COLUMBUS – Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) is considering throwing his hat in the ring to become the next Ohio House Speaker, pending a leadership change, according to WOSU Statehouse reporter Andy Chow.
Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Twp.) tells me he’s been approached by colleagues in the Ohio House to consider putting his name up as the next House Speaker if there’s a leadership change— Andy Chow (@andy_chow) July 23, 2020
Carfagna reportedly told Chow Thursday that he's been approached by colleagues in the House about potentially putting his name up for consideration, given the speculation that current Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) may either resign or be voted out following federal allegations of his leadership in a $60 million bribery scandal.
Carfagna currently represents the 68th House District, which includes the eastern half of Delaware County and all of Knox County. He assumed office in January 2017 after serving two terms as a Genoa Township (Delaware County) trustee.
He had previously worked as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives, where he staffed the House Public Utilities Committee, and had also spent time in the private sector, working as the government relations manager for Time Warner Cable.
Carfagna was first elected to his House seat in 2016, taking the place of four-term incumbent Margaret Ruhl (R-Mount Vernon). Carfagna won a five-way Republican primary and a three-way general election, taking 66 percent of the vote in November. He was re-elected in 2018 after defeating local challengers by a wide margin.
As of Friday afternoon, Carfagna had not returned requests for comment regarding Chow's report. When asked by Chow whether or not he'd consider taking up the position of House Speaker – known as one of the most powerful positions in state politics – Carfagna reportedly said he's "giving it serious consideration."
He took it a step further on Friday, telling the Columbus Dispatch that he's marketing himself to colleagues as someone “far removed” from Householder. The Dispatch lists Carfagna among four House members who are considered leading candidates to be the next Speaker.
The Ohio House Speaker serves as the head of the House. They guide the agenda of the chamber, preside over sessions, and provide direction to fellow House members and staff. Along with the House Leadership team, the Speaker decides when bills sponsored by individual members reach the House floor for a vote and determines committee chairmanships and leadership positions in his or her respective caucus.
The future of the position is uncertain, given the allegations facing Householder, who is accused of spearheading what federal prosecutors are calling the largest bribery scheme in state history. Householder and four other men were arrested and charged Tuesday for allegedly taking $60 million in exchange for pushing through a controversial energy bailout bill that cost Ohioans more than $1 billion.
Ohio House Democrats and Republicans, as well as Gov. Mike DeWine, have called for Householder to resign, but he told reporters on courthouse steps Tuesday that he would not. Ohio lawmakers cannot serve if they are convicted of a felony, but Householder is innocent until proven guilty.
Householder could, however, be voted out of office in the meantime. The Ohio House has the ability to expel a member with a vote of two-thirds of legislators for "disorderly conduct," Attorney General David Yost told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Yost said this term could cover Householder's alleged actions.
While many House members have called for Householder's resignation, his leadership team has not. DeWine called on the Republican-controlled House this week to begin the process of selecting a new Speaker.
“It is clear, as I indicated yesterday, that Speaker Householder can no longer function as speaker with these very serious charges from the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI,” DeWine said Thursday during a coronavirus briefing.
“The people’s business must be done and so I urge my friends in the legislature to very vigorously look at that and try to move as quickly as they can.”
According to The Dispatch, Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) has called a meeting of the GOP caucus on Tuesday afternoon to discuss potential replacements for Householder.