It’s time for the sixth (!) edition of our 50-state tour of the worst politicians in America. Today, we’re examining the worst politicians in……….OHIO.
A reminder: Every two weeks, we’re going to highlight a different state, so that by the end, you’ll have a full panorama of the trash pile that is American democracy from coast to coast. You can click here to find our full, growing archive of entries. If you have ideas for bad politicians we should be focusing on, you can send us names by filling out our Google form—and you can submit the form as many times as you want, so don’t worry about narrowing down your list.
The latest stop on our road trip finds us in Ohio—home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a river that used to be on fire, what I am told are several lousy sports teams, and much more! It’s also the home of a glittering gallery of crooks, crazies, and charlatans roaming the most important halls of power in the state.
A note: going through a list of every single monster in Ohio politics would result in a list that circled the Earth five times, so take the people featured here as representatives of a much deeper pool. Away we go! Here are the worst politicians in Ohio.
State Sen. Niraj Antani (R)
Antani is one of those politicians whose entire being screams of chaotic energy, and you don’t even have to dig too far to find it. Aside from having awful right-wing political opinions across the board, Antani is a troll, a rumored creep, is cozy with the payday loan industry, quietly supports “medical freedom” (aka anti-vaxxers), aggressively supports anti-abortion legislation and has benefitted from and advocated for gerrymandering. He’s also deeply pro-gun and Second Amendment rights, and has made bizarre statements about gun ownership, like saying that anyone over the age of 18 should be allowed to have a gun at school, but uh, maybe not in urban areas because they have “a lot of gang violence, and firearms are used improperly.” Oh! Is that the reason?? Okay!! Even Ohioans don’t like him: In Cleveland.com’s 2020 political awards, readers voted Antani the state’s Biggest Self-Promoter and he placed in several other categories including Least Savvy Lawmaker, Most Arrogant Lawmaker and Biggest Windbag. What a gem!
State Rep. Jay Edwards (R)
Here’s Jay Edwards. He’s a young guy! You can see that by his picture right there. Nice fresh face. Buzz cut. Big head buzz cut fresh face. Ohio boy. State Representative in Southeastern Ohio. Soft spoken! Sounds nice. Probably raised right. Obsessed with bathroom bills and trans people. Hang on. Let’s go back. He’s a bathroom bill guy? Oh boy. Yup.
Let’s check on some other posts. Is he trolling on behalf of the oil and gas industry? Yup. Maybe we take a closer look at that too. Things get a little complicated here so bear with me. In 2018, Edwards used his own campaign coffers to donate a combined $97,500 to primary candidates aligned with Rep. Larry Householder, who was at the time trying to become Ohio’s Speaker of the House. Where did he get that money? Well. Edwards also likes to take a lot in donations from a PAC run by FirstEnergy Corp, which, would you have it, also gave a lot of money to Householder and several other state reps. Can you guess what happened next? Householder and several of his cronies were indicted and arrested for allegedly accepting up to $60 million in bribes from FirstEnergy in order to pass House Bill 6, which would have given FirstEnergy a $1.3 billion bailout. Edwards, coincidentally, also voted for HB6. He dodged the indictment though! Whew. I’m sure his nose is squeaky clean.
The best thing you can say about Edwards is that he’s been politically savvy enough to oppose right-to-work legislation in Ohio, solidifying some of his union support. That’ll probably be enough to keep him in office indefinitely, and perhaps bump him up to national politics one day, just in case the Matt Gaetz Lobby of Guys Who Look Like Matt Gaetz needs any reinforcements a few years from now.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (D)
Ginther is on this list for a simple reason: he is a prototypical Democratic mayor who talks big on justice and equity, but whose cops, for some crazy reason, are institutionally racist and out of control. Franklin County, where Columbus is located, has one of the highest rates of police killings in America. The appalling history of the Columbus police is well-known. Last year, as Ginther said the right words about George Floyd, his cops were responding to protests in the city with their usual brutality. And despite Ginther’s promises of reform, activists say that he and his administration have done barely anything to rein in the cops. Meanwhile, Black people keep getting killed by Columbus police, and Ginther keeps failing to step up.
