Four months ago a small group of Republicans legislators led by state Rep. John Becker made a move to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, also a Republican. The lawmakers were upset with the restrictions DeWine implemented on residents and business owners during the early days of the pandemic.
Their bid went nowhere. Call it “strike one.”
Last week the same group, with one addition, tried again. The result was no different. Call it “strike two.”
We don’t need a “strike three” to tell you the Republican quartet is singing out of tune.
DeWine’s actions — undertaken for public health concerns — are not a cause for removal from office.
Those actions do, however, raise a legitimate question: Should the governor and/or state health commissioner have the authority to close businesses and churches, shut down schools and implement curfews during a crisis such as the one that now engages the state?
Members of the General Assembly don’t believe so. They are looking at legislation that would limit the powers of the health commissioner and governor and put it in the hands of — you guessed it — themselves. They passed such a bill in late November, only to see DeWine veto it Thursday as promised.
“We are disappointed with the governor’s veto,” said House Speaker Bob Cupp, of Lima. “This is a balanced and reasonable plan that would provide appropriate legislative oversight of these health orders, and ensure Ohioans’ voices are heard and their rights protected. I will be discussing next steps with the members of our caucus.”
We understand the concern the legislature has with giving a governor such authority. It’s a tremendous power to entrust to one person. On the same token, the Ohio Legislature has never been accused of acting quickly — something that needs to occur during a health emergency. Case in point: It’s been 23 years since the Ohio Supreme Court declared the state’s school-funding formula unconstitutional, and only now is the legislature coming close to a solution.
There needs to be some middle ground here, perhaps a time limit on how long a governor’s order can stay in effect until it needs approval from the General Assembly. However, to completely strip a governor or health commissioner of the tools needed to take immediate action in a time of crisis puts the lives of Ohioans in jeopardy.
When the four Ohio state representatives raised the prospect of impeachment last week, DeWine was taken aback. Asked about it during a press briefing Monday, he scoffed, “I’m not spending much time thinking about politics at this point. We have a pandemic to deal with.” The governor later recommended his foes visit a local hospital instead of playing political games.
“I’d like for them to go in and talk to some nurses who are front-line nurses who are dealing with people who are dying. At some point this foolishness needs to stop,” DeWine said.
The politics do need to go away, but we are all kidding ourselves if we think that’s going to happen. Already names are being tossed about as possible opponents to DeWine during a 2022 Republican primary. One of those names is Allen County’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. He has the name recognition and fundraising capability needed for a statewide run. He’s also popular in the many rural counties that helped Donald Trump easily carry Ohio in the November election.
Nothing in politics surprises us, yet we would be shocked to see Jordan make such a decision. Being a governor means one has to be able to build a consensus. Jordan’s strength is not in working across the aisle with Democrats, to say the least.
It would be hard to blame DeWine if he decided to forgo a second term in favor of spending more time with his wife, Fran, and their eight children and 26 grandkids. At age 73, he is Ohio’s oldest governor. He’s been in politics for 40 years, winning 19 of 21 elections and holding almost every state office as well as being a U.S. senator.
Yet he made it clear Friday he plans to seek re-election in two years. His announcement came in an address to the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee. Such news by a sitting Ohio governor would have been welcomed by all top members of his party at one time. However, it is a fragmented Republican Party today, and those times are gone.