Local Republican lawmakers trade accusations of ‘political ambition,’ ‘strange insult’

Published: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 5:03 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 5:03 PM

State Rep. Niraj Antani and State Rep. Jim Butler
State Rep. Niraj Antani and State Rep. Jim Butler

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is accusing State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, of lining up another Republican to run against Antani in the May primary in an effort to clear his path for a state Senate run.

“I would hope that his unbridled potlitical ambition isn’t causing him to run a primary opponent against another Republican,” said Antani. “In a year that is traditionally bad for the party that controls the White House — that’s us — we should be focused on beating the Democrats and retaining our majorities instead of ripping other Republicans down.”

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Butler called that “a very strange insult coming from someone who has held political jobs his entire adult life and tells everyone he cannot wait to become governor.”

“I did not recruit either of Niraj Antani’s primary opponents,” Butler said. “I think that it is too bad that Niraj Antani apparently thinks that the voters should not have a choice in the May primary election.”

Ohio Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg

Antani believes Butler is behind the decision by Miamisburg Vice Mayor Sarah Clark, to file petitions Wednesday to run in the 42nd House seat Antani has held since he was picked by the Montgomery County Republican Party in 2014 to run for the seat after the death of Rep. Terry Blair, R-Washington Twp. Antani had no primary opponent in 2016.

Antani called it it is “unfortunate” that Butler has contributed to the non-profit Commonsense Solutions for Ohio headed by Clark, who is in her ninth year on Miamisburg City Council.

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Clark, executive director of the conservative advocacy group, said Butler contributed $12,5oo in seed money to get it started and she made the decision to run against Antani on her own.

State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF

“This is political paranoia on the part of Niraj Antani,” said Clark. ” I think he is planning to run for Senate in two years and I think that he thinks that Jim is also planning to run for Senate in two years.”

Butler confirmed that in 2020 he plans to seek the Senate seat now held by term-limited State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering. Antani said he is focused on the house race.

Marcus Rech of Miamisburg also filed in the 42nd district Republican primary. Miamisburg residents Zach Dickerson and Autumn J. Kerns filed to run in the Democratic primary, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

John McManus, Dayton school board vice president

The 42nd district includes Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Germantown and part of Centerville, and Washington, Miami and German townships.

RELATED: Butler and Zeltwanger: Proposed regional airports would attract businesses

Butler has no primary opposition in the 41st district, which includes Kettering, Oakwood and parts of Centerville, Dayton and Riverside. He will face Dayton School Board member John McManus, a Democrat, in November.

Sarah Clark

RELATED: Dayton school board vice president announces run for state legislature

Other local statehouse races shaping up

Republican incumbents hold all but one of the Dayton region’s 16 House seats.

The only Democrat is Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, who faces a 39th district Democratic primary challenge from Walter J. Hickman Jr. of Dayton. No Republican filed in the race.

RELATED: Democratic leader says state tax cuts lead to higher local taxes

The 39th district includes most of the city of Dayton and Jefferson Twp.

Two Democrats and one Republican filed for the 40th District to replace term-limited State Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton.

They include Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, who also is chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, and Democrats Albert Griggs Jr., of Huber Heights and Ryan Taylor of Dayton.

RELATED: Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer to run for Ohio House

The 40th district includes Huber Heights, Vandalia, Englewood and parts of Dayton, Riverside, Union and Butler and Clay townships

In the 43rd district race Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, is unchallenged in the Democratic primary. Republican voters will choose between Clayton Councilman Kenny Henning and Jeffrey Todd Smith of Germantown.

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The 43rd district includes Trotwood, part of Dayton, Clayton, Brookville, New Lebanon and Harrison, Jackson and Perry townships, and all of Preble County.

Greene County

In Greene County State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, is being challenged by Jocelyn Smith of Fairborn in the Republican primary for the 73rd district. The winner would face Democrat Kim McCarthy of Xenia.

The 73rd district includes Beavercreek, Fairborn, Yellow Springs, Bellbrook and surrounding western Greene County townships.

State Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia is unopposed in the 74th district primary and in November will face the winner of a Democratic primary pitting Anne Gorman of Plain City against Steve W. Key of Wilberforce.

The 74th district includes Xenia, Cedarville and all of eastern Greene County as well as northeastern Clark County and all of Madison County

Miami County

A crowded field of Republicans will vie in the primary for the chance to challenge write-in Democrat Scott R. Zimmerman of Troy for the seat now held by State. Rep. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, who is running for Ohio Senate.

