House Dems Help Elect New Ohio Speaker

Members will recall that following the November election, Toledo-area Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) was unofficially selected by his fellow House Republicans to be Ohio’s next speaker — one of the most powerful posts in state government. But on Jan. 3, southern Ohio Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) defeated Merrin in the House’s official vote.

It was an upset that stunned Statehouse observers. All of Merrin’s 43 votes came from Republicans — while only 22 Republicans voted for Stephens. All 32 Democrats voted for Stephens.

The Plain Dealer published this story on how Stephens’ successful bid came together. The paper notes that the vote was reminiscent of the 2019 speaker election, in which Democrats provided Larry Householder the support needed to unseat then-Speaker Ryan Smith.

Gongwer News Service reports Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) denied any “grand deals” were made in securing the vote for Stephens, but she said issues like “supporting workers” and education policy were discussed. Meanwhile, conservative commentator Mehek Cooke told WTVN in Columbus that some House Republicans “sold out” in “a favor to unions.”

Going forward, the new speaker will have to contend with a fractured GOP caucus, while the House legislative agenda remains uncertain, as noted by the Statehouse News Bureau. 1/5/2023