Stephens, 21 GOP allies censured by state party

Jan. 11—State GOP passed resolution on Friday

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Republican Party moved on Friday to censure Speaker of the House Jason Stephens and 21 of his Republican allies, following his bipartisan win of the leadership position on Jan. 3.

According to, the central committee of the party passed a censure resolution naming Stephens and House Republicans who voted for him for speaker.

Stephens was elected speaker when 22 Republicans joined with the chamber's 32 Democrats and voted for him over the Republican caucus choice of Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township. As a result, Stephens won the vote, 54-43, in a victory political observers saw as an upset and surprise.

The resolution said the vote of the 22 Republicans "dishonors the historic brand" of the party and cited the fact that Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, the Democratic minority leader, held the Bible when Stephens took the oath of office.

Stephens, of Getaway, whose district covers Lawrence, Gallia and Jackson counties, is a former Lawrence County commissioner and county auditor and serves as chair of the Lawrence County Republican Party.

His bipartisan manner of victory was not without precedent.

In 2019, Stephens' predecessor in the 93rd District seat, Republican Ryan Smith, was denied another term as speaker when 26 Republicans joined with all of the chamber's 26 Democrats to instead vote for Republican Larry Householder as speaker.

Following that vote, the state party did not similarly censure Householder's supporters, who included Merrin among their numbers.

Friday's resolution was passed after initial language was removed that would have barred Stephens and his 21 supporters from receiving state party endorsements or funding.