(Left) Representatie Larry Householder, (Right) Representative Ryan Smith


Larry Householder v. Ryan Smith for Ohio Speaker

The Stakes Are Much Higher Than You May Think

By Connor Brown


It might be easier when looking at the race for Ohio Speaker to simply view the surface of the water and move on.  But if you do so, you miss the story behind the story and the real stakes of this race.


Simply put, State Representative Ryan Smith is a puppet on a string, playing the front-man for a familiar cast of characters.  On issue after issue the two candidates differ significantly not only in their positions, but also in their leadership styles. Let’s examine this in more detail.


Medicaid Expansion


Scott Borgemenke is the Senior Vice President of Advocacy for the Ohio Hospital Association.  He formerly served as the Chief of Staff under Speaker Jon Husted and is a close advisor to Ryan Smith.  According to their most recent IRS form 990, Borgemenke earns nearly $350k per year in that position.  Ryan Smith was a paid board member for the Holzer Hospital System and carried their water as Finance Chair.  Ohio hospitals are the true beneficiaries of Medicaid Expansion and have gotten fat and rich off of it.  Ginni Ragan, as 3rd Rail Politics previously reported was a primary source of campaign money to Smith and his allies because of this issue.  In addition, the PAC for the Ohio Hospital Association has given Smith nearly $30k.  


A Smith Speakership would mean a continuation of this unaffordable expansion.  Speaker Householder, on the other hand, has called for a freeze of the expansion and would support requests for waivers to develop Ohio’s own plan; a position shared by Mike DeWine.  Meanwhile, outgoing Governor John Kasich has threatened to withhold his endorsement, as if it really means that much, if Mike DeWine refuses to support Medicaid Expansion.


School Choice


In his first go around as Ohio Speaker, Larry Householder appointed staunch school choice advocate Jamie Callender as his Education Chairman.  Under their leadership charter schools were expanded, including online charter schools; and school vouchers were also greatly expanded.  


Ryan Smith, who previously served as a school board member for government run schools, simply hates school choice.  Statehouse sources regularly tell us that when Smith visits legislative districts he brings with him spreadsheets that detail how much money charter schools “steal” from their local districts.  That’s probably why Ryan Smith has received at least $13,500 in PAC dollars from the Ohio Education Association.  We would also not be surprised if government employee unions like this one are eventually exposed as a funder of the Smith related Super PAC’s.


Under a Smith Speakership you would likely see term limited Peggy Lehner return to the Ohio House and made Education Chair; from which she could wreak even more havoc.  Meanwhile, a Householder Speakership would mean not only new growth and fewer mandates for school choice, we would also likely see widespread reform of local property taxes that fund schools.


Gun Control


With John Kasich returning to his gun control roots, it is expected that Ryan Smith and his allies would continue to roll over and assist in any such efforts.  Meanwhile, Speaker Householder and his conservative allies would clearly put a halt to any new gun control legislation in the Ohio House.




John Kasich, Ryan Smith, and their allies have fervently embraced well financed left coast, left wing organizations that are pushing solar and wind for Ohio.  At the same time, they are fervently opposed to both coal and nuclear power. As far as they are concerned every coal and nuclear plant in Ohio can close and consumers, investors, and taxpayers can be damned.


Speaker Householder and his allies believe in more of an all of the above approach versus an either-or approach on energy issues.  They know that energy demand in Ohio and across the nation is increasing swiftly and we need coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, solar, and wind to meet the demand inexpensively.  They believe that Ohio remaining a low-cost energy producer is absolutely crucial to growing our economic base.


Management Styles


Under Cliff Rosenberger and Ryan Smith, staff have been treated as more important than members of the Ohio House.  At caucus meetings, members are lectured, brow beaten, and disrespected by staff, Smith and his allies. Committee chairs have been heavily dictated to by both House Leadership and their staff.  Meanwhile, during the budget process the House Leadership rolled over for the Senate and John Kasich in exchange for a few personal priorities.


Politically, Smith and Rosenberger have used the house’s campaign arm as a tool to threaten and intimidate members and candidates in open seats.  Incumbent Wes Retherford was essentially abandoned by OHROC because it was believed that he was a vote for Larry Householder. Federal Super PAC’s were set up which attacked both former and current Republican members of the Ohio House.


Under a Speaker Ryan Smith politics would only get worse.  


Smith has an awful temper, is petty, and bristles at any perceived slights.  If he is elected Speaker this week what would stop him from utilizing OHROC to increase his power at the expense of Republican candidates in marginal districts this fall?  


Perhaps like Wes Retherford, a Speaker Smith and OHROC would abandon any Republicans in the general election that refused to pledge their loyalty to him.  He would need just 50 votes to continue as Speaker, not the 66 that currently hold seats for the GOP after all.


If he somehow retains a slim majority, what would stop him from using the power of OHROC and the Speakership to punish his detractors?  What would stop him from using OHROC to recruit and finance challengers to incumbent Republican house members who refuse to support his hand-picked successor in 2020?


No previous Republican House Speaker or Speaker candidate has ever gone to the lengths that Rosenberger and Smith went to try and retain their power during this primary.  Why would Smith change now? If he is elected Speaker, what would stop him from going even further and doing even worse?


A Speaker Householder, on the other hand, would have a much different management style.  Under his previous leadership committee chairs were empowered and had adequate staff, resources, and authority.  Caucus meetings were bottom up member driven, not top down leadership and staff driven. These caucuses were free-wheeling, debate friendly affairs that permitted members to openly debate their positions and achieve a consensus without consequences.  


Politically, OHROC would go back to its traditional role of protecting incumbents in primaries and in tough general elections.  The practice of recruiting, financing, and endorsing candidates in open seat primaries would come to an abrupt halt. House members, not high paid lobbyists and/or consultants, would once again be in charge.  OHROC would return to being a neutral tool to be used by GOP incumbents to pool resources to retain and strengthen the majority.


House Republicans will decide this week what direction to take.  The stakes are high, much higher than most even realize. Electing Ryan Smith Speaker of the Ohio House would be a disaster; a disaster even bigger than his primary election night debacle.