Ohio House Speaker Race is the Next Big Thing in the Ohio Statehouse

The re-election of Governor Mike Dewine by a huge margin and the addition of new Republican seats to the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives for the upcoming 135th Ohio General Assembly cements Republican leadership for at least two if not four more years.  The next big thing coming to the Ohio Statehouse is the election of a new Republican Speaker of the Ohio House. 

Ohio voters approved term limits for state legislators in the early 1990s that limits Ohio House of Representative members.  A recent Montrose Group Opportunity Ohio survey of 600 likely voters in September of 2022 found that an overwhelming majority of Ohio voters—nearly 90% oppose any effort to change Ohio’s legislative term limit law.  Term limits are here to stay. 

A major impact of Ohio term limits is the loss of legislative leadership on a regular basis.  That process in the Ohio Senate has been much more low key compared to the process in the Ohio House.  This challenge came to light with the indictment of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder who raised over $60 M in an effort to regain the Speakership.  Current, Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp stepped into replace Householder but his service will come to an end in December, 2022 when he reaches his legislative term limit. 

Four candidates are likely to have a chance to elected as Speaker by the 67 newly elected Republican Ohio House of Representatives members.  These four likely candidates include State Representatives Brian Baldridge, Derek Merrin, Phil Plummer and Jason Stephens.

State Representative Brian Baldridge.  State Representative Brian Baldridge is currently serving his second term in the Ohio House of Representatives. He represents the 90th House District, which includes all of Scioto and Adams Counties, as well as part of Lawrence County.

Baldridge has always had a heart for service. His introduction to local government began at the early age of 18 as a firefighter and paramedic for the Wayne Township Fire Department. In addition to serving his local community, he also served as a career firefighter and paramedic with Anderson Township Fire Department. Baldridge has stayed involved with the Wayne Township Fire Department to this day.  As an elected official, Baldridge served four terms as Adams County Commissioner, and was also elected to the Ohio County Commissioners’ Association Board of Directors. He has also served two terms as a Wayne Township Trustee, where he was elected to serve on the Ohio Township Association Board of Directors. Baldridge has strong roots in Ohio. He was raised on the seventh generation family farm, and is still active in the family’s agriculture seed business. He and his wife, Lori, have been married for 30 years and reside in Winchester, Ohio. The Baldridge’s have two grown children, Casey (Kaitlyn) and Alyson (Nik), and are members of Bethlehem Church of Christ. The two are also proud new grandparents of a wonderful little girl, who has brought joy to the whole family.

State Representative Derek Merrin.  State Representative Derek Merrin is serving his third term in the Ohio House after being appointed in 2016. He represents the 47th district, which includes portions of Lucas and Fulton Counties. As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Merrin is a strong advocate for lower taxes, simplifying the tax code, and promoting transparency. He currently serves on the Financial Institutions, Civil Justice, and the Technology and Innovation Committees. Rep. Merrin previously served as Chairman of the House Health Committee where he advocated for policies to reduce health care costs, promote price transparency, and better patient access through fewer regulations.  He successfully repealed the sales tax on prescription eyewear effective July 1, 2019, saving taxpayers $45 million annually (HB116). Furthermore, he successfully championed the repeal of Financial Institution Tax on Small Business Investment Companies (HB 592), the Epinephrine Accessibility Act (HB 101), the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (HB 214), and eased the process for homeowners to challenge their property value (HB 118). In 2019, Rep. Merrin’s Fuel Tax Transparency Act requiring stickers on fuel pumps displaying the state and federal fuel taxes became law through the Transportation Budget (HB 62). In 2020, Rep. Merrin successfully sponsored the Anthony Dia Act (760) making it easier for children and spouses of law enforcement and military service members killed in the line of duty to access college tuition waivers. Also, he won a victory to expand the Forever Buckeye Program (HB 371) to ensure those earning a GED in Ohio had the same access to in-state tuition benefits that other students have when moving back to Ohio. Furthermore, his Theft Victims’ Restitution Act (HB 66) become law making it easier for victims of theft to recover restitution for accounting costs incurred when determining their financial losses. In 2021, Rep. Merrin successfully changed the law providing Ohioans an option to choose an eight-year driver’s license rather than a four-year license, which will significantly reduce visits to the BMV’s throughout Ohio. He won on reducing mortgage lenders tax burden (HB 150), which was believed to be the highest in the nation at the time.

State Representative Phil Plummer. State Representative Phil Plummer is currently serving his second term as state representative. He represents the 40th House District, which includes portions of Montgomery County. Rep. Plummer has had an extensive career of service to the people of Montgomery County, most recently serving as Sheriff of Montgomery County before his time as state representative.  He joined the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer in 1988, where he was responsible for the supervision, security and safety of the prisoners in his charge.  Plummer was then promoted to the position of deputy sheriff where he worked as patrol deputy.  Once being promoted to the rank of Sergeant, he held assignment as a supervisor in the Communication Center and the Road Patrol section.  Plummer also had the distinct honor of serving as the SWAT Team Commander for a period of time.  In November of 2000, he was promoted to the rank of Major and assumed command of the Operations Division and in January 2004, he was placed in charge of Personnel Office where he was responsible for human resources and labor relations.  Just one short year later in March 2005, he was promoted to the high rank of Chief Deputy (Second in Command).  On July 7th, 2008 Phil Plummer was gratefully appointed as Sheriff of Montgomery County.  Plummer also brings unique experience to his office with executive training from The FBI National Academy, The FBI National Executive Institute, and the Secret Service Executive Leadership Academy. Rep. Plummer was born and raised in Montgomery County and is a proud graduate of Chaminade Julienne High School. After high school, Phil furthered his education and earned an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Toledo and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.  Rep. Plummer resides in Dayton with his wife Cindy, where he is active in his local church and the Dayton community.

State Representative Jason Stephens.   State Representative Jason C. Stephens is serving his first term in the Ohio House of Representatives after being appointed in the 133rd General Assembly. He serves the 93rd House District, which includes Jackson and Gallia Counties, as well as portions of Lawrence and Vinton Counties.  Stephens has an extensive background in local government, most recently serving as Lawrence County auditor. He previously served as Lawrence County commissioner. Stephens is a small business owner as well. He currently is a licensed insurance agent at Stephens & Son Insurance Agency, Inc and is a co-owner of Stephens & Son Insurance of Chesapeake, Inc. Stephens graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics/Finance and Business Management. He is actively involved in his community and currently serves as the volunteer public address announcer for many sports at Chesapeake High School. He has been married to his wife Juli since 1994, and they live on a small farm in Getaway. He and his wife have three sons and are active members of the Rome Church of Christ in Proctorville.

One of these legislators will play a critical role in launching the 2nd Term agenda for Governor DeWine as well as to implement the legislative agenda for the 135th Ohio General Assembly.