Republicans in the Ohio House will remove their leader in a floor vote on Thursday, after deciding to do so in a secret ballot Tuesday. But it’s unlikely that they’ll vote to expel Larry Householder, who’s facing a federal racketeering charge related to the nuclear bailout he pushed last year.
The Republicans’ vote and discussion on how the caucus will fund House campaigns this fall happened at a hotel near the Statehouse.
Ohio House Republicans gather at a downtown Cols hotel to decide what to do about Speaker Larry Householder, who’s been charged w racketeering but hasn’t said if he’ll resign. They’ve voted by secret ballot to remove him. Official public vote likely Thursday in House chamber. pic.twitter.com/MfN1o71vlv
— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) July 28, 2020
Five candidates would like to replace Householder: Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township), Craig Riedel (R-Defiance), Tim Ginter (R-Salem) and Jim Butler (R-Oakwood). Butler is the current speaker pro tem, and had wanted to be speaker in 2014, when he ran against former speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
As to Tuesday's secret ballot vote, Cupp said, "I think we’re moving forward in resolving the issue that’s been plaguing the House now for a bit. I think members are ready to take decisive action to get it accomplished, so I think we’re all very unified in that."
Cupp would not confirm whether the vote was unanimous or give details on the vote breakdown.
50 votes would be needed to elect a new speaker. There are 61 House Republicans.
Householder was elected last year by 26 Republicans and 26 of the House’s 38 Democrats. Their leadership wrote in a statement that Householder’s removal “should not have required so much debate and hand-wringing.” The statement also calls for an official vote "as soon as possible", and continues: "And if the Republican House members refuse to do what’s right for Ohioans in a timely manner, we will call on the governor to clean up the mess his fellow [R]epublicans have made.”
It would take a two-thirds vote to expel Householder, who is unopposed as he runs for re-election.
The vote is similar in process to the one in which Cliff Rosenberger was replaced in 2018, after he resigned because of an FBI investigation that has not resulted in charges.
The winner had to have a majority, but the caucus didn't seem to be uniformly embrace Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) as Rosenberger's successor. For two months, legislation was stalled while a behind-the-scenes battle waged between Smith and Householder, who wasn't running at the time but hoped to become speaker in January 2019.
After two and a half hours and eleven rounds of voting, Smith won the speaker's position in the short term, with Democrats voting for their own leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). A few months later, Householder built a coalition with Democrats to win the vote to lead the House for the 133rd General Assembly.