Rep. Jason Stephens (R- Kitts Hill), who was endorsed by Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio in November’s general election, was voted Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives for the new legislative session.
According to the Ohio Capital Journal, Stephens, considered a moderate Republican, allegedly pledged to stop far-right policies.
In what was considered an upset, he defeated Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) 54-43, thanks to the help of chamber Democrats. Stephens received the support of all Democrats, plus 20 members of his own party.
Merrin was elected speaker in a non-official party vote in December, which led to pundits declaring the win by Stephens to be an upset.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) told The Columbus Dispatch the reason her caucus supported Stephens was an opportunity to work with a speaker who, “would work with us on the issues we could agree on.”
Stephens told The Dispatch, he would try to do his best to communicate, listen and be there for all members of the House, regardless of party affiliation.
“I intend to listen, and I intend to be very open and receptive to all members of the Ohio House,” he said. “We represent all of Ohio.”
The Ohio Capital Journal reported that Russo and Stephens made multiple deals with Democrats to secure their votes.
Russo told OCJ the two spoke about getting fair district maps and pro-union legislation, but the bulk of their conversation was on priority bills, such as educational issues.
According to an analysis by The Plain Dealer, Stephens raised nearly $616,000 over the past two years, with top supporters including nursing homes, building trades unions and some of Ohio’s most powerful lobbyists.