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Republican lawmaker who donated to GOP challengers says action by Ohio House speaker is illegal

Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), a supporter of Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) for speaker, talks to reporters after House session on January 25, 2023.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), a supporter of Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) for speaker, talks to reporters after House session on January 25, 2023.

The battle among supermajority Republicans in the Ohio House continues, as Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) has removed six members from the committees they chaired. Stephens said it’s about unity, and those six donated to candidates who challenged Republican incumbents in the March GOP primary.  

Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) was among the six, who all supported Stephens’ rival for speaker, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.). Plummer said the six donated to candidates who were not among the 22 Republicans censured by the Ohio Republican Party. They were dubbed the "blue 22" for voting for Stephens, who won the speakership in January 2023 with votes from those 22 Republicans and all 32 Democrats. Four of them lost their primaries.

"You can't mix policy with political donations. And he's obstructed policy by removing us as chairs and his excuse is what we did with political donations," Plummer said. "So number one, is election interference. Number two is, he's a dictator that won't let conservative members do their jobs."

Plummer said he found out he'd been removed from the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee from the news media, not from Stephens, who made the announcement in a memo distributed to members. Plummer said he’s considering filing an ethics complaint or asking for a criminal investigation of Stephens for obstructing legislative work.

“You cannot tie politics to doing the people’s work," Plummer said.

Stephens made the decision to remove the committee chairs after campaign finance reports were filed last month. He said of his decision: “There was a lot of Republicans in our caucus spending money against other Republicans in the caucus, which is exactly the thing that they accused me of going to do. And they turned out to be the ones who were the ones who actually did it.”

Plummer is part of a lawsuit that argues Stephens doesn’t control the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) campaign fund because Merrin has the support of the majority of the caucus. Plummer and Merrin are joined in that lawsuit by Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville).

A Franklin County judge denied a request to stop Stephens from spending funds from the OHRA account in February. Stephens spent those funds on incumbent Republicans, including some who had supported his bid for speaker. Last month a majority of the Republican caucus voted to give Plummer sole control of the OHRA account.

Plummer said the caucus attorney has written a legal opinion that says Plummer, and not Stephens, controls the account.

"I think this is tied to the lawsuit where he knows I will be taking over," Plummer said. "So, retaliation, killing my ability to do the people's work. This is childish behavior."

Trial in the lawsuit over control of the OHRA account is set for Oct. 21.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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