Democratic Lawmaker Who Endorsed Trump Sues For Removal From Caucus

Dec 17, 2020

A Columbus state representative who hasn’t been to the Statehouse is more than a year and a half is suing her fellow House Democrats as well as the current and former minority leaders.

Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court she was kicked out of the House Democratic Caucus in retaliation for a floor speech in November 2017 blasting Columbus Police for their handling of Black crime victim cases. She was speaking in support of her bill mandating police officers as child abuse reporters.

Kent names the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, current Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and former Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton).

Kent was removed from the Ohio House Democratic Caucus in June 2018, not long after she endorsed Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) for Speaker. Smith was battling to replace former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who'd resigned amid an FBI investigation into payday lending legislation. And Democrats were suggesting they'd vote for Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton).

Her lawyer Nick Owens says Kent has PTSD and anxiety and feared further retaliation so she didn’t run for re-election.  He points to an incident when Kent was denied entry to a caucus meeting in May 2019. That was the last time she was at the Statehouse.

But he said she’s still a Democrat, though she publicly endorsed President Trump for re-election this year. She was one of two sitting Democratic state lawmakers across the country who did.

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“Even if she voted for Donald Trump, the law is clear. All members of the state legislature elected under the affiliation of their party are then respective members of their caucuses," Owens said.

A spokesperson for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus had no comment on the lawsuit.