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There's Little Will To Impeach Gov. Mike DeWine, From Either Party

Gov. Mike DeWine inside the Governor's Residence in Columbus on Dec. 13, 2019.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Gov. Mike DeWine inside the Governor's Residence in Columbus on Dec. 13, 2019.

Ohio House Republicans aren’t uniting behind a plan to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And if the conservative lawmakers want support from Democrats, they might be disappointed.

While Democrats have been critical of DeWine in some policies, state Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) says there’s no appetite to impeach him. 

“We want to focus on getting recovery passed from this COVID-19 crisis, getting people back to work, creating jobs and getting kids back to school in a safe way," Boggs says. "This in-fighting between Republicans is their mess, their problem and I don’t think any of my colleagues in my caucus want to touch it."

State Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) introduced the articles of impeachment on Monday, joined by three other co-sponsors who are regular critics of DeWine's coronavirus orders: State Reps. Candice Keller (R-Middletown), Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) and Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason).

Becker charges that DeWine committed "a usurpation of power" in both the state and federal constitutions with several actions, including the delaying of the primary in March just hours before in-person voting was to begin, and the shutdown of businesses with the “stay at home” order. He also criticized the governor for not working with the General Assembly.

Several members of the House, including former Speaker Larry Householder, have criticized DeWine and said they felt "disrespected" by the governor's reopening plans. Some called former Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton a "dictator" for the public health orders that closed many parts of Ohio's economy, and the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that would lower fines for violating those health orders. DeWine vetoed the bill.

On Monday, however, legislative leaders quickly shot down the proposal to impeach DeWine.

Newly-appointed Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Bluffton) issued a written statement condemning the effort, calling it "an imprudent attempt to escalate important policy disagreements with the Governor into a state constitutional crisis."

A spokesman for Senate President Larry Obhof says the impeachment process rests completely with the House.

"Our members won’t spend time reacting to something that hasn’t happened, and at this point represents nothing more than political posturing by less than a few members of the other chamber," John Fortney said.

Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken also released a statement calling Becker's proposal a "baseless, feeble attempt at creating attention for themselves."

"It is despicable that anyone who considers themself to be conservative would make an attempt to impeach Governor DeWine," she wrote. "In a time of harsh political division, and an important election year, Republicans should be united."

Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper released his own statement criticizing "Republican extremists at the Statehouse" for attacking Acton and DeWine, while at the same time declining to eject Householder from the legislature following his indictment on federal racketeering charges.

"The Ohio GOP’s message to voters is clear - corruption and bribery are A-OK with us, but having the audacity to listen to public health experts during a global pandemic is an impeachable offense," Pepper wrote.

Quinnipiac University poll in June showed DeWine's approval rating at an all-time high of 75%, with 77% of Ohio voters giving him high marks for his handling of the pandemic.   

Backers of the impeachment effort say they lack the votes needed to pass the measures. 

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.