Veteran state lawmakers among those in Ohio primary battles

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, March 8, 2016

COLUMBUS (AP) — A former House speaker and a term-limited state senator are among those who must win next week’s primary to keep alive their hopes of returning to the Ohio House.

Ex-House leader Larry Householder left Columbus a decade ago due to term limits. At the time, he and several top advisers were under federal investigation for alleged money laundering and irregular campaign practices. The government closed the case without filing charges.

Householder says unfinished business on policy matters spurred him to run again in the eastern Ohio district, where he faces Coshocton City Council President Cliff Biggers and Randal Almendinger, a township trustee in Licking County, in the Republican primary.

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Tom Patton of Strongsville is one of four term-limited Republican state senators seeking to switch chambers, though he’s the only one with a primary.

Patton’s seemingly smooth bid hit some bumps in January after he called the woman running against him in the Republican primary “sweetie” and questioned her interest in serving in the Legislature while she is raising young children. Jennifer Herold, a Strongsville mother of two, said Patton went too far in his comments. He later said his remarks appear to have been misunderstood.

Patton has not had a primary challenger since his first run for the Legislature in 2002. He served six years in the House before moving to the Senate in 2008.

The GOP holds significant majorities in the Ohio Legislature, with a 65-34 advantage in the House and a 23-10 edge in the Senate.

Six Republican and four Democratic incumbents are defending their House seats, while about a dozen members lack challengers in the primary and general elections.

Several open House seats have drawn a slew of contenders. They include a six-way Democratic primary in District 31, where Cincinnati Democrat Denise Driehaus has served the maximum four terms, and a five-way GOP contest in District 68, where Republican Margaret Ann Ruhl of Mount Vernon also is term-limited.

In the Senate, four sitting Republicans have challengers.

One race pits Republican Sen. Larry Obhof, of Medina, against Janet Folger Porter, an activist from Hinckley who’s behind a strict abortion bill.

Porter’s bid stems from her frustration over the so-called heartbeat bill, which cleared the House last year and is pending in the Senate. The measure would ban most abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — as early as six weeks into pregnancy. She and her organization, Faith2Action, have targeted legislators in ads and demonstrations for not acting on the legislation.

Obhof has said he would support the heartbeat legislation if it came up for a floor vote.

Lou Gentile of Steubenville — who’s the lone state Senate Democrat up for re-election this year — does not have a primary opponent.