The first clue came last Sunday evening.
“Big News OHIO,” State Rep. Nino Vitale posted to his Facebook page. “9 am Tomorrow Right Here.”
His large social media following got excited. Some thought Vitale was announcing a run for governor. Others presumed it had something to do with Gov. Mike DeWine; Vitale has been on the governor’s case for months with accusations of dictatorship and tyranny.
Those people were right. The next morning, Rep. John Becker, R-Union Twp., announced he would soon be introducing articles of impeachment against DeWine. Vitale and two other lawmakers — Candice Keller of Middletown and Paul Zeltwanger of Mason — quickly endorsed the plan.
Republican leaders were not pleased. Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Murphy Timken called the impeachment effort “despicable” and “baseless.” Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, characterized it as being political grandstanding. New Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, R-Lima, came out against impeachment as well.
Why go through the trouble if the articles of impeachment are DOA? Well, the four lawmakers involved have been among the biggest critics of DeWine and don’t have much to lose. Becker and Keller both lost primary elections in the spring and will be out of office soon. Vitale is running unopposed for his final two-year term; Zeltwanger is in a contested race for his final term, but his district is relatively safe.
The latter two are defenders of indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford. When the vote went 90-0 to remove Householder as speaker last month, Vitale and Zeltwanger were among the few that abstained. Later that day, both voted for Householder ally Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, over Cupp to be the replacement speaker.
Several of the proposed articles of impeachment do in fact resemble critiques leveled against DeWine from the Republican caucus throughout 2020. To a certain degree, one could acknowledge that this impeachment quartet is willing to put their money where their mouths are.
But there is a big difference between criticizing the governor and endorsing an internecine effort to remove him from office.
DeWine, who has repeatedly welcomed constructive criticism throughout the pandemic, had two days to prepare for the inevitable question about impeachment at his Tuesday press conference.
“It’s a free country,” DeWine said about legislators spending their time on impeachment instead of tackling the virus.
“Have at it,” he concluded, a response befitting a governor with an approval rating in the 70s.
Republican state Rep. Rick Carfagna offered his own criticism of the impeachment effort in a lengthy, measured post to his official Facebook page.
Calling DeWine a “diligent and honorable man,” Carfagna said lawmakers could have disagreements with the governor without resorting to impeachment.
“I have not always agreed with the Governor’s orders or approach, but rather than posture across social media to impress others I’ve always chosen to express my disagreements constructively with the Administration in order to be taken seriously and influence actual change.”
Carfagna’s whole post is worth a read.
Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to email@example.com or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.
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