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Ohio House Elects Jason Stephens as Speaker in Surprise Vote

Yesterday, the Ohio House voted 54-43 to elect Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hills) as Speaker for the 135th General Assembly, a surprising outcome after Republicans voted unanimously in a closed-door caucus in November to back Derek Merrin (R-Monclova).

With a 67-32 majority, Republicans appeared unified to elect Merrin going into Tuesday's session. That was until last-minute negotiations handed Jason Stephens the gavel as Democrats unanimously joined 22 Republicans to support him rather than their own leader, Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), as is traditional. Merrin received the support of 43 of his Republican colleagues.

The surprise Democrat support calls into question what deals Stephens might have made with the minority caucus to gain their votes. According to Russo, no promises or deals were made.

In his second term, Jason Stephens will now presumably be the Speaker for six years—a consistent leader the 22 Republicans supporting him say is needed after the tumultuous turnover of the position the past several years. In contrast, Merrin would have been a two-year Speaker as he enters his final term.

Before becoming State Representative, Stephens had a long tenure in local government serving as Lawrence County Auditor from 2011-2019, as well as County Commissioner from 2001-2011. He is a licensed insurance agent and co-owner of Stephens & Son Insurance of Chesapeake.

Before adjourning, Republicans elected Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) as Speaker Pro Tempore, the chamber's number two position, while Democrats elected their leadership slate including Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus), Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron).

In the Ohio Senate, Matt Huffman (R-Lima) was elected to another term as Senate President, while Nickie Antonio (D-Cleveland) was selected as Minority Leader.

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