COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — There were some whispers among members of the Republican caucus that Bob Cupp should be the person to lead the Ohio House. It was 2018. The federal investigation into the previous House speaker had left the dais empty for months and the chamber at a standstill.
But Cupp, who has served in all three branches of state government, demurred. It wasn’t the right time.
Fast forward two years and two House speakers, Cupp’s moment had arrived. The conservative Republican and former Ohio Supreme Court justice was elected July 30 to lead the House in what the state Attorney General says will be “the greatest challenge of his career.”
The House speaker remains one of the most powerful political posts in state government. The speaker has the ability to block or move legislation, in addition to helping determine how the state spends billions of dollars earmarked for health care, education, criminal justice and other government programs.
Cupp takes control of the House during an unprecedented moment of division and tribulation for the presidential battleground state, and therefore the nation, less than two months from Election Day. His predecessor, fellow GOP state Rep. Larry Householder, was indicted this summer on federal bribery charges in what prosecutors called the ‘largest bribery, money-laundering scheme’ in state history.
Cupp, a 69-year-old anti-abortion, pro-gun rights conservative, took Householder’s seat by one vote in the GOP-controlled House, with every single Democrat and a few Republicans voting against him. All the other candidates to replace Householder were also white, Republican men.
Following Cupp’s election, colleagues and supporters of him joined in an unofficial campaign, nominating him as “the last Boy Scout” in Ohio politics. He was praised as “an elder statesman,” as “studious and diligent” and as having “unimpeachable character.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost shared anecdotes about Cupp’s dedication to growing his own heirloom tomatoes in February so that he can enjoy them come June. His wife Libby, a retired educator, whom he met while attending a convention for College Republicans, showed photos of the three llamas they rescued, Lima (LEE’-mah) the Llama from Lima (LYE’-muh) — the Ohio city of which Cupp is a native — Mocha Latte and Phantom of the Opera, to reporters and members on the House floor.
Even Cupp himself has added to the narrative of his simple life and how it won’t change with the promotion.
“My wife will still make me take the garbage out every Sunday night. Clean out the cat litter boxes and those kinds of things,” Cupp told reporters upon being elected speaker. “I tell people if they think I’m more than I am, they should tell me because I don’t want to be.”
But there are other views of Cupp — including from an old opponent, former Democratic Justice William O’Neill, who alleged years ago that Cupp violated his post’s ethics in accepting campaign contributions from the same energy company that is now at the center of the federal investigation into his