COLUMBUS — A former Ohio Supreme Court justice who grew up in Allen County is now in charge of the Ohio House.
Republicans elected Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, on Thursday afternoon to replace now-former Speaker Larry Householder.
Householder is facing up to 20 years in federal prison for his alleged involvement in a $61 million bribery scheme to bail out two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio and pave his path to power.
Cupp promised to bring transparency to the speaker’s office, but he still joked with reporters that some parts of his life will stay the same.
“My wife will still make me take the garbage out every Sunday night. Clean out the cat litter boxes and those kinds of things,” Cupp said. “I tell people if they think I’m more than I am, they should tell me, because I don’t want to be.”
Here are five facts about the man who is now one of the most powerful state leaders in Ohio:
1. Republican political consultant Karl Rove had a hand in helping Cupp meet his future wife.
In 1973, both Cupp and his wife, Libby, (who lived in Indiana) went to a convention for College Republicans, and Rove was running for a leadership position.
Rove needed votes, and Bob Cupp (who supported Rove) picked her up “to go out with these guys from Ohio.”
“We went out. We voted on it, and we elected Karl Rove College Republican chairman,” she said.
The couple celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary Wednesday.
2. He raises and rescues llamas with his wife.
The couple have had up to a dozen llamas living with them on their five-acre property, but the Cupps currently own three.
Once they rescued a pair “that had lost half their body weight” named the Dalai Lama and Fernando Lamas.
“Three months later, I’m having a cup of coffee looking at the backyard, and Fernando Lamas is having a baby,” Libby Cupp said.
Turned out, Fernando was a female.
They named the baby llama Lima (pronounced LEE-ma), Libby Cupp said, because people frequently mispronounce the name of their hometown (LYE-ma).
“Lima the llama from Lima,” Libby Cupp said.
3. He spent the past two years working on a new way to fund Ohio’s public schools.
The Cupp-Patterson bill — named after its sponsors Cupp and Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson — was viewed as the best hope in a generation to increase the amounts sent to schools to a level that finally satisfied the state constitutional mandate of a “thorough and efficient” school system.
The proposal, which drew almost two-thirds of the House as co-sponsors almost immediately, would change the formula Ohio uses to send state dollars to local districts and increase overall education spending by at least $1.5 billion over the next six years.
Cupp told reporters he’s still hopeful the plan could pass before the end of this General Assembly session in December, but he also recognized how hard it would be to find more money for education during a global pandemic that hit Ohio’s economy hard.
4. He’s held a bunch of different public offices.
In addition to serving on the Ohio Supreme Court, Cupp spent 16 years in the Ohio Senate. His tenure began before term limits started (1985-2000).
Cupp also served as Lima’s city prosecutor in the 1970s, and two, non-consecutive terms as an Allen County commissioner.
5. He didn’t vote for Speaker Householder, but he voted for the nuclear bailout.
Cupp supported former Speaker Ryan Smith when the General Assembly got underway for its two-year session back in 2019. Householder cobbled together support from an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to take the gavel away from Smith.
But Cupp was a critical vote for the now-infamous House Bill 6.
He and two other Republicans were at a convention in Chicago as the July 22 vote loomed. The count was close, and Householder proposed sending a state plane at a taxpayer cost of nearly $5,700 until word got out about the plan.
Cupp found another way back, and HB 6 passed.