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Ohio House speaker removes Republican committee chairs who helped challengers in GOP primary

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) face each other after Governor Mike DeWine's (R) 2024 State of the State speech.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) face each other after Gov. Mike DeWine's 2024 State of the State speech.

The Ohio House leadership battle rages on, with the leader of that chamber speaking out and taking action.

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) has removed six Republicans from the committees they chaired. The six all voted for Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.) for speaker in January 2023 and donated to the primary campaigns of incumbent Republicans, some of whom supported Stephens as speaker. Stephens was elected with votes from 22 Republicans and all 32 Democrats. Merrin had the votes of 43 Republicans.

In a memo to members Wednesday, Stephens announced:

  • Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) was removed as chair and member of the House Agriculture Committee;
  • Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) was removed as chair and member of the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee;
  • Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) was removed as chair and member of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee;
  • Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) was removed as chair and member of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee;
  • Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) was removed as chair and member of the House Public Health Policy Committee; and
  • Rep. Marilyn John (R-Richland County) was removed as chair and member of the House State and Local Government Committee.

The memo adds: "The chair and first-named member of each committee listed above shall remain vacant until further action is taken by the Speaker. These changes are effective immediately."
Campaign finance records show more than $1 million was spent by the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) account in the final days of the March primary. Stephens spent about half of that on the campaigns of incumbent Republicans who supported him as speaker. But four of his supporters lost their primaries: Reps. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), Rep. Jon Cross (R-Findlay), Brett Hillyer (R-Urichsville), and Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater).

"I was very supportive of Republicans in the caucus. We did not work against any incumbents like we said we wouldn't," Stephens told reporters. "However, there were several Republicans who felt that their their contributions should be spent against our incumbent members."

Stephens' spokesman said in a text about the members' removal from committees: "The Speaker has worked to unite the caucus and they did the very thing they accused him of doing."

A lawsuit over control of the OHRA campaign account filed by Merrin, Plummer and Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) is set for trial Oct. 21 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A request to stop Stephens from spending funds from that account was denied in February.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is running unopposed for the House and is expected to challenge Stephens for the speaker's job in January. Stephens is also running unopposed. Huffman also donated to the primary campaigns of some Republicans running against Stephens' allies.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.
Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
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