Ohio House finally chooses a speaker

COLUMBUS (AP) — The scandal-scarred Ohio House ended weeks of impasse on Wednesday and elected the favored successor to Republican former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger to lead the chamber through year’s end.

House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith, a Gallia County Republican, prevailed after a dramatic 11 rounds of floor voting that saw a surprise last-minute candidate, shifting allegiances and occasional humor. Smith was unable to win the majority required to prevail in the first 10 rounds, instead winning on the 11th vote, which went to whichever candidate had the most votes.

The race to fulfill Rosenberger’s unexpired term had led to a bitter standoff between Ryan and a faction led by former Speaker Larry Householder, also a Republican. Both want to be speaker next session. Householder didn’t run Wednesday but supported two Smith opponents.

“I always wondered what it would feel like to go the distance in a prize fight,” Smith quipped after winning. “So I guess now I know.”

Democrats mostly supported their own caucus leader, Rep. Fred Strahorn, of Dayton in Wednesday’s voting and drew attention to the fact only 44 of 98 sitting representatives supported Smith.

“After 11 rounds of voting, Smith’s unremarkable ascendancy proves only one thing: The dark cloud of Republican scandal and FBI investigation still hangs heavy over the Ohio House,” said Democratic Rep. David Leland of Columbus.

Smith acknowledged the fractious political environment that contributed to the chamber’s lengthy gridlock.

“I stand here today fully aware of the division that exists in our country and our state and, in some cases, divisions that exist within our own political parties,” he said.

He acknowledged that can lead to disagreements, but he said lawmakers should still display “dignity, common decency and respect.”

Republican Rep. Robert Cupp, a former state Supreme Court justice, delivered an eloquent floor speech nominating Smith, who he said has the qualities needed to get the House past Rosenberger’s departure in April amid an FBI probe.


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