The Republican primary includes Miami County Commissioner John W. “Bud” O’Brien of Troy, J.D. Winteregg, a Troy man who previously ran for Congress, Jena Powell of Arcanum and George H. Lovett of Tipp City.

The 80th district includes all of Miami County and southern Darke County.

Warren County

In Warren County, State Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason, will face Democrat Nikki Foster of Mason in November in the 54th. State Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, faces Daniel Kroger of Springboro in the 62nd district Republican Party primary. The winner would compete against Democrat Jim Staton of Springboro in November.

Candidates won’t know if they actually make the May 8 primary ballot until the local boards of election certify by Feb. 19 that they have at least 50 valid signatures of registered voters on their nominating petitions.

RELATED: Who is running for Congress locally? Field is taking shape

Republicans hold large majorities in both the Ohio House and the Senate but Democrats are fielding candidates in all 99 House races and hoping to ride a mid-term wave of voter dissatisfaction and regain some seats.

“I always think that recruitment is one of the best signs of a party’s chance to win more elections,” said Christopher Devine, assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton. “Candidates tend to not run if they think they’re going to be unable to win. So if you see all these Democrats running for office that would suggest to me that Democrats in general really think they have a better shot this year.”

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Election 2018: Congressional redistricting plan makes May ballot

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 11:05 AM
Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 11:05 AM

            U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

A proposal restructuring Ohio’s process for drawing its congressional maps is headed to May’s ballot.

The Ohio Ballot Board cleared the proposed constitutional amendment on redistricting Tuesday.

The proposal cleared the state Legislature with bipartisan support Feb. 6 after backers of competing proposals agreed to a compromise aimed at curbing gerrymandering.

RELATED: Ohio Senate passes major changes to congressional redistricting

That process of manipulating district boundaries for partisan gain is seen as a cause of partisanship, gridlock and incivility in Washington.

The Ohio plan would limit how counties are split into multiple districts and require more support from the minority party to put a 10-year map in place.

RELATED: Democrats reject GOP plan on redistricting

If lawmakers couldn’t reach such agreement, the map-making process would move to an existing bipartisan commission. If that failed, the majority party could make a shorter-term map under more restrictions.

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Trump action on guns: Brown, Kasich, Ohio leaders react

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 8:43 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 8:43 PM

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Sherrod Brown called President Donald Trump’s effort Tuesday to ban devices that convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic guns “long overdue,” but said “more has to be done to protect Americans” against the growing number of mass shootings in schools.

Brown, D-Ohio, said “weapons of war do not belong on our streets,” and called for a ban on what is known as the gun show loophole which critics charge allow people to buy guns at a show without rigorous background checks.

Brown insisted he “respects” the rights of hunters and collectors and “no one intends to take away their guns. But when our children are not safe in their schools, it’s clear more has to be done to protect Americans against gun violence.”

By contrast, Rep. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington, who heads the House Republican re-election campaign, voiced “support” for Trump’s decision, adding modifications such as bump stocks “only serve to spread shots in as wide of range and as quickly as possible, providing no legitimate sporting use and have no place in our communities.”

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, offered a more cautious approach. Kevin Smith said “Rob supports” the review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “and he looks forward to their decision.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted Tuesday: “Let’s give credit where credit is due. This is absolutely the right thing to do, and hopefully more will follow.”

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Ohio Secretary of State race to get national attention as 2020 looms

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:28 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:28 AM

Kathleen Clyde and Frank LaRose
Kathleen Clyde and Frank LaRose

With Republicans holding two-thirds of secretary of state offices including Ohio, Democrats are focusing renewed attention and money on a statewide post once considered a sleepy political stepping stone, acknowledging they’re playing catch-up with the GOP.

The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State has been motivated by what it considers efforts by some GOP secretaries to limit voter participation and unfairly pare voter rolls — allegations the GOP denies. The organization plans to raise money and provide guidance to a handful of candidates in 2018, likely in populous states that could prove important in the 2020 presidential election.

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“We’re looking around to see where we have viable candidates and where the registration will be favorable, probably in swing states, places where until recently they did have a Democratic secretary of state, where legislation has been passed that would be what we consider oppressive,” said Denise Merrill, the Connecticut secretary of state and the chairwoman of the Democratic secretaries of state association.

The Democrats will start out relatively small in this year’s election, hoping to amass about $1 million, Merrill said. The association is considering targeting races in Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico and other states with open seats or Democrats seeking re-election.

