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New Ohio General Assembly starts with uncertain House Speaker vote

Rep Derek Merrin testifies on the Ohio House floor.
Ohio Legislature
Rep Derek Merrin testifies on the Ohio House floor.

The new two-year session of the 135th Ohio General Assembly gets underway on Tuesday, and there’s a possibility it could start with an unusual result to what typically is a routine first-day activity - the official vote for House and Senate leadership.

There are suggestions from both Republican and Democrat sources that the secret ballot vote for Ohio House speaker among supermajority Republicans that Rep. Derek Merrin won in November may not go the same way in the floor vote this afternoon.

Merrin won that behind-closed-doors vote in a close race against fellow Reps. Jason Stephens and Phil Plummer. But there were questions during lame duck about the unity of the House Republican caucus.

The person elected speaker needs to win a simple majority, so if there isn’t a consensus among the 67 Republicans, the 32 Democrats could once again play a role in picking the other party’s leader.

That happened in 2019, when two-thirds of Democrats joined 42% of Republicans and gave Republican Larry Householder the speakership, which was 18 months before he was indicted in a federal corruption scandal for which he’ll go on trial this month.