Ohio Republican Party Censures GOP Lawmakers Who Backed New House Speaker

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Republicans censured 22 lawmakers on Friday for voting with Democrats to choose the new Speaker of the Ohio House, saying they had disregarded their obligations to the party and the public.

Earlier this week, a number of Republican lawmakers joined forces with Democrats to choose State Representative Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as speaker. The choice comes despite the Republican Caucus‘ previous selection in November of State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Moncolva) as the new speaker.

After choosing Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou as the next state party chairman, the GOP state central committee approved the resolution to censure. The resolution claims, among other things, that the vote “dishonors” the party and gives House Democrats more power. It further mentions that Stephens took an oath on the Bible while it was held by House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).

According to committee member Arthur McGuire, a pastor from the Dayton area, time was of the essence to approve the censure.

“If we don’t make a statement right now, we’re really submitting the state of Ohio into the hands of a Democratic Party that wants to take the state back to blue,” McGuire said.

The group of Republicans who supported Stephens includes State Representatives Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Monica Blasdel (R-Columbiana County), Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Al Cutrona (R-Canfield), Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg), Brett Hudson Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), Don Jones (R-Freeport), Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Township), Mike Loychick (R-Bazetta), Kevin Miller (R-Newark), Scott Oelslanger (R-North Canton), Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Gail Pavliga (R-Portage County) Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House), Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron), Bob Young (R- Green), and Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland).

An earlier draft of the resolution would have prohibited the party from endorsing or giving those lawmakers financial support, but those restrictions were eliminated during the meeting on Friday.

Previously, Russo told reporters that she did not strike a “grand deal” with Stephens in exchange for her party’s 32 votes, but that they did agree to cooperate on issues ranging from redistricting to education policy. However, state Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) wrote on Twitter after the speaker vote that he suspected Stephens stopping his resolution to require 60% of the vote to amend Ohio’s constitution was part of the deal.

According to Merrin, somehow, the Democrats were able to choose the speaker of the House regardless of a 67-seat Republican majority.

“What happened here today is self-explanatory by the vote totals. The Democrats have chosen who the speaker of the House will be,” Merrin said.

The majority of the GOP state central committee shared Stewart’s attitude.

According to committee member Shannon Burns, he is “proud to have voted with almost no opposition from my colleagues at the Ohio GOP to censure the 22 republicans for doing a deal with the devil.”

State Representative Beth Lear (R-Galena), who attended the meeting, said the censure was well deserved.

“Encouraged to hear Ohio’s Republican State Central Committee just passed a resolution to censure the 22 Republicans who betrayed Speaker-Elect Derek Merrin and joined with 32 Dems to elect Jason Stephens instead. Censure deserved,” Lear said.

Others, however, countered that it is difficult to know what transpired behind the scenes and demanded that the committee should give the legislators the opportunity to explain themselves.

“Are we going to censure someone every time we don’t agree with their decision? Where does it stop?” committee member and former lawmaker Michelle Schneider said.

Regardless of the minority in opposition to the censure, the resolution passed.

“The 22 Republican votes for Stephens dishonors the vote of the GOP. It’s not unity when you pledge to vote with the caucus and then when you come out you go back on your word,” committee member Josh Brown said.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Jason Stephens” by Ohio House of Representatives. Background Photo “Ohio House Chamber” by Ohio House of Representatives Republican Caucus.




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