Republicans, meanwhile, are looking to hold or win secretary of state seats in places like Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Alaska.

Republican and Democratic secretaries alike have voiced concerns about Russian influence on the 2016 elections and demands for voter information from Republican President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded election fraud commission. But a battle has developed in some states over voter fraud, voter identification requirements and purging of voter rolls.

Secretaries of state, which function as a state’s top election official, burst into public consciousness on a grand scale when the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore orbited around Florida’s Katherine Harris.

“People woke up and realized that there’s a lot of power in the secretary of state’s office, electoral power,” said Merrill, who has been traveling the country to raise money from donors, including wealthy Democrats and labor unions. She credited Republicans with making a targeted approach about a decade ago, pumping millions of dollars into secretary of state races in key states.

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“It made a huge difference, and suddenly there was a swing of 10 seats in 2010 alone,” Merrill said. “It happened fairly quickly. But I think it can be reversed to some extent, because we are now paying attention.”

Ohio is pivotal

Depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules, the next secretary of state in Ohio, always pivotal in presidential elections, could decide whether to continue pruning voter rolls by targeting people who haven’t voted in a while.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic secretary of state candidate here, is running for an open seat against Republican state Sen. Frank LaRose. If the Supreme Court upholds pruning, which proponents argue is needed to prevent fraud, Clyde has vowed to stop it, maintaining voters’ names have been illegally removed.

She has already been endorsed by national groups such as Emily’s List, which works to elect Democratic women. She predicts it will be a multimillion-dollar race that attracts a lot of outside money.

Big money

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on state races and oversees the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, spent nearly $30 million in 2010 on state races, including secretaries of state, records show.

A “battle of ideologies” has been happening for a while concerning the integrity of elections, said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

There has been “a concerted effort by liberal and progressive interests to have a dialogue about election procedures,” he said, mentioning groups like iVote.

On its website, iVote said it first “went on offense by working to elect pro-voting secretaries of state in key battleground states” in 2014, noting it supports candidates that “encourage participation by expanding access for eligible voters.”

But accusations that Republican secretaries of state are trying to suppress voter turnout, especially among minority groups, to ultimately benefit GOP candidates “sound like the crocodile tears of people who failed to run good candidate who had good visions for their states,” Walter said.

He insisted GOP candidates want to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” by taking steps such as removing outdated information from voter lists.

“When you clean those things up,” he said, “you remove the possibility for people who are attempting to intrude into the voting process, and you also remove innocent errors.”

By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

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Mike Turner wants groomsman, fellow congressman deposed in divorce hearings

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 10:43 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 @ 12:16 PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner files for divorce

Dayton Congressman Mike Turner wants California Congressman Darrell Issa deposed in his divorce proceedings, according to POLITICO.

Turner filed for divorce from his wife Majida Mourad after a year and a half of marriage.

Issa was a groomsman at the wedding in Dayton in 2015.

POLITICO says Turner gave Issa a letter in the Capitol last week asking him to give a deposition, according to unnamed sources.

We have reached out to Congressman Turner’s office for a response.


Mourad’s attorney, Sanford Ain, said in a statement to POLITICO Monday that Turner “may have” told “third parties” that she was unfaithful, “thinking it would advantage him in the divorce.” But any claim of infidelity by Mourad “has no basis in fact,” Ain said.

Darrell Issa and Mike Turner. Ap Photo by J Scott Applewhite

“Because it has been raised, Ms. Mourad was never unfaithful to Congressman Turner during the marriage, before or after Congressman Turner filed for divorce. Any allegation of her being unfaithful to Congressman Turner is simply false and defamatory,” Ain said.

POLITICO reports that Mourad and Issa have been friends for 20 years, but there is nothing more to their relationship, according a a source close to Mourad.

“There is no truth whatsoever to these allegations,” Issa said in a statement.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Congressman Mike Turner’s soon-to-be-ex-wife

Turner filed for divorce in May and asked that Mourad be restrained from taking any of their assets, according to a divorce filing made in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

Congressman Mike Turner(Associated Press)

RELATED: Turner says fiancee’s business dealings pose no conflict

“Ms. Turner is guilty of a fraudulent contract,” according to the filing, which does not elaborate on what that means.

Mourad was a registered lobbyist for the liquid natural gas export company Cheniere Energy Inc.

RELATED: Mike Turner files for divorce

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