A Christian pro-life activist is challenging incumbent state Sen. Larry Obhof, of Montville Township, for the 22nd District Senate seat in the March 15 Republican primary.
Hinckley Township resident Janet Folger Porter, president and founder of the Christian activist group Faith2Action — said she entered the race because she is disappointed with Obhof’s record on abortion, the federal health care law, also known as Obamacare, and educational testing and Common Core. If elected, she said she wants to work toward ending abortion, defunding Obamacare and repealing Common Core.
Christopher King, of Sullivan Township in Ashland County, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“While my opponent is claiming to be against Obamacare, he actually voted to fund it,” Porter said. “He said he’s against Common Core, but he did nothing to repeal it.”
Obhof, who was appointed to the Senate seat in 2011 and elected in 2012, disagreed.
He said he is proud of his accomplishments in office, citing an almost 50 percent drop in unemployment rates and a number of tax cuts enacted.
“I feel pretty good about my record,” he said.
“It’s just not accurate what has been said about me,” Obhof said, referring to his record on the federal health care law.
Obhof, a lawyer, said he was part of the legal team that opposed the health care law during a Florida case that represented a small business association and 26 states.
Concerning education, he said the Ohio General Assembly reduced the amount of time students spend on standardized tests by defunding the PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — exam after it was used during the 2014-15 school year. The PARCC exam, which was based on Common Core standards, was replaced by tests provided by the American Institutes of Research and Science.
Porter and Obhof previously have sparred over the “heartbeat” bill, a proposal that would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. If passed, it would have made Ohio’s abortion laws some of the strictest in the nation. Porter, a supporter of the bill, said she made requests to Obhof’s office urging him to bring the bill to a vote on the Senate floor, but didn’t hear back.
“If you’re not doing what it takes to save babies’ lives, you’re not pro-life,” Porter said.
Obhof said he has a strong pro-life record and was endorsed by Ohio Right to Life and former state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, who introduced the heartbeat legislation.
Porter argued that Ohio Right to Life has strayed from its original mission of stopping abortion to regulating abortion.
“Sadly, an endorsement from Ohio Right to Life doesn’t mean what it once did,” Porter said in a press release. Porter worked as the legislative director for Ohio Right to Life from 1988 to 1997, where she said she gained experience with legislation.
Porter, who declined to disclose her age, graduated from Cleveland State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication. She has run for office once before — for a spot on the Republican state central committee in the mid-1990s — and won.
Porter is the host of a 60-second daily radio commentary the Faith2Action website says airs in 200 metropolitan markets. It also is available at www.F2A.org.
She was endorsed by former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. She recently completed the documentary “Light Wins: How to Overcome the Criminalization of Christianity,” and she interviewed Kim Davis, a Kentucky court clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage last summer.
“The left wing considers me to be the second-biggest threat in America. That tells you something,” Porter said, referring to the almost 500 articles that have been published about her by the progressive “Right Wing Watch” website.
Obhof said he has used his five years in office to push through legislation and introduce 20 bills on a variety of issues from education to civil and criminal law to elections administration to taxation.
“In one form or another, all of them have become law,” he said.
Obhof, 38, graduated from Ohio State University with degrees in economics, history and political science before earning a law degree from Yale Law School. In addition to his law career, Obhof was an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Obhof served as the majority whip, the fourth-highest position in Senate, from 2013 until last month when he named president pro tempore, the second-highest leadership position in the Ohio Senate.
“I am a member of Senate leadership and am therefore involved in much of the legislative agenda,” he said.
He said he has worked to cut filing fees for starting a new business, update Ohio’s tax code and increase law enforcement’s power to investigate and prosecute casinos for money laundering.
Obhof said he also has worked on several bills related to Narcan, an antidote that can be used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. He said heroin is one of the biggest issues facing the region and he hopes to work toward both addiction prevention and rehabilitation.
“It’s not something you can use once or twice recreationally,” he said.
He said he also has worked on bills to reform the criminal justice system by extending the statute of limitations for rape cases.
Over the years, he has received awards from the National Federation of Independent Business Ohio, Children Services Association of Ohio and the Ohio Society of CPAs.
“I think that I’ve done a good job representing the 22nd district,” he said.
The 22nd Senate District includes Medina, Ashland, Richland counties and part of Holmes County. Ohio Senate terms are four years.