Resolution says Ohio House Republicans who voted against Merrin should be censured

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

It was presumed the Ohio House Republicans would vote in lockstep to name Rep. Derek Merrin as the next speaker.

In November, the Ohio House GOP Caucus voted to support Merrin, but it wasn’t unanimous. Twenty-two of the 31 Republicans that Rep. Jason Stephens, a Republican from Kitts Hill, backed him in November also voted for him on Tuesday. Now some Republicans want to censure those 22 Republicans.

On Friday, a draft of a resolution was publicized to censure the Ohio House Republicans that backed Stephens. The resolution claims their vote for Stephens “dishonors the vote of the Ohio House Republican Caucus, dishonors the historic brand of the Republican Party, and misrepresents the voice of Ohio Republican voters who collectively voted for these 22 members in order to defeat the dangerous and perverse Democratic Party Caucus agenda.”

Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, is one of those 22. She said she stands by her vote.

She supported Stephens in Caucus, and on Tuesday, adding that Stephens never promised her, nor the Democrats, anything but fairness and a willingness to listen. However, Merrin, as cited in a story, “held discussions with House Democrats and agreed to many of their requests.”

Along with the 22 Republicans, 32 Democrats backed Stephens as speaker. Merrin received 43 partisan votes, even though the GOP has a 67-seat majority.

“I, at no time, promised to vote for Dereck Merrin (for Ohio House Speaker),” said Carruthers in an interview with the Journal-News. “I never voted for Derek Merrin. Derek never talked to anybody on the Stephens team. He never made a call, never did anything.”

Carruthers said Stephens’ election “was in the best interest of Ohio,” and Merrin was “mad because he got outmaneuvered. This guy is a baby. He’s a crybaby. He can’t take a loss.”

House Minority Leader Allison Russo told that she found “alignment” with Stephens on some issues, specifically on public education. She also said Stephens agreed to the same concessions Merrin gave, such as additional Democratic seats on committees. Merrin told the Cleveland news agency he had multiple conversations with Russo, and said he asked Russo and her party to stay out of the speaker’s race.

Carruthers also thinks Stephens won because people are tired of the political fighting.

“I truly believe Ohio is sick of the quarreling, I believe America is sick of the quarreling,” she said. “I think it’s time to get to work and do what’s right for Ohio and for the United States. Nobody likes this comedy of errors by everybody. We’re all sick of it.”

During his nomination of Stephens, Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Ulrichsville, said they “need a speaker who is willing to listen to everyone.”

And at the end of the day, Carruthers said she’d “much rather be associated with” the Republicans who voted for Stephens. Fellow Butler County lawmakers Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester Twp., and Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., both who voted for Merrin, and when reminded of that, Carruthers said, “I’d still much rather be associated with the people that voted for Stephens. They made their choice.”

Hall said he was disappointed with the speaker’s vote considering the Ohio House has a 67-member majority.

“We should be focusing on the conservative agenda that elected us, not cutting deals with members across the aisle,” he said.

But Hall said he’s moved on from the race for speaker, congratulated Stephens on the elevation, and “turned the page so we can get back to work to move Ohio forward.”

“My goal still remains the same, to fight and advocate for legislation and things to make my district a better place for people to live and work.”

Gross said she supports the censure “because loyalty to the majority was agreed upon in November.”

“Caucusing requires faith and trust in your team,” she said. “Going back on your word after a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is beneath a Republican. Working with Democrats on common ground is okay, but there was an agreement. Going back on that agreement erodes trust.”

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chair Kathy Wyenandt called the draft of the censure resolution “petty” of the GOP because the caucus speaker nominee didn’t get the votes.

“The Ohio House has been in complete chaos for years with leadership battles and scandals and ethic problems, it’s been such a mess. So this sounds about right and is on brand for the Ohio Republican Party that they want to formally rebuke members who voted in some kind of bipartisan manner to bring a little bit of civility to the chamber. It’s just silly they want to punish fairly reasonable actions.”

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