COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Republican Party is taking over the GOP’s state House races, as Republicans hope to bounce back from a corruption scandal and salvage their campaign to retain control of the state legislature this November.
Newly-elected House Speaker Bob Cupp and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken announced the decision on Friday, a little more than two weeks after former House speaker Larry Householder’s arrest as part of a federal racketeering investigation.
Householder’s arrest, as well as that of Householder’s top political aide, Jeff Longstreth, had paralyzed the House GOP caucus, given the central role both played in directing legislative campaigns. House members ousted Householder from his leadership position last week, although he remains in the legislature, and Republicans selected Cupp to replace him.
“It’s not an ideal situation,” said Evan Machan, an Ohio Republican Party spokesman. “However, due to Chairman Timken’s leadership, we feel that we are going to be successful in implementing this new plan and organization, and we’re really focused now on moving forward and getting our folks past the finish line.”
“Although the past few weeks have been tumultuous, we now have the structure and professional campaign staff in place to help our members and candidates to win their races,” Cupp said in a statement. “Moving forward, I look forward to working hard everyday to ensure victory this November.”
The state party will direct fundraising, grassroots organization, strategy and communications — in effect, according to Machan — in effect, all major phases of the campaign. The party already has hired campaign managers for individual races, and plans to hire other campaign staff in the days to come, he said. Control of the campaign operation will revert to the House GOP caucus after the election.
Democrats, meanwhile, view the disarray caused by the corruption scandal as a ripe opportunity for their candidates. Aryeh Alex, the House Democrats’ campaign manager, said another major, positive factor is Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s recent investment into his campaign operation here, and poll numbers that show Biden to be surprisingly competitive.
Republicans currently hold a 61-39 supermajority in the Ohio House. Democrats had been running to “break the supermajority” — which would allow them to block Republicans from overturning a governor’s veto. But Alex said Democrats are setting their sights higher, adding additional seats that put them closer to a 50-50 split.
“I think that all that bodes really well for our chances, and this corruption thing puts a lot of new seats in play and I think expands our electoral map in a big way,” Alex said.