FEATURED PHOTO: OHIO HOUSE SPEAKER JASON STEPHENS R-93RD DISTRICT
IdeastreamPublicMedia.org, By Karen Kasler-STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU, Posted March 6th 2023
The battle over Republican Ohio House leadership continues, with Speaker Jason Stephens and his opponent for that position, Rep. Derek Merrin, both releasing lists of priority legislation. While there’s a lot of agreement on those conservative issues, the two teams aren’t working together to push them forward.
Merrin said in an interview for “The State of Ohio” that he wants to partner with Stephens on the proposals they agree on. But he also admitted since his group controls the House Republicans’ campaign account, the possibility of primaries against Stephens’ supporters exists unless there’s a compromise.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s a very difficult situation right now,” Merrin said, noting that Stephens’ supporters have also been censured by the Ohio Republican Party. “It’d be nice if there was an apology. It would be nice if there were some attempts to reconciliation and to acknowledge that we are the majority in the House and that I am the caucus leader and that Phil Plummer and I duly have control of the campaign account.”
After winning an unofficial vote for speaker among House Republicans in November, Merrin got 43 Republican votes on the House floor on January 3. Stephens won the gavel with 22 Republican votes and all 32 Democratic votes.
Merrin said he plans to continue to fight for the colleagues who support him and the voters who cast ballots for him and his supporters.
“I’ve lost a lot over the last couple of months. I was going to be the speaker of the House, the second most powerful person in the state government,” Merrin said. “I feel an obligation to all the people that supported me who really, quite frankly, aren’t treated very well. They feel left out and feel betrayed that they got beat by a bunch of Democrats.”
In an interview for “The State of Ohio” last week, Stephens said that as speaker, he “absolutely” is the chair of the House Republican caucus.
Stephens said his goal is still to unify the caucus: “Through respect, through understanding and listening, I think that is how we bring the unity – in saying, you know what, we’re going to disagree on this, but let’s talk about it, but we’re going to agree on these other things. But that still means we can advance conservative ideas.”
And as for control of the campaign account, Stephens said, “What I want us to do is to protect our incumbents, the people who are our representatives in our party. We want to work together to bring to bring that support for all of us. I’m not, you know, vindictive or trying to get somebody who didn’t vote for me on the floor. They’re Republicans and friends and I respect their vote.”
As for House Democrats, Minority Leader Allison Russo said in a statement after Stephens’ priority list was released: “There’s a lot we agree on, and some things we are miles away on….However,our bipartisan efforts should never be confused with being beholden to any form of extremist legislation that’s meant to drive people apart with needles culture wars. These issues are a distraction from the real work needed to get done to improve the lives of all Ohioans.”
There was no comment from Stephens or Russo on Merrin’s list of priority bills.