Ohio House GOP deadlocks on interim speaker to replace Rosenberger

Republican Cliff Rosenberger resigned as Ohio House speaker as of May 1.
Republican Cliff Rosenberger resigned as Ohio House speaker as of May 1.

Ohio House Republicans failed to pick a replacement speaker on Tuesday to fill out the remaining seven months of Cliff Rosenberger’s term but legislative leaders say they’ll continue to push to get 50 GOP lawmakers to support a candidate.

In a closed-door GOP caucus meeting, state Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, landed the most votes out of the three candidates in the running but did not have 50 fellow Republicans willing to back him in a floor vote, said Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring, R-Canton.

Rosenberger resigned a month ago after disclosing that he hired criminal defense attorney David Axelrod to deal with an FBI investigation into his activities. In his resignation statement, Rosenberger said he believes all his actions were lawful and ethical.

RELATED: Former Ohio House speaker’s travel attracts scrutiny

Speaker is one of the three most powerful political posts in state government. He or she has the ability to shape policy, decide who billions of dollars are spent and block or move any piece of legislation.

The House has been in the throes of a bitter internal battle over who will serve as speaker starting in 2019. Smith, a close ally of Rosenberger, has been running against former speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, a skilled politician who returned to the House in January 2017.

RELATED: Former Ohio House speaker Householder looking to return to power

Householder and Smith each backed candidates in Republican primary races held May 8 with Householder’s picks winning almost a dozen open seats. That bolsters Householder’s chances of lining up enough support to win back the speaker’s gavel.

The Perry County Republican served as speaker from 2001 to 2004. He had plans to run statewide but was hounded by allegations of political corruption. Charges were never filed after a two-year federal investigation.