Following the Ohio Republican censure of the 22 lawmakers who voted with Democrats last month to choose the new Speaker of the Ohio House, saying they had disregarded their obligations to the party and the public, the Athens County GOP has said that they will not comply with the state party’s censure of State Representative Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).
Edwards was among the 22 GOP representatives who joined forces with the Democrats to choose State Representative Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as speaker. The choice came despite the Republican Caucus‘ previous selection in November of State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Moncolva) as the new speaker.
Stephens bested Merrin 54–43 by capturing all 32 Democratic votes and 22 Republican votes.
According to Edwards, he voted for Stephens as he considered him the best option.
“I voted for the best person for the job – the person that will be best for Southeast Ohio,” Edwards said.
Lawmakers appointed Stephens to the Ohio House of Representatives during the 133rd General Assembly, and he is currently completing his second full term in that position. He represents Gallia, Jackson, and Lawrence Counties in the 93rd House District.
Edwards is the representative for the 94th district, which encompasses Morgan, Meigs, and Athens counties as well as portions of Washington County.
Following the state GOP’s censure, The Republican Party of Athens County wrote a letter to the state GOP central committee backing Edwards.
The letter condemned the state GOP’s censure of the Republicans who supported Stephens as Speaker.
“The Athens County Republican GOP recently learned of the punitive effort by some in the state legislature to censure the 22 Republican members who voted their conscience in electing Representative Jason Stephens the next Speaker of the Ohio House. We condemn this effort and ask you to stand against it,” the letter says.
The letter continued to praise Edwards for his hard work and dedication in Athens County and asked that the state GOP central committee not taint his record.
“Among the group of lawmakers being targeted is Rep. Jay Edwards (Nelsonville) — who have ably and faithfully represented Athens County. His record of constancy and dedication to his districts, and to the State of Ohio, should not be tainted by the vindictiveness of a few in the caucus,” the letter says.
It goes on to say that the GOP’s “broad umbrella” model is in jeopardy from those who plan to inflict revenge for the recent speaker vote.
“Spirited debate and even principled disagreement are essential elements of healthy republican government. The Ohio Republican Party has benefited from embracing President Ronald Reagan’s notion of the GOP as a “broad umbrella” open to a variety points of view within a framework of foundational norms. This model is threatened by those who would seek to exact revenge over the recent vote for Speaker,” the letter says.
The letter concludes by requesting the state GOP to refuse to endorse the censorship of Republican Stephens supporters.
“We reiterate our appeal that you would refuse to endorse this momentary passion. Time, if given the opportunity, will heal these wounds and the Party will be the stronger for choosing the path of benevolence and civility,” the letter says.
According to Alex Burcher, 1st vice chair of the Athens County Republican Party, “I completely stand with our letter. We can not let the state push us around.”
According to Republican lawmakers, despite the 22’s prior work history, by going against the Republican Caucus‘ previous selection of Merrin, they’ve lost any credibility.
“Twenty-two felt that they knew better than 45 of us. What happened is an assault on the Ohio House of Representatives,” State Representative Marilyn John (R-Shelby) said.
According to State Representative Gary Click (R-Vickery), there will be an “uphill battle to earn the respect of the majority Republican caucus, including me. Not sure that is an achievable aspiration after being betrayed and lied to.”
According to state GOP committee member Shannon Burns, he remains “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.”
At the time of the censure, State Representative Beth Lear (R-Galena) said the 22 lawmakers’ betrayal “deserved” it.
The Ohio Star reached out to the State GOP for comment they did not respond before publishing time.
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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]