State Sen. Peggy Lehner (left) on Monday announced her endorsement for the 6th District seat she is vacating due to term limits. Lehner threw her support behind Rachel Selby (right), who is in a three-way primary race with state Rep. Niraj Antani and Greg Robinson. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

State, local GOP leaders split on three-way Ohio Senate primary

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Ohio primary election was moved from March 17. The deadline to vote in the Ohio primary election is April 28. Voters must request an absentee ballot from their county’s board of election if they have not already voted. All absentee ballots mailed in must have a postmark of April 27 to be counted, and all ballots must be received by the boards by May 8 to be counted. Voters can drop off the ballots to board offices in person by 7:30 p.m. April 28. In-person voting will be offered on April 28, but will only occur at boards of elections early voting center and only be available for people with disabilities who require in-person voting and people who do not have a home mailing address. Local election officials say voters need to make sure they include all the required information on absentee ballot request forms and pay close attention to unsolicited request forms they get in the mail. State law allows ballots to be scanned but they cannot be tabulated until 7:30 p.m. April 28.

A three-way race for the Republican nomination to replace outgoing state Sen. Peggy Lehner in a district that has been a GOP stronghold for more than 30 years is shaping up to be contentious and hard fought.

Lehner on Monday endorsed political newcomer Rachel Selby over state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, and Greg Robinson in the GOP primary.

Lehner said Selby is in the race for all the right reasons and will focus on children’s health and gun safety – two issues the state senator has championed.

“She’s ready to bring solutions to the table,” Lehner said. “In short, Rachel Selby is an excellent candidate who I personally recommend without reservation.”

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Lehner’s backing was among the local support announced Monday by Selby. Several other suburban Dayton politicians included Kettering Mayor Don Patterson and former state Rep. Mike Henne.

Meanwhile, Antani is endorsed by Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and the Ohio Republican Party.

“The Miami Valley needs a champion in the state senate, and Niraj Antani will be that champion. I am supporting him because I know that Niraj cares deeply about his community and his constituents, and he is the best person to deliver results for them. I look forward to continue working with him in the legislature as a state senator,” DeWine said in an Antani campaign press release.

The Montgomery County GOP has not backed any of the three candidates in the March 17 primary. The district covers multiple suburban communities, including Kettering, Huber Heights, Riverside, Centerville, Miamisburg, Miami Twp., Washington Twp., West Carrollton, Oakwood, Germantown and part of Dayton.

The 6th District Ohio Senate seat has been held by Republicans since 1985, with the GOP gaining at least 55 percent of the vote or more in every election since at least 2000, county records show.

The Republican nominee will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary between Albert Griggs and Mark Fogel.

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Antani, 28, has represented the 42nd Ohio House District for nearly six years. He graduated Ohio State University in 2013.

Antani has raised $366,000 in campaign funds since 2014, when he was first appointed to the Ohio House to fill a seat left open by the death of Republican Terry Blair. He won election to the seat later that year and was re-elected in 2016 and 2018.

Selby, 36, of Centerville, has been a Montgomery County Republican Party leader, serving as its vice chair and vice president of the Young Republican Women of Dayton.

A member of the National Rifle Association, Selby is a member of the Centerville Noon Optimist, serves on the Washington Twp. Board of Zoning Appeals and formerly was on the Five Rivers Health Centers Board.

Robinson, owner of a medical billing firm in Moraine, is a resident of Oakwood who has lived in the Dayton area for 23 years.

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The state Senate bid is an accumulation of knowledge “from living, working, and being active in the community,” according to his campaign’s Facebook page.

Selby said Lehner’s endorsement “will show the momentum we have built and show how strong of a candidate I am – capable of winning this election. I think a lot of people have been waiting to see what their strong local leadership was going to do.”

Antani said he had spoke with Lehner about her support, but they differed too much on firearms.

Lehner “and I disagree on the 2nd Amendment,” he said. “I believe in supporting the 2nd Amendment. She believes in gun control.

“I’m not willing to compromise on that issue. And I believe that’s why she endorsed my opponent,” Antani added.

Robinson said in an email that he thinks “it’s good for Peggy to take a stand. I’d rather that it was a stand for a principled conservative, but with few exceptions Peggy has marched progressively leftward in her political views over the years.

“The endorsement benefits my candidacy by drawing attention to the differences between Rachel’s candidacy and the positions born out of my long-standing work with people in this community,” according to Robinson.

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Lehner said all three Republican candidates sought her endorsement. But Selby “has the integrity this district deserves in a senator and the passion to fight for the values we share,” Lehner said.

“Rachel cares deeply about issues affecting our children from the womb to the classroom to their home,” she said. “Rachel supports common sense solutions for Ohioans, not only on gun rights, but health care, education, and policies supporting job creation in Ohio.”

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