Opening day of the 135th General Assembly started with a shock on the House side as not one but two nominations for House Speaker were announced. Just weeks ago, the House Republican caucus informally voted to elect Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.) as its next Speaker, but discussions had swirled since that vote about a lack of unity behind him. That movement picked up steam in recent weeks and came to a head on the House floor, where 22 Republicans and all House Democratic members voted for Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over Merrin in a 54-43 vote seemingly creating a deep rift in the Ohio House Republican caucus.
Reports of lack of communication were said to be one of the reasons for weaning support for Rep. Merrin. Several republican members claimed to have been left out in the cold after the initial informal caucus-vote in November indicating Rep. Merrin had not reached out to them after they voted for him. Other members received proactive outreach from Speaker Stephens. Tension has rapidly grown between the two “leadership teams” to the point where Speaker Stephens’ senior staff choices are being questioned very publicly. Questions are swirling around capitol square surrounding Speaker Stephens ability to garner enough votes to pass legislation with this large divide in the caucus. Read more from the Columbus Dispatch.