The vote for House Speaker on the first day of the two-year session is usually a unanimous formality, but the battle between two Republicans has allowed Democrats to come into the vote with surprising power.
One Democrat said the vote is likely to be historic.
In a private meeting Friday, 20 of 38 House Democrats said they’d back former speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) over current Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell). Eight indicated they’d vote for Smith, who’s been speaker since June, when he beat two Householder supporters and minority leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) to replace former speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
Unions that support Householder had been urging Democrats to back him. Most Democrats had backed their own leader in the vote in June, though Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus) had lined up with Smith. Democrats gained five seats in November, beating candidates thought to be allies of Householder.
Smith won 34 votes in a Republican caucus meeting last month. That’s a majority of the 60-member caucus, but most if not all of the 26 absent members are thought to be favoring Householder. (The caucus numbers 60 right now because the 97th district seat is vacant with the appointment of Republican Brian Hill of Zanesville to the Senate to replace Troy Balderson, who was elected to Congress.)
As in June, voting goes on till someone gets 50 votes or, in the 11th round, a plurality.