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Jay Edwards at Press Conference

Jay Edwards at a March 2017 Press Conference. Photo courtesy of The Ohio House of Representatives.

Former Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), charged last year in connection to an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, was expelled from the chamber Wednesday in a bipartisan vote. But State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), his friend, broke with many Republicans and voted to keep him in office.

Edwards, who served on Householder’s leadership team as majority whip and who has long said the former speaker “deserves an untainted day in court,” did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on his vote. Householder was expelled in a 75-21 vote, with 20 Republicans and one Democrat casting to keep him in office.

The expulsion comes after Householder and several Columbus politicos were all arrested and indicted in July 2020 after the FBI unveiled its findings that the men allegedly took $60 million in bribes from Akron-based First Energy to help pass legislation intended to bail out two nuclear plants. Many of Householder’s indicted accomplices have since pleaded guilty, while lobbyist Neil Clark, who pleaded not guilty, died by suicide in March.

Edwards has repeatedly denied any knowledge of his former bosses’ central involvement in the scandal, while Clark identified him last year as an unnamed legislator mentioned in the FBI’s affidavit of the investigation as a person who was included in conversations about the group’s corrupt acts. The Nelsonville representative said that he still considers Householder a friend, despite the charges.

After the scandal was unearthed, Householder was ejected as speaker and the new head of the chamber, Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), removed Edwards and the rest of the former leadership team from the authoritative Rules and Reference Committee, which sets the House agenda. Householder appointed Edwards to that committee in 2019. He also refused at the time to step down as majority whip, one of the most powerful in the chamber, at Cupp's request.

In November 2020 under Cupp’s leadership, Edwards said he chose not to run for re-election as majority whip. 

A popular incumbent who had at the time recently won re-election to the House in a landslide, Edwards initially did not provide any further explanation as to why he didn’t seek leadership, but replied days later saying he felt the job limited him in his legislative duties by not allowing him to sponsor legislation — despite the position coming with a pay raise and statewide clout in politics. He’s served as a rank-and-file member of the legislature since.

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