COLUMBUS — House speaker candidate Ryan Smith on Wednesday accused political nemesis Larry Householder and allies of using threats, bullying, and extortion to prevent Smith’s election to the job.
Smith, a Gallia County Republican, told reporters that he has the votes to be elected interim speaker for the rest of the year. But he accused Householder, a Perry County Republican competing with Smith for the speaker’s gavel next session, of being behind an “appalling” campaign to threaten pro-Smith lawmakers and legislative staff.
The Ohio House was set to vote Wednesday afternoon on a speaker to finish the term of Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned last month amid an FBI inquiry into his travel and spending. But the vote was abruptly canceled Wednesday morning by Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring on the grounds that he wasn’t sure Smith had the 50-vote majority he needs to be elected by the 99-member House.
One threat being made against pro-Smith lawmakers, Smith said, is that labor unions would either spend money this fall on their Democratic opponents or, if they stopped supporting Smith, would give them a “free run.”
He also denounced anti-Smith rumors being spread by the political blog Third Rail Politics, which Smith said was a mouthpiece for Householder being funded by Bill Lager, founder of the now-shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow charter school. Other “nefarious people” he said were working against him included powerful lobbyist Neil Clark and the payday-lending industry, which is trying to fend off a bill to impose tough new restrictions on their loans.
“It’s appalling to me, it’s embarrassing to this institution, to have people that would stoop to these levels and the tactics that they’re taking right now,” Smith said.
Householder, a former House speaker, said in a statement that Smith “made a litany of unfounded allegations that are unequivocally false.
“I don’t believe that wild accusations and name calling is a responsible course to resolving conflicts and only leads to greater divides,” he continued.
Smith said he didn’t know why Schuring called off Wednesday’s vote, saying the speaker pro tem made the move himself without consulting anyone else in House leadership.
During a House GOP caucus last week, 47 House Republicans indicated they were willing to support Smith to finish Rosenberger’s term through the end of the year. Since then, it’s unclear where Smith will be able to find the additional three GOP votes he needs to be elected without Democratic support.
Asked Wednesday how many votes he has, Smith said, “It’s a hard question to answer…when you’ve gotten people being threatened every day, and it’s moving around all the time.”