel, recalling the day.

“But the fantastic, wonderful news for everyone is that Jesus Christ was there at the same moment. And that was a victorious day for the unborn in the state of Ohio,” continued the representative. “The devil was trying to intimidate the legislators that were gonna vote, but the proudest day as a legislator that I ever had was when I got to hit the green YES button.”

House colleagues and staff praised Riedel for treating everyone with respect and for his statesmanship.

Dan Lay, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Ohio House of Representatives, remembers Riedel as one of the most personable representatives he’s met in his seven years at the statehouse. “I always liked that he took time to come up and shake your hand. But he is a very upstanding person, in my opinion.”

“It’s the little things,” said Rep. John Cross of Kenton when asked what he will remember of Riedel. “His hopeful and optimistic personality. Always smiling, always wanting to be helpful. Always wanting to do the right thing.”

In her floor address honoring Riedel, Rep. Lisa Sobecki spoke of her time as the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, which Riedel served as vice chair. “I know that you and I’ve had conversations around moving legislation, and sometimes when I’ve not always been responded to by others in the committee. I appreciate that and appreciate the fact that you’re always willing to listen.”

His faith is what allowed him to find peace after losing in the May 3 primary.

“We thought we were going to win, and we grieved. Literally, my wife Danette and I, we grieved for a couple of months,” said Riedel. “Next to my mom passing away twelve years ago, this was the second most difficult thing Danette and I have had to cope with in our lives.”

Riedel and his wife spent the summer praying over the loss, and the couple found solace and hope in a Proverb his father texted him about a week after the election. It read, “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

“My dad also told me, ‘Look, you’re still the state representative of Ohio’s 82nd House District … Those people are depending on you to represent them to the best of your ability.’ That’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to go hard and charge right through the finish line.”

Riedel added, “That’s what I’m going to do right up until December 31 because that’s the right thing to do. We know the Lord has this.”

A couple of weeks ago, Riedel brought a box to his office, but it sits empty because he isn’t ready to fill it yet. It won’t take more than a couple of hours to load up his belongings into the couple’s truck.

There will be some paperwork with the HR people.

There will be some goodbyes.

“It’s just this is life. Life goes on, and you keep charging. In the end, it’s just going to be you and the Lord.”

For the new 82nd District, life will go on. Only with Roy Klopfenstein as the new representative.

(Adam Papin is the editor of The Paulding County Progress. He can be reached at