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House Party: Leadership Vote Will Decide Next Ohio Speaker

Ohio House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell, left) and Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) are set for a second battle to be the next speaker of the Ohio House.
Ohio House
Ohio House Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell, left) and Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) are set for a second battle to be the next speaker of the Ohio House.

Lawmakers in the Ohio House are about to vote on their next leader, potentially putting to bed drama that’s roiled the Statehouse for the better part of a year.

Monday's leadership vote is thought to come down to two Republicans: current Speaker Ryan Smith and former Speaker Larry Householder, both conservatives from rural parts of the state.

Smith, from Bidwell in southeast Ohio, became Speaker last year after Cliff Rosenberger resigned, amid an FBI investigation into his association with lobbyists from the payday lending industry. Smith only won the Speaker position on a technicality, when the 11th vote in a marathon session triggered a rules change that required him to only win a plurality of votes instead of a majority.

Householder, who represents Coshocton and Perry Counties, took an interesting path to Monday’s vote, as well.

A man with a reputation for embracing tough politics, Householder ascended to House Speaker in 2001, but left office in 2004 under an investigatory cloud of his own. Householder and several advisors were investigated by the FBI for alleged money laundering and campaign practices, although no charges were filed. Householder left office because he was term-limited.

In a closed-door GOP caucus vote last month, Smith won 34 of 61 votes. He’ll need 50 votes to win the Speaker gavel on Monday, which means Democrats could play an important role. Several Ohio labor unions have reportedly been pressuring Democrats to support Householder, who’s been friendlier to organized labor.

In an unofficial Democratic House caucus vote on Friday, 20 members said they'd support Householder's bid for Speaker with the understanding he wouldn't pursue "right to work" legislation. On Monday, Householder said he promised to give the minority party more of a role in the legislative process.

"So yes, I've been talking to Democrats, and many, many of them agree with us that it's time to open up this process again and bring back the people's house," Householder said.

That still leaves Householder a few votes shy of the 50 needed to be elected Speaker.

As in June, the Ohio House will hold up to 10 rounds of voting if no candidate can reach a majority. On the 11th round, the requirement will drop again.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.