GOP lawmaker removed from committee says Ohio House speaker’s action is illegal

A Republican lawmaker who donated to Republican challengers says the action by the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives is illegal

By: Karen Kasler | State News Agency


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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse Newsbureau) — The battle between supermajority Republicans continues in one chamber as the speaker of the Ohio House removed six members from the committees they chaired. House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said it’s about unity, and those six donated to candidates challenging Republican incumbents during the Republican primaries in March.

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

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

“You cannot combine policy with political donations. And he has obstructed policy by removing us as chairman and his excuse is what we have done with political donations,” Plummer said. “So number one is election interference. Number two is that he is a dictator who doesn’t let conservative members do their job.”

Plummer said he learned he had been removed from the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee from the news media, not Stephens, who made the announcement in a memo distributed to members. Plummer said he is considering filing an ethics complaint or requesting a criminal investigation into Stephens for obstructing legislative work.

“You can’t tie politics to the work of the people,” Plummer said.

Stephens made the decision to fire the committee chairs after campaign finance reports were filed last month. He said of his decision: “There were a lot of Republicans in our caucus who were spending money on other Republicans in the caucus, and that’s exactly what they accused me of doing. And they turned out to be the ones who actually did it.”

Plummer is part of a lawsuit alleging that the Ohio House Speaker does not 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 in February denied a request to stop Stephens from spending money from the OHRA account. Stephens spent that money on incumbent Republicans, including some who had supported his bid for chairman. 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 stating that Plummer, not Stephens, controls the account.

“I think this is related to the lawsuit that he knows I’m going to take over,” Plummer said. “So retaliation, killing my ability to do the people’s work. This is childish behavior.”

The lawsuit over control of the OHRA account is scheduled for October 21.