Updated: 5:36 p.m., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020
For the first time in more than a century, Ohio lawmakers have filed articles of impeachment against a sitting governor.
State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) is putting the matter forward over fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s response to the coronavirus.
“I kept holding out hope that we wouldn’t get to this place,” Becker said in a statement Monday. “For months and months, I’ve been hearing the cries of my constituents and of suffering people from every corner of Ohio. They keep screaming, ‘DO SOMETHING!’ They are hurting. Their businesses are declining and depreciating. Their jobs have vanished. The communities that have sustained their lives are collapsing, and becoming shells of what they once were.
“It is long past time to put an end to government gone wild,” Becker said.
Becker said DeWine violated the Ohio and United States constitutions and the Ohio Revised Code and numerous points in the statewide coronavirus response. Becker cited DeWine’s actions to postpone the March primary, business closures, the statewide mask mandate and its extension to elementary students.
Becker said DeWine committed "a usurpation of power" by delaying Ohio’s March primary just hours before in-person voting was to begin and right before the first statewide stay-at-home order was issued. But Becker said the problems go beyond those two incidents.
"The governor is not working with the General Assembly," Becker said. "He is, you know, some would say governor gone wild and he needs to be stopped. And the people of Ohio are demanding that he be stopped. And we can't seem to stop him with legislation because he keeps vetoing it. Well, it only takes a simple majority to get an impeachment resolution through the House. So that's why we have finally gotten to this point."
Gubernatorial recall elections are not permitted in Ohio and “the only other option is impeachment. Articles of impeachment cannot be vetoed, and require a majority (50 votes) in the Ohio House of Representatives and then a two-thirds majority (22 votes) in the Ohio Senate for conviction and removal from office,” according to Becker’s press release.
Becker, who launched the impeachment effort Monday morning, said he is not sure of the number of his colleagues who might support the move.
DeWine, has been criticized by several members of the House, including former Speaker Larry Householder, who said the GOP caucus felt "disrespected that their opinions have been largely disregarded by the Administration" in DeWine's reopening plans.
Members of a task force that pushed for businesses to reopen also raised concerns about the speed of reopening. And some have been vocal in their opinions of DeWine's orders – one calling former Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton "a dictator.”
Some Republican lawmakers also have championed bills to require lawmakers vote to extend public health orders after 14 days, a plan to require written permission for contact tracing, and a measure that its sponsor said would require the state and local health departments to change the types of coronavirus data they collect.
DeWine's first non-budgetary veto was on a bill that would have lowered fines for violating orders issued by him, his health director or local health departments.
But Ohio House Republicans are not united behind the plan to impeach DeWine, nor is there much support from Democrats.
A spokeswoman for newly selected House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Bluffton), who replaced Householder, said Cupp shares the concerns many members of his caucus have about executive branch overreach, but has discussed them with DeWine directly.
State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) says there’s no appetite among Ohio’s Democrats to impeach the governor, either.
“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. 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," Boggs said
A spokesman for Senate President Larry Obhof said the impeachment process rests completely with the House.
"Our members [in the Senate] 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.
While Becker said only a simple majority is needed to get his impeachment resolution through the House, he admitted the votes aren't there right now. Becker has set up the website impeachdewine.com and is urging those who support the proceedings to contact their state representative.
"We're going to find out how engaged the people are going to be contacting their state representatives and ratcheting up the pressure that the people put enough pressure on their state representatives will have the votes,” he said. “So it's up to the public."
A Quinnipiac poll in June showed DeWine's approval rating at an all-time high of 75 percent.
“Gov. DeWine is focused on saving lives during the pandemic,” said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney in a Monday press release. “He is focused on helping the economy and getting Ohioans back to work. That is what he is focused on. Not this.”
Jo Ingles in the Statehouse News Bureau contributed to this report.