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Following Comments By Republicans, Ohio Legislators Demand Change

State Sen. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood)
Ohio House
State Rep. Nickie Antonio says she will introduce legislation to help fix the General Assembly's "good ole boy" culture.

Two Republican state lawmakers have issued apologies for disparaging remarks they made earlier this week at a roast for a departing employee earlier this week. But some lawmakers are demanding more than apologies – they want a change in the culture they say is prevalent in the general assembly.

State Rep. Bill Seitz and Sen. Matt Huffman apologized for disparaging statements about some women, including current lawmakers, at a staffer’s going away party at the Athletic Club of Columbus.

“I understand why people at the event were offended, and I apologize,” Huffman wrote. “I am truly sorry.”

Seitz wrote a letter to the Ohio House expressing “deep regret and remorse” for his comments, and specifically apologized to state Rep. Candice Keller and former state Rep. Diana Fessler.

But Democratic Rep. Nickie Antonio says she wants all lawmakers to change the “good ole boy” culture at the Statehouse.

“We’re made fun of,” Antonio says. “We become the punch line in a joke. You know, people behave like they are frat boys and Cap Square is their playground. This has to stop.”

Antonio, who plans to introduce legislation soon to deal with this issue, says lawmakers who are offended by the behavior often don’t speak up for fear of retribution.

“We should not have to be pay to play and pay with our silence,” Antonio says.

Earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Cecil Thomas called for an investigation into the matter. Keller, who was mentioned in the comments, told her local newspaper The News Journal that she was appalled and livid about them but did not file an official complaint.

Lawmakers recently went through sexual harassment training, following the resignations of several Ohio General Assembly members and staffers.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.