Householder Tramples Geauga County
After Rep. Sarah LaTourette announced in April that she was resigning from her Ohio House seat, voters in the 76th District (primarily Geauga County) got a rude lesson in dysfunctional and highhanded politics.
The Statehouse leadership retains the right to appoint a new member to any vacancy from a pool of applicants. This fact is not in dispute.
The Executive and Central Committees of the local GOP are required to submit a recommendation to the House selection committee. This makes sense, given that the whoever occupies the seat must represent the local concerns and interests of the district’s electorate. While the recommendation is not technically binding upon House members, the consultative process is meant to preserve continuity between the grassroots and state leadership.
In May, the local GOP did exactly that. Throughout the month, county GOP leaders hosted the candidates for a series of meetings, including a meet-and-greet and later a formal assembly where a selection vote was held. Candidates were required to fill out a questionnaire and submit themselves to a Q&A from the attendees.
Ultimately, four candidates presented themselves for consideration: Walter “Skip” Claypool, Dennis Galicki, Sharon Gingerich and Kristina Port. In a single round of voting, a clear majority selected former naval officer and South Russell Village Councilman Dennis Galicki as their choice for the seat.
Speaker Householder and the House committee ignored all of this. In a flagrant display of arrogant disregard, Householder selected someone who did not fill out a questionnaire, did not appear before voters and never made public her intention to take the seat: Judge Diane Grendell.
Adding insult to injury, Householder later claimed that he did not know that Judge Grendell had not appeared before county leadership, despite having been sent the full voting record from their meeting.
In a flurry of eleventh-hour schemes, candidate interviews in Columbus were hastily moved up to the day after Memorial Day. Within 24 hours (and before most local residents were even aware of what had happened), Judge Grendell, an ally of Householder, was quickly sworn in as the new 76th District Representative and immediately voted for House Bill 6.
In cases such as this, where the people speak so clearly about something as personal as representation, if the leadership can reasonably honor their wishes, they should. Instead, Speaker Householder has set off needless party infighting and sowed further distrust of and cynicism toward government.
What is the point of interviewing and recommending a candidate if someone with close connections to the political elite can trump grassroots democracy and snatch power from the hands of the people?
This is bad leadership. It tells local voters, not just of the 76th District, but across Ohio, that they are expected to shut up, shrug their shoulders and move on when outside interests overrule their voices.
Householder’s behavior is fit for feudalism and serfs, not democracy and citizens. What happened to the 76th District is a divisive and demoralizing blow to anyone who believes that good faith and transparency have a role to play in government.
Shanley & Dane Davis
Editor’s Note: Shanley Davis is an Executive Committee member of the Geauga County GOP.