Some say the former House speaker is stepping on his peers to get his old job back

There likely were some knowing smiles on the faces of politically savvy Dispatch readers Thursday morning as they read the story from Statehouse reporter Jim Siegel, headlined “Powerhouse GOP lawmakers trade barbs in House leadership fight.”

The story detailed a growing rift between Republican House Reps. Ryan Smith and the tempestuous Larry Householder. Both are jockeying to become the next speaker of the House in December, when current speaker Cliff Rosenberger is term-limited out.

So when Siegel reported Jan. 31 that Smith is accusing Householder of personally recruiting Republican primary candidates rather than helping to fund the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee, which Householder claims is supporting pro-Smith candidates, it came as little surprise to insiders.

Householder served as House speaker from 2001 to 2004, but limped out of Columbus when his first tenure in state politics ended in controversy. When Householder returned to the Statehouse last year following a 12-year absence, conjecture began almost immediately that he’d be gunning for his old chair at the gavel again.

Householder denied the accusation that he was personally recruiting his own primary candidates to run, in some cases, against incumbents. “That’s absolutely not true,” he told the Dispatch. Smith replied that anyone who believed Householder’s denial “probably still believes in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.”

Political insiders could see Thursday’s story coming months ago. A feature on Householder in Columbus Monthly’s April 2017 edition predicted as much. The feature, written by Dan Williamson, was called “Man of the House.” The story’s subhead read, “After a 12-year absence, the brash former speaker of the House, Larry Householder, is back with an eye on his old job. And no, he hasn’t changed.”

“Householder knows that if the speakership goes to the person whose turn is due, it will go to Smith,” Williamson wrote. “But he has never been one to wait for his turn. ‘That position is one that has to be earned,’ he says. ‘No one can be anointed, and people who are anointed usually don’t have very successful terms.’ ”

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