Keller may seek lieutenant governor seat

Former two-term state Rep. Candice Keller may run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with fellow former state Rep. Ron Hood.

The two are collecting signatures on a petition to add them to the Republican Party primary ballot, Keller said via text message.

“Our petitions state that Ron is the gubernatorial candidate and I am the lieutenant governor candidate,” Keller said in a text message. She said they have not made a final decision about filing a formal petition to run.

Feb. 2 is the filing deadline for the May 3 party primary. A major-party candidate needs 1,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, according to the 2022 candidate guide published by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Keller, a resident of Middletown, held the 53rd District House seat from November 2016 to December 2020. In 2020 she ran for the 4th District Senate seat and lost the Republican primary to state Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., by more than 16 points. State law barred her from running in the general election after her primary loss, but Keller’s husband Kent ran as a write-in candidate, getting 0.6% of the vote.

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Keller is executive director of the Community Pregnancy Center in Middletown. In 2019 Keller and Hood, of Circleville, were cosponsors of House Bill 68, a “heartbeat bill” to outlaw abortion as early as six weeks, before many know they’re pregnant. It stalled in committee but the General Assembly passed a Senate version. Gov. Mike DeWine signed that bill, but its implementation has been blocked in federal court.

Hours after the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District that killed nine and injured 37, then-Rep. Keller posted on Facebook that the attack should be blamed on the breakdown of the traditional family, gay marriage, violent video games, recreational marijuana and “snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected president.”

That statement led to widespread calls for her to resign, including from fellow Republicans.

Keller has railed against COVID-19 restrictions, masks and vaccinations, calling for Butler County to become a sanctuary from mask requirements and refusing to have her temperature checked at the Ohio Statehouse. In July 2020 she and her husband were asked to leave the Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center in Pennsylvania because they refused to wear masks. In November of that year she joined three other representatives in seeking to impeach DeWine over face mask mandates and business curfews.

Following her terms in office Keller helped form Patriot America, a group that opposes COVID-19 measures, says it seeks candidates for office “who have the founders’ mindset for the rule of law,” and wants to elect sheriffs with “an understanding and appreciation for the U.S. and Ohio State Constitutions.”

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The reelection bid by DeWine and his Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is already opposed by two fellow Republicans: former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Canal Winchester farmer Joe Blystone, who both tout themselves as more conservative than DeWine. The Republican primary winner will face one of the Democratic candidates, Nan Whaley — whose term as Dayton mayor just ended — or former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.

In February 2021, Keller said she wasn’t considering another run for office, instead focusing on Patriot America. On Tuesday, Keller did not comment on her reasons for running nor for not supporting others running to the right of DeWine. She was not reached by phone for further comment.

Brenton Temple, manager of DeWine’s reelection campaign, declined to comment Tuesday on the potential additional challenger, as the campaign previously did not comment on the entry of Blystone and Renacci.