Plummer ousts Ohio House Speaker as chair of GOP political fund



A Dayton area Republican has assumed control of a statewide Republican campaign spending fund after wrestling it away from Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens in a significant win for hardline conservatives who have accused House leadership of playing favorites.

The decision came early Friday in the form of a preliminary injunction handed down by Franklin County Judge Mark Serrott.

With it, Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., was given control over the Ohio House Republican Alliance political fund after twice winning a majority of votes from the Republican caucus.

“Now we can get back to supporting Republicans,” Plummer told this news outlet shortly after the decision.

The fund, often referred to as OHRA, is a pool of money largely consisting of contributions from sitting Republican state representatives, to be spent on Republican races at the discretion of the chair. Chairmanship over the fund generally defaults to the speaker, unless the caucus votes to change that.

“We’ve really never had a vote like this, but the caucus spoke up and said, ‘We don’t trust Stephens and we want Plummer to run the account,’” said Plummer, whose lawsuit accuses Stephens of ignoring the will of the caucus.

In a statement sent to this news organization, Stephens said he’ll appeal Friday’s decision. He said he has and will continue “to support Republicans to be elected to the Ohio House.”

Stephens argued the decision potentially sets a bad precedent that “any member at any time can call a vote that undermines the control of campaign funds.” He said the precedent, if allowed to stand, will lead to confusion and possible corruption, which threaten to undermine the integrity of the Ohio House.

For now, Plummer will take over the bank accounts and the party office and review any contracts OHRA has with current staff.

“We have a plan, we just need to execute it,” said Plummer, who also chairs the Montgomery County Republican Party.

According to Ohio Secretary of State data, the fund spent nearly $4 million defending Republican House incumbents through this year’s primary election, leaving it with a balance on hand of $136,592, which is expected to grow ahead of the November election.

The fight for OHRA control has centered on what Plummer calls a lack of trust in Stephens, a Kitts Hill Republican who became house speaker as a result of a fractured Republican caucus and with unanimous support from House Democrats in early 2023.

“With his history of needing Democrat votes to become speaker or remain speaker, we were concerned he wouldn’t fund Republicans, hoping they’d lose to increase his Democrat votes,” Plummer said.

Animosity between Plummer and Stephens dates back to the race for speaker in January 2023. Originally, the two were among a field of Republicans with eyes on the gavel, but Plummer stepped down to consolidate votes for ally Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp., who is also a central figure in this lawsuit and was eventually bested by Stephens.

Plummer was also one of five House Republicans that Stephens stripped from leading a committee in early May, which came about because those five Republicans put their own campaign funds toward unseating incumbent Republicans throughout the state. In response, Plummer helped orchestrate a move to try to kick Stephens out of leadership, which failed.

This news organization asked Plummer if he plans on being fair to Stephens’ allies within the House Republican caucus, given the history. “We’re going to be fair, we’re going to have rules,” he responded.

Friday’s preliminary injunction wasn’t the end of the court case, but Plummer noted that he’s now “satisfied” with the result.

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Avery Kreemer can be reached at 614-981-1422, on X, via email, or you can drop him a comment/tip with the survey below.

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