Asst. Majority Floor Leader: Battle Lines Drawn in Stacked OH Speaker’s Race

Ohio_Gavel

I ran for a seat in the Ohio House because I strongly disagreed with those who think and act as though we can tax and spend our way to prosperity.

In 2010, John Kasich sent Governor Strickland packing. At the time, I had just won a third term as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. During that period, there was an intense battle in Columbus over who the next Speaker of the House would be. Rep. Batchelder was elected, and I believed in the man. I was elected to serve as the Majority Whip, one of the leadership positions in the House.

Along with others, I put my shoulder to the wheel and worked hard to begin fixing the public policy train wreck that the Strickland administration had left us. Now it is evident that so much more could have been done, because so little was accomplished, from the Reagan conservative perspective.

My two latest terms have repeatedly clarified for me that the word “conservative” has been hijacked and redefined to include even those members who voted to increase state spending 22.8 percent over four years.

The CYA response by so-called conservative members was that spending increases were okay for one or more of the following excuses:

– no tax pledge had been broken, or

– it was a net decrease, or

– it was revenue neutral.

Over and over again, members looked the other way as the administration put forth more spending, all the while continuing to portray themselves as “conservative” Republicans.

“But we’re all Republicans,” they said. “We’re on the same page 90 percent of the time.” Well, if that’s true, then we can’t afford not to look at the other 10 percent. Reagan conservatives believe that a tax cut requires shrinking, not growing, the size and scope of government.

Now that the 2014 election is over, those with an interest in state government are closely watching how the race for the next Speaker of the House will play out. Whoever wins will become one of the three most powerful people in state government. Members who like the status quo want someone that will hold to the same spending path, while others want to contain government. Thus, a battle for the gavel is being waged.

This is how the battle has played out so far. Three candidates were vying for the Speakership. No one had the upper hand. The Speaker called two Representatives — Amstutz and Rosenberger — into his office and told them to settle between themselves who was going to get the gavel.

Amstutz has a long and distinguished career in state and local government, and his colleagues hold him in high regard. However, he will be term-limited in two years, so a new Speaker would then have to step in. For the sake of continuity — say some — rapid turnover is something to be avoided, so he dropped. By default, Rosenberger is entitled to the gavel — right?

Not so fast.

Remember, only two of the three contenders were invited to meet with the Speaker. The third gentleman, not so easily brushed off — and who warrants at least as much consideration as Rosenberger — is Jim Butler.

Why didn’t the Speaker summon all three? Good question. Some believe that the Speaker was attempting to handpick his replacement. It is not missed that the governor, along with the usual suspects from the famously unscrupulous (and rich) Franklin County establishment, is backing the Speaker’s pick.

But come now. Does the Republican Caucus, not to mention the House as a whole, really need outside “help” choosing its own leader, on its own terms?

Are we — elected leaders ourselves — so incapable of discerning leadership that we must follow the establishment windsock wherever it blows?

Not without reason are “the machine” and the “establishment” so called. They manipulate and strong-arm the process. They cause division among members by giving preference to one candidate and expecting current members — and those yet to be sworn in — to follow the prompter.

Despite these invasive cues, pushback from Butler supporters has emerged, and by all accounts, that pushback will continue unabated until both candidates participate in an in-depth interview with all members of the Republican Caucus. In addition, many are demanding a secret ballot to afford members freedom from being publicly pressured into voting for the anointed candidate.

Some of the current members, and all of the members-elect, have been called to a November 12 Republican-only meeting to choose the next Speaker. However, members- elect are not yet members of the legislature, and therefore cannot be members of the caucus and will not have standing to vote for the next Speaker prior to January. Some will say, “It’s just a preliminary vote.” Regardless, the upcoming vote is critical. In January it will merely be affirmed publicly.

So here’s my question for the class: Why the big rush to select the next Speaker? Tradition? Yes, to preserve the establishment’s status quo.

But if we will be rushed, let us at least be clear. In pursuit of a transparent review of each candidate, here are the two choices, alphabetically arranged by last name:

Rep. Jim Butler (whom the Speaker has tried to cut out of the process):

This candidate, a naval aviator, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in the top 10% of his class with a degree in history. In flight school, he graduated at the top of his class, became one of the best-trained and most able pilots in the world and flew F-14 Tomcats. He also earned a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Maryland. After leaving the military, he entered the University of Cincinnati College of Law and again was one of the top students in his class. He now practices as a business litigator at Thompson Hine, LLP and is an associate in the firm’s Business and Product Liability Litigation practice areas. He focuses his practice on disputes involving the Uniform Commercial Code, employer intentional tort, real estate tax appeals, employment disputes, product liability, intellectual property and general commercial litigation. This experience has provided him with an understanding of the challenges that face Ohio’s businesses. This candidate has twice served as a delegate at the Republican National Convention, he serves as a volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Lawyers Project, and he is a member of the Rotary Club and the United Way. He has also served on the board of trustees for a local ballet company. He has been a state representative since 2010. He is 44 years old, and he and his wife, a physician specializing in Internal Medicine, are the parents of three children. The family attends St. Albert the Great Church. As most individuals have done, he has balanced his time between family, the private sector and, most recently, public service.

Rep. Cliff Rosenberger:

After graduating from high school, this candidate enlisted in the Air National Guard and served for 12 years. He has assisted in deploying troops overseas; in traffic management, he has assisted with operational inspections. Active in his community, he and others established a Veteran’s Memorial, and he helped to establish a village planning commission and devoted himself to implementing Smart Growth policies. He has volunteered on local, state, and national campaigns and served as an event planner for the Bush and Romney campaigns. In his mid-20s, he interned in the White House and worked at the US Dept. of the Interior. He has been a state representative since 2010. He pursued his education for eight years, and in 2012 he received Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and Urban Affairs from Wright State University. He is 33 and single. He has devoted his life to working in the public sector.

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Regardless of how lopsided the process is, especially for the new, incoming members of the House, the outcome of Wednesday’s vote is going to be very close. As this vote draws near, and as my own House tenure draws to a close, I can’t keep from thinking about something I heard once about “thirty pieces of silver.” If the establishment prevails, nothing in the world of Ohio politics will change. I hope that before I pass, “real” good things will happen for the citizens of Ohio rather than for those who serve them.

Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) is the Assistant Majority Floor Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. He is in his fourth term.

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Adams photo: www.ohiohouse.gov

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