Ohio GOP calls on Rep. Anthony Gonzalez to resign for impeaching ex-President Trump
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Republican Party's leaders called on Rep. Anthony Gonzalez to resign for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump, a stunning rebuke of one of their own.
On Friday, the party's governing board called on Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, to resign in a divided vote. They also voted to censure Gonzalez and nine other members of Congress for "their votes to support the unconstitutional, politically motivated impeachment proceeding against President Donald J. Trump," according to the resolution.
Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead. He is the third to be censured for the vote by his state party, following Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice.
Gonzalez joined Ohio's four Democratic House members in the vote; none of the other 11 Ohio Republicans voted to impeach Trump.
That decision distanced Gonzalez from fellow Republicans in Ohio, where Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. He gained a primary challenger in former White House aide Max Miller, whom Trump endorsed.
Gonzalez became an easy mark in the U.S. Senate race as candidates such as former state treasurer Josh Mandel and former GOP leader Jane Timken try to prove their Trump credentials.
Mandel has criticized Timken for not admonishing Gonzalez immediately after Trump's impeachment.
“From day one, I have strongly supported efforts to censure and expel traitor Congressmen like Anthony Gonzalez who voted to impeach President Trump," Mandel said in a statement.
Timken, in a Friday tweet, said she "fully agrees" with the censure. "The impeachment was a sham that betrayed the Constitution and went against Ohioans' interests."
Not everyone was on board with the public reprimand, though. Gov. Mike DeWine declined to comment when asked about the Ohio GOP votes Friday, saying he had previously weighed in on Gonzalez. In mid-March, DeWine said Gonzalez should not resign, adding “he was voting his conscience. He made that call. That was his decision,”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, opposed the Ohio GOP's decisions F
"While I disagreed with his votes on impeachment, Anthony is a friend and a dedicated public servant," Portman said. "We Republicans should be focused on uniting in opposition to the Biden Administration’s trillions in proposed new spending programs and job-killing tax increases.”
Party of TrumpFriday's vote underscores the dramatic evolution of the Ohio GOP over the past several years.
In 2015, the Ohio Republican Party backed former Gov. John Kasich's presidential bid over a slew of GOP candidates, including Trump. When Kasich won the state's GOP primary (his only statewide victory), Kasich's delegates attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland with a distinct "Ohio Against the World" vibe.
But in 2017, Trump helped install Timken as leader of the Ohio Republican Party over Kasich's pick Matt Borges. When Timken decided to run for U.S. Senate, the Ohio GOP selected former Trump Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik to replace her. Paduchik's key pitch: Trump wants me to lead this party.
Ultimately, Friday's vote was a test of allegiance for the state party's leadership, which has increasingly become the party of Trump.
Paduchik said members of Congress have a right to vote how they choose, but “this committee also has a right to stand on principle and conviction as well.”
Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Matt Keyes called the votes “a small glimpse of the dysfunction and division" in the GOP.
"While GOP politicians are busy attacking one another to score cheap political points, Ohio Democrats are focused on listening to voters and fighting for their priorities," he said in a statement.
Whom should Ohio GOP support?The party initially planned to vote on censure, but Shannon Burns, president of the Strongsville GOP in Gonzalez's district, offered a resolution to take the rebuke a step further. He called for the resignation of Gonzalez for betraying his constituents and holding a “hidden vendetta” against Trump.
"Gonzalez resorted to emotional conclusions that misplaced blame on President Trump, the President of Law and Order and America First," the resolution read. "We believe that Congressman Gonzalez knowingly and willfully violated his oath of office."
That sentiment prevailed even though some Republicans expressed concern about taking that step, saying Gonzalez could win his primary and voters should decide his political fate.
The vote stood in contrast to the party's long history of favoring incumbents over newcomers. In most years, Gonzalez would score the party's nod over Miller. Gonzalez is well-known for his time playing for the Ohio State University football team and the Indianapolis Colts.
“We’re supposed to support all Republican candidates when they run for office and we could end up in a situation where we did this to Rep. Gonzalez, and maybe it’s deserved but where do we stand after that?” asked committee member Mary O’Toole. “When do we start picking and choosing?”
Committee member Mark Bainbridge disagreed, saying "we should only support people who we think have the integrity to be in the office. For example, if one of our representatives committed a crime or illegal act, would we support that person? Would we not call for him to resign? Of course we would."
Meanwhile, the party has taken no action to censure Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who is accused of orchestrating a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to pass and defend a $1 billion nuclear bailout. Householder has pleaded not guilty. Borges was also charged in that case and has pleaded not guilty.
After Householder's arrest, then-chairman Timken and other Republican officials called on him to resign from the Ohio House of Representatives. House Republicans removed Householder as their leader but have not expelled him from the chamber.