State Rep. and Former House Speaker Larry Householder (R)
Householder earned his place on this list the old-fashioned way: extreme corruption. Last July, he was arrested in a $60 million bribery and racketeering case. That’s…a lot of millions. (For the details of the alleged scheme, scroll up to our post on Jay Edwards.) Rather than resign, though, Householder stuck around, and actually won re-election in an uncontested campaign in November. Now, he faces possible removal from the Ohio House, and, again, rather than resign, he’s proclaiming his innocence and fighting every step of the way. “This isn’t about whether I’m guilty or not guilty,” Householder said during a hearing about his potential ouster on Tuesday. Uh, Larry, it kind of is!
State Sen. Steve Huffman (R)
Huffman is one of many folks elected to public office who’ve fallen upward despite being extremely unqualified for their posts. Case in point: Last year, Huffman was fired from his job as an emergency room doctor after asking during a Senate hearing whether Black people are are more susceptible to chronic COVID cases because “African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves?” He later claimed these questions were rhetorical. Hmmm. Somehow, despite this, Huffman was tapped to lead the Senate’s health panel earlier this year — by his very own cousin, Senate President Matt Huffman. All you need to know is that Matt Huffman’s explanation for appointing his cousin included the phrase “cancel culture.” But there’s more! In 2019, Huffman was found to have written a local newspaper editorial against Medicare for All that was drafted by Kathleen DeLand, a lobbyist with the healthcare insurance group Partnership for America’s Health Care Future. A million red flags follow this man’s medical career. I genuinely worry about any Ohioan who needed to go to the emergency room and found themselves in his care.
Ohio GOP Chair Bob Paduchik
Everything you need to know about Bob Paduchik you can probably figure out from the phrase “Ohio GOP Chair Bob Paduchik.” Over the course of his nearly two decades in Buckeye State politics, Paduchik has been a key player in electing some of the worst people imaginable to higher office. He successfully delivered Ohio to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, and then again in 2004. For his efforts, he was given a prime job in the Department of Energy, where he helped spearhead the effort to shovel America’s nuclear slop under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. After bouncing around in the private sector for a few years (he’s a U.S. Soccer Federation certified coach! He’s on the board for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police! Wow!) he returned to politics in 2016 as Ohio campaign director for Donald Trump, after which he was named a co-chairman to the RNC until 2019. After being elected chair of the Ohio GOP in 2021, Paduchik quickly busied himself with the important business of his state: Namely, censuring members of his own party for who voted to impeach Trump (the second time), in what he called “an unconstitutional, politically motivated process that served no purpose.”
Potential Republican Sen. J.D. Vance
J.D. Vance wrote an enormously shitty book which got turned into an even more enormously shitty movie about how the rot afflicting the working poor was apathy rather than capitalism. There’s no shortage of media about this, so I’ll spare you, but Vance—who went to Yale Law School and became a protege of the Tiger Mom before moving to San Francisco and becoming a protege of Peter Thiel, who is pumping an appalling amount of money into helping Vance get elected—is officially now a politician running for Senate in 2022. He’s doing the Josh Hawley/Matt Gaetz/New Ted Cruz-style faux populism shtick about Big Tech, higher education, and Hollywood’s communist attack on Normal America, which is even more obnoxious coming from someone whose money and national profile is wholly a result of his connection to wealthier, equally shitty people in all of those worlds. He’ll probably win his race by 15 points.
State Rep. Nino Vitale (R)
Get your nu-conservative psycho Bingo card out, because we got a ringer! Think: Majorie Taylor Greene, but make it personal injury lawyer bench ad. Virulent anti-vaxxer? Check. Pandemic disbeliever? You know it. Led a charge to impeach his Republican governor? Yeah. Flouts campaign finance law? Yup. Said that he is “darker” than any of the members of the Ohio statehouse’s Black caucus? He went there! Antisemitic slurs? You betcha! Voted against a bill outlawing cockfighting? Sure! An InfoWars meets Drudge Report campaign website that immediately induces a nervous breakdown? Come on over! Dude will definitely be elected to a congressional seat in our lifetime.
All photos remixed by Samantha Grasso. Photo credits, in order: Niraj Antani/Facebook; StateLibraryOhio/Facebook; Mayor Andrew J. Ginther/Facebook; LarryHouseholderOH/Facebook; statesenatorstevehuffman/Facebook; Robert Paduchik/LinkedIn; gageskidmore/Flickr; RepVitale/Facebook