Deal Reached In House Speaker Contest

Jul 3, 2014

The two frontrunners to become the next Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives have reached an agreement, putting one a step closer to the seat.

But some lawmakers are not happy with the deal. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

Two Republican representatives—longtime lawmaker Ron Amstutz of Wooster and second-term legislator Cliff Rosenberger of Clarksville in southwest Ohio—have been campaigning within the GOP caucus to become the next Speaker of the House.

Now the veteran Amstutz says he’s throwing his support behind the relative newcomer Rosenberger—which gives Rosenberger the support of more than 60% of the expected caucus. With that move, Amstutz will be a candidate for Speaker Pro Tem—the second top spot.

Amstutz: “So we’re a team that is now building momentum and picking up additional members that are wanting to join us.”

Rosenberger says the coalition came together in the interest of party unity.

Rosenberger: “What we wanted to be able to do was to pull these teams together so we could focus on the General Election races coming out this November so we can have a strong majority and continue to deliver on good policies for our state.”

After serving in the General Assembly for nearly four decades, current House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina will leave office at the end of the year due to term limits.

The two frontrunners vying to be Speaker have different backgrounds. Amstutz, who recently turned 63, has spent 30 years in the Ohio House and Senate and currently chairs the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

While Rosenberger, a 33-year-old Air Force Veteran, took office in 2011 and chairs the Higher Education Subcommittee. Before winning his House seat, Rosenberger worked in the White House administration under President George W. Bush.

Rosenberger says he plans to keep job creation front-and-center in the House.

Rosenberger: “The number one priority for our state is jobs and continuing to make sure we put forward sound policy that will continue to support those things to happen in districts all throughout our state.”

But some lawmakers are not onboard with this latest development. Representative Lou Terhar from Cincinnati says he feels this decision was not policy driven.

Terhar: “It centers around two personalities and not one principle of policy is ever discussed.”

Terhar believes the process pre-empts the voter input that could be gathered in the November election.

Terhar: “And then—having gone through that—sit down and work through a way to determine the best policies and procedures that the House should have as its priorities.”

Terhar has another name to throw into the race. He says Representative Jim Butler of Dayton would be the most qualified to be Speaker.

Rosenberger and Amstutz acknowledged the existing rift within the caucus and both said they will continue to work towards building consensus on their side of the aisle.