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Democrats Weigh Role in Ohio House Speaker Battle

Ohio House Democratic Caucus with union signs.

The behind-the-scenes battle over who will lead the Republican-dominated Ohio House next year isn’t just between supporters of current speaker Ryan Smith and former speaker Larry Householder.  

Longtime state lawmaker David Leland says with recent bills on abortion and gun rights, he’s open to options besides backing the current speaker.

“Clearly there’s no difference between Smith and Householder, and if Democrats can impact the speaker’s race, then the question is, what can we do for our people, the people we represent?” Leland said.

Tavia Galonski of Akron leads the Democratic women’s caucus.

“It would behoove all the potential leaders or speakers to be talking with us more directly and not ignoring us," she said.

Both confirm that labor unions are urging Democrats to consider Householder.

Galonski suggests Minority Leader Fred Strahorn could be elected Speaker – but Leland says there’s no way Republicans would let that happen. And Democrat Bernadine Kennedy Kent, who supported Smith last summer, is no longer a member of the Democratic caucus.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.