When state Rep. John Becker’s summer plan to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine received quick endorsements from three legislative colleagues, he hoped the momentum would snowball throughout the end of 2020.
That did not happen. In social media posts and Statehouse speeches, Republican lawmakers have criticized the governor’s handling of COVID-19. They’ve complained about a lack of communication and the need for constitutional checks and balances.
But they evidently do not want to impeach him. No one else has publicly supported the effort since it was announced in August.
Becker, a Clermont County Republican leaving office next month, is undeterred and said he formally introduced 12 articles of impeachment on Monday. These all involve criticism against DeWine’s pandemic response, ranging from allegations the government violated civil liberties by requiring Ohioans wear face masks to claims the executive branch is not abiding by the separation of powers.
Becker is still joined by three Republican state representatives as cosponsors: Candice Keller of Middletown, Nino Vitale of Urbana and Paul Zeltwanger of Mason.
The governor did not mince words when asked about the articles of impeachment at a Monday afternoon press conference.
“At some point, this foolishness has got to stop,” DeWine said.
DeWine urged the four lawmakers to get in touch with medical professionals who are battling the virus on the front lines.
COVID-19 spread is being recorded in all areas of Ohio, including the counties represented by the four lawmakers pursuing impeachment. Each of their counties has “high incidence” of COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Butler County, represented by Zeltwanger and Keller, is 13th out of Ohio’s 88 counties in terms of virus cases as adjusted by population. Warren County, also located in Zeltwanger’s district, is 17th out of 88.
In a news release from Monday, Becker called on Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, R-Lima, to assign the articles of impeachment to the House Federalism Committee — which is led by Becker.
The articles require a majority vote in the Ohio House of Representatives and a two-thirds vote from the Ohio Senate in order to remove DeWine from office.
The Ohio Capital Journal previously reported that Becker has also inquired about the governor facing theoretical criminal charges. He’s spent the fall encouraging Ohioans to file citizen’s affidavits with county prosecutor offices in the hopes of finding a prosecutor to charge the governor.
This pursuit led to some controversy in October when a woman Becker met with was later accused of planning a citizen’s arrest of DeWine at the governor’s Cedarville home. Becker said he met with Renea Turner, a former 2018 write-in candidate for governor, at his legislative office to discuss the subject of securing criminal charges against DeWine. At one point in their conversation, Becker said Turner asked questions about the governor’s private residence in Cedarville.
A few weeks later, Turner was identified in a Piqua police report by a person who alleged she tried to recruit them for a citizen’s arrest plot. Turner denied having done so, and Becker said there was no talk of such a plot in their private conversation. Becker was questioned about the conversation by Ohio State Highway Patrol investigators.
Becker was term-limited from running for reelection and Keller is also leaving office after losing a bid for an Ohio Senate seat.
Vitale and Zeltwanger were both re-elected last month.
This story shared for republication by, and with permission from, the Ohio Capital Journal, an independent, nonprofit news organization. For more information go to www.ohiocapitaljournal.com
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.