COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine should be impeached over his handling of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, a conservative GOP House lawmaker said Monday as he announced a long-shot effort to unseat one of the state’s most well-known politicians.
Cincinnati Rep. John Becker said he has drafted 10 articles of impeachment against the first-term governor in an effort currently backed by two other conservative House lawmakers.
Becker accused DeWine of improperly shutting down the March presidential primary, arbitrarily ordering some businesses closed while allowing others to remain open, failing to anticipate record unemployment claims, and instituting an unpopular statewide mask mandate.
“With deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 flattened, the Governor continues to press his boot on the throat of Ohio’s economy,” Becker said.
Daily new cases of the coronavirus have fallen below a seven-day average of 1,000, down from much higher tallies earlier in the summer.
In an interview, Becker acknowledged his move was likely “political suicide” but also said as a term-limited lawmaker not on the ballot for another position, his political future was already uncertain. His goal was trying to help the people whose jobs have been lost, wedding plans ruined, and graduations cancelled, he said.
“They’re telling me the cure is far worse than the disease. Everybody I talk to, they take the disease seriously, they know it’s real,” Becker said. “But there’s an appropriate reaction to it that people want to take and the governor’s reaction is way over the top.”
An impeachment website lists Rep. Nino Vitale, a Republican from Urbana and a frequent critic of DeWine and the mask mandate, and Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, a Republican from Mason in southwestern Ohio, as the only other backers of the movement.
While DeWine’s approach has plenty of critics, he also has broad support from major business groups and the Ohio medical establishment, and actual impeachment seems unlikely. DeWine has also served as a state senator, congressman, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator and attorney general.
A DeWine spokesman said the governor is focused on saving lives during the pandemic, helping the economy and getting Ohioans back to work.
“That is what he is focused on. Not this,” said DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney.
The threat was the latest in a barrage of criticism aimed at DeWine by conservative lawmakers over the governor’s response to the pandemic. Much of their anger was previously directed at former Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who resigned in June after a torrent of conservative criticism, which included armed protesters picketing her home in suburban Columbus.
The speaker of the Ohio House would not say directly whether he supports impeachment, but acknowledged dissatisfaction with many of DeWine’s public health orders.
“The Speaker shares the concerns of many members of the caucus regarding executive branch overreach, in particular with respect to some of the health orders that have been issued, and he has voiced those concerns directly to the governor,” said Taylor Jach, spokeswoman for House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Lima Republican.
Majority Republicans in the Senate don’t have a position on what is entirely a House process, Senate President Larry Obhof, a Medina Republican, said Monday.
“I don’t think we’re going to spend a whole lot of effort or time on something unless and until the House actually votes to impeach and sends it to us,” Obhof said.
Democrats slammed the proposal, as did Jane Timken, the head of the Ohio Republican Party. Timken praised DeWine’s efforts during the pandemic and said in an election year that Republicans should be united in re-electing President Donald Trump.
She called it “despicable” for anyone considering themselves to be conservative to try to impeach DeWine.