On Monday, four Republican Ohio state representatives filed articles of impeachment against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, claiming he abused his power by issuing illegal COVID-19 restrictions. DeWine dismissed the effort, and the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives has previously refused to take up impeachment, but the representatives pointed to damning polls suggesting strong popular support for removing DeWine from office.
“Rather than hearing the cries of Ohioans, Governor DeWine continues to stifle those cries by finding more inventive ways to use masks to muffle the voices of the people,” State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) said in a statement. “He continues to have callous disregard for the fact that his isolation policies have led to a shockingly high number of suicides, alarming rates of drug abuse, persistently high unemployment, and the forced abandonment of the elderly by their loved ones.”
Becker filed no fewer than twelve articles of impeachment against DeWine, citing the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 55 and his threats to veto other COVID-19 legislation. State Reps. Candice Keller (R-Middletown), Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), and Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) joined the impeachment effort.
The articles of impeachment outline alleged “abuse of power and multiple violations of the Ohio and United States Constitutions, as well as multiple sections of the Ohio Revised Code.”
“Governor DeWine’s mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, abuse of power, and other crimes include, but are not limited to, meddling in the conduct of a presidential primary election, arbitrarily closing and placing curfews on certain businesses, while allowing other businesses to remain open,” Becker’s office argued in a press release. “He weaponized the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to bully and harass businesses and the people; to enforce a statewide mask mandate and other controversial measures of dubious ‘value,’ making Ohio a hostile work environment.”
Becker’s office charged that DeWine’s regulations on houses of worship forced “citizens to choose between worshipping their God and worshipping at the altar of unbridled government.” The press release noted that “many Ohioans find the controversial mask mandate offensive, degrading, humiliating, and insulting. There is also evidence that masks can be a health hazard by retaining bacteria, viruses, and creating panic attacks and other physiological difficulties. Governor DeWine doubled down when he expanded the mandate to our school-age children, who are less susceptible to COVID-19.”
In Ohio, impeachment requires a majority of votes (50) in the state House and a two-thirds majority (22 votes) in the state Senate. Becker called on Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), the speaker of the state House, to assign the articles of impeachment to the Federalist Committee. Becker said he envisioned two hearings in early December followed by a floor vote to allow for a trial in the Senate.
DeWine did not take kindly to the effort. He suggested that anyone who opposed his COVID-19 regulations must not take the virus seriously.
“At some point, this foolishness has got to stop,” the governor said, The Columbus Dispatch reported. “I’m not talking about most Ohioans – just a small number of people who for whatever reason just continue to think and act like this is some big joke and this is all some fantasy.”
Cupp shot down a similar impeachment effort in August. He insisted that impeachment was an “imprudent attempt” to escalate disagreement with DeWine to “a state constitutional crisis.”
“Even serious policy disagreements do not rise to the level of impeachment under our constitution,” Cupp argued at the time.
The speaker appears not to have addressed the recent impeachment effort yet.
In the impeachment press release, Becker cited three polls from August suggesting broad public support for ousting Gov. DeWine. An ABC6/Fox28 Columbus poll involving 18,420 respondents found more than 83 percent in favor of impeachment, while a WSPD Toledo poll with 1,599 respondents found a whopping 94 percent supported ousting DeWine. A Mahoning Matters poll with 1,190 respondents reported that more than 67 percent backed impeachment.
“The people of Ohio are looking forward to ending the madness and a Governor gone wild,” Becker claimed.
It makes sense for DeWine to oppose the impeachment effort, but he is entirely wrong to suggest that representatives like Becker only want him gone because they insist that COVID-19 is “some big joke” or “some fantasy.” COVID-19 is deadly, but the existence of this threat does not nullify limits on governors’ powers under the U.S. Constitution or the Ohio Constitution. Abuse of power can happen under any circumstances, and simply insisting on the deadly nature of COVID-19 is no response to these allegations.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.