State Representative McColley’s Campaign for Speaker Was a Fraud

By Scott Pullins for 3rd Rail Politics


The headlines practically gushed.  “State Rep. Ryan Smith Gets Boost in Bid for Ohio House Speaker.”  


And the first paragraph could have come from a campaign press release:


The odds that State Representative Ryan Smith will be the next Ohio House Speaker have improved after winning the support of a potential rival for the job, State Rep. Rob McColley.


And not a single word of it is true.  


First of all, State Representative Rob McColley was never really running for Speaker.  


How do we know?  


If he was actually running for Speaker, then why give up now?  There are at least 20 open House seats next year that are currently held by Republicans that either are term limited or are not running for re-election.  In some of those seats, the candidates are not even known yet.


Likewise, there are currently 46 House Republicans running for re-election.  Ryan Smith claims to have a majority of those 46, i.e. 23 or more, but our statehouse sources are calling that claim absolute and utter hogwash.  


McColley was given one job by Ryan Smith, go out and get the support of House conservatives and hold them together as a block.  Then, late in the process, make a deal and throw their support to Ryan Smith.  


But House conservatives derailed that plan.  


Why?  Because House conservatives aren’t stupid.  


McColley was the Co-Chair of the House campaign committee and was in leadership.  You don’t get there right now by being conservative and bucking leadership, you get there by going along and keeping your mouth shut.


House conservatives weren’t fooled for a minute.


And McColley’s “campaign” for Speaker didn’t even last 40 days.  


For longtime statehouse observers, these Speaker campaign tactics seems like déjà vu all over again.  Hang on, and let 3rd Rail Politics take you back in our political time machine.


In January of 2008, Jon Husted was Speaker with a slim 53-46 majority after the disastrous 2006 election for Republicans.  Husted was term limited and was running for the State Senate.  His heir apparent was the then powerful Chairman of the House Finance Committee, Matt Dolan.  


Are you seeing any similarities here?


During the second week of January, Dolan supporters tried to pull a fast one.  They called a caucus meeting and tried to take a straw poll of the 28 Republicans then running for re-election.  They wanted to put the race for Speaker away before it even got started.  


But they forgot something.  Or, rather someone.  


A wily old legislator by the name of Bill Batchelder got in the way.


Here’s what happened as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:


Batchelder sent all 28 a letter this week saying that he found it inappropriate for deals, straw polls, or votes of any kind to be forced upon our caucus. In the letter, Batchelder suggested that Husted establish a campaign committee to referee the situation and that threats, strong-arm tactics or any other kind of inappropriate pressuring of candidates by current members will not be tolerated.


Their next attempt to clear the field was by holding a caucus in July 2008 to pick a Chairman of the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee.  Dolan won this bid, despite a Batchelder challenge, but then something even really bad happened.


Ohio House Republicans lost their majority.  


And even worse, their campaign committee was flat broke.  


In fact, the finances of the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee were so dire that newly elected minority leader Bill Batchelder and his team formed a new committee and started over.  That’s why the House GOP campaign arm has been called the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee ever since.


Bill Batchelder didn’t give up, of course.  He put in the hard work, raised money, regained the majority in 2010, and became Speaker after all.  


Because that’s what wily old legislators do.


Ryan Smith’s math doesn’t add up.  Many House Republicans have not yet made commitments and are focused on winning re-election in what looks like will be a bad GOP year.  At the same time, they have to be absolutely shocked about the over $250,000 that Cliff Rosenberger has blown through on expensive dinners, gifts, and travel since becoming Speaker.  A quarter million could have certainly helped hold a number of close seats in a bad year.  3rd Rail Politics previously reported that information in an exclusive set of stories.


Candidates for Speaker don’t become Speaker by declaring victory prematurely in the pages of a Cleveland newspaper. They also don’t become Speaker by subterfuge and backroom shenanigans.  One only becomes Speaker by helping to retain the House majority.  That’s probably why Householder spokesperson Anna Lippincott had this to say in response:


“Republicans need to be focusing on electing conservatives and keeping the majority,” Lippincott told the Plain Dealer.  “That’s what Speaker Householder is focused on.”


Because that’s what wily old legislators do.