COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio House’s decision to expel former representative Larry Householder was a choice to be respected, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday while repeating his belief that Householder should have resigned.
Householder, a Republican like DeWine, was removed from the House Wednesday by a bipartisan vote in the chamber’s first expulsion in 150 years. Householder, a former House speaker, is under federal indictment in an alleged bribery scheme.
The GOP-controlled House approved a resolution that stated Householder was not suited for office because of the indictment. The state Constitution allows expulsion for “disorderly conduct” without defining it.
DeWine said the decision to remove Householder was a matter for a separate branch of government.
“I felt that he should have resigned, but this was a decision that was made by the House and we should respect that decision,” DeWine said.
House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Lima Republican, set a June 23 deadline for applicants interested in an appointment to Householder’s seat. A screening committee will conduct interviews June 24. The seat includes Coschocton, Licking and Perry counties.
Householder reiterated his innocence in a House floor speech before the vote and predicted again he would be acquitted of accusations that he orchestrated a $60 million bribery scheme meant to approve legislation to prop up two nuclear power plants and then kill a ballot issue trying to overturn the law.
Householder and four associates were arrested in July in an investigation connected to the nuclear bailout legislation, House Bill 6, which contained a $1 billion ratepayer-funded rescue that would have added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Householder faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Householder’s expulsion came five days after Republican lawmakers voted with majority Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives on June 11 to expel Republican Rep. Mike Nearman after he let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on Dec. 21. It was the first time the Oregon House expelled a member in its 160-year history.
Two of Householder’s codefendants and an involved nonprofit have pleaded guilty in the case. FirstEnergy, the energy company at the heart of the latest scandal, has acknowledged in court filings making the bulk of the payments in the alleged bribery scheme.
The last time the Ohio House expelled a sitting lawmaker was in 1857 when John P. Slough was removed for punching a fellow legislator.
In 2004, Householder left the House the first time due to term limits while he and several top advisers were under federal investigation for alleged money laundering and irregular campaign practices. The government later closed the case without filing charges.
Householder ultimately returned to the chamber and, after a nasty battle, was again elected speaker in 2019.