Former Democratic state Rep. Fred Strahorn is reflecting on his time in office following the recent expulsion of former Republican Speaker Larry Householder from the Ohio House.
Householder's expulsion comes after being accused of using nearly $61 million in dark money to build political power and pass a bailout law for an Akron-based energy company and its subsidiaries.
Strahorn resigned from his position as House Minority Leader in January 2019 after serving a four-year term. While some believe he stepped down due to Householder's election as Speaker, he said many other factors influenced his decision.
"There are multiple reasons," said Strahorn, "but I'll give you the strongest one. I felt at that point, I would not be the most effective leader going forward. Elements of labor wanted Larry Householder and I had said no to that. So I felt like they were not going to be happy with me and that was going to create a tension in those relationships."
He said another factor in his decision to step down was a desire to avoid having a hostile Speaker on the dais. Strahorn backed Householder's opponent, then-Republican Speaker Ryan Smith to lead the chamber.
He said he's concerned about the impression the episode left on voters. "The general public doesn't have a high regard of politicians to begin with," Strahorn said. "When you preside over, or are in any way linked to the largest political scandal in the history of the state of Ohio, you can't help it to do damage to politics in general, but to that institution in particular."
When asked about mitigating unethical behaviors in political office in the future, he said the one suggestion he has could be difficult for the public to grasp.
"Term limits is not working the way people wanted it to," Strahorn said. "You get new ideas and fresh blood, but if you get new ideas and fresh blood that tears the institution down, and makes it untenable, I don't know what good that does you."
He believes the unethical behaviors will continue if political incumbents don't have the time and the stability to learn about an institution, its traditions, its relationship with the public and why they should protect it.
Strahorn said while he misses his role in office, he's experiencing a new season in his life and he isn't "afraid to pursue those things." Strahorn said he is currently spending his time consulting with clients that include nonprofits, continuing his realty career and finishing his pilot's license.