EDITORIAL: Censure vote is politics at its worst

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2023

State Rep. Jason Stephens, R-93, whose district covers Lawrence County, was elected as Ohio’s speaker of the House on Jan. 3. (The Ironton Tribune | File photo | Heath Harrison)

In our last edition of The Tribune, we expressed the hope that the bipartisan support Rep. Jason Stephens, R-93, received in last week’s vote electing him as speaker would perhaps usher in a more civil and cooperative political environment in the state capitol going forward.

But, just as our paper was going to press on Friday night, news broke that we may have been a bit too optimistic in that editorial.

State Rep. Derek Merrin, R- Monclova Township

On Friday, supporters of Rep. Derek Merrin, of the Toledo area, the defeated candidate for speaker, pushed for and got a resolution passed by the Ohio Republican party’s central committee censuring Stephens and the 21 Republicans who voted for him for speaker.

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Initially, the resolution called for cutting off state party endorsements and funding to Stephens and his allies, but that language was removed before passage. However, the censure and condemnation was approved by the party.

Since Stephens had been supported by all of the Chamber’s Democrats, the resolution said he was hindering efforts to defeat their “dangerous and perverse” agenda, showing that, at the state Republican Party leadership, there seems to be no interest in turning down the outlandish rhetoric and acting like the adults in the room.

Further, the resolution said Stephens’ victory in the speaker race “dishonors the historic brand” of the Ohio Republican party and took issue with the fact that, in a gesture of bipartisanship, the Democratic Minority leader, Allison Russo, held the Bible at his swearing in.

Following this censure vote, it might be good idea for state Republicans to do a flashback to 2019.

That was the year another speaker of the House from our region, Rep. Ryan Smith, who served the 93rd District and represented part of Lawrence County, was defeated for another term as speaker.

Like Merrin, Smith was the choice of the Republican caucus going into the speaker vote. But, when the official vote in the chamber took place, 26 Republicans broke with their party and joined 26 Democrats to instead elect Larry Householder as speaker.

Of those 26 Republicans, one name might be familiar: Derrick Merrin, for whom the state central committee is throwing a tantrum in 2023.

Following the Householder vote, there was no action taken by the state party against Householder, Merrin or the other 24 Republicans who broke with the party, nor any talk of how they “dishonored” a brand.

So why is it considered so egregious now when Stephens won the speaker position in the same bipartisan manner?

The least the Merrin supporters could do is be consistent. If they and those on the central committee want to prove that this censure vote is rooted in some kind of principal and not based on pettiness and sour grapes, then they should immediately call on the 26 Republicans from 2019 to also be censured. After all, it’s only been four years. It’s not like it’s ancient and forgotten history.

That won’t happen, of course. When it comes to power plays, what’s good for the goose is never considered good for the gander.

But the juvenile resolution and the reaction of the Republican central committee in this manner has gone a good way to reminding voters why they get so jaded, cynical and tired of the antics and egos of politicians.

We hope that bigger names in the party, such as Gov. Mike DeWine step up and speak out on this manner, and urge the party to instead move toward actually getting things done in Columbus.

This resolution achieved nothing, other than soothing the bruised egos of a failed candidate, and state Republicans would do well to drop the matter.