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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 15, 2005

Gay man seeks Cleveland Heights council seat

Mark Tumeo joins field that includes incumbent
gay rights opponent Jimmie Hicks

Cleveland Heights--Mark Tumeo, the vice provost for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Cleveland State University, is the latest gay or lesbian candidate to announce a run for public office in Ohio.

Tumeo, a former co-chair of Heights Families for Equality, has registered with the Board of Elections and has taken out petitions which he will start circulating in August, 90 days before the November election.

He is seeking one of four seats up for election on the seven-member Cleveland Heights City Council. He will face gay equal rights opponent Jimmie Hicks and gay community allies Edward Kelley, Nancy Dietrich and Bonnie Caplan, all incumbents, as well as David J. Lipins and Jason Stein.

�I have been and remain involved in a host of activities at the local, state and national levels,� Tumeo, 46, explained. �In Cleveland Heights, I have served on the Citizens Advisory Committee for six years.�

The committee, appointed by city council, reviews applications for block grants given by the city and makes recommendations to the council.

�Through my work on this committee, I have learned an enormous amount about the city, its economic development activities, the needs of its citizens, and the important human services the city and several non-profits provide,� he noted.

That economic development will be a cornerstone of his campaign.

�I decided to run for city council because I feel I have some fresh ideas to bring to the table. I strongly believe Cleveland Heights has immense potential to lead the region in both sustainable economic development as well as serving as a shining example of a welcoming, diverse community,� he opined.

�One of my main goals is to help diversify the economy by, first, developing city policies that support and promote the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that is so prevalent in Cleveland Heights,� he said, �and second, working to bring small start-up companies to the city. We are right next to Case and only a few miles from Cleveland State, both of which create start-up companies annually.�

Tumeo would not say that he is running against Hicks, who opposed a 2002 measure giving partner benefits to gay and lesbian city workers and is now suing the city to end a domestic partner registry passed by voters in 2003.

�That does not mean I don�t think there are people on council who have not comported themselves appropriately,� Tumeo noted, �but I am not running against any one person.�

Tumeo is also noted for an earlier intersection of his academic and civil rights work: In the mid-1990s, he and Kate Wattum, both teaching at the University of Alaska at the time, sued the school for domestic partner benefits.

�The process was extremely difficult and expensive,� he noted. �Overall, most Alaskans were very supportive, but there was a very vocal minority that got very personal.�

�My car was vandalized, my office at the university was vandalized twice, and I received death threats at home--in addition to the anticipated barrage of anti-gay slurs and an attempt by the University of Alaska to fire me,� he recalled. His job saved by tenure, he and Wattum eventually won.

�Now, because of that suit, there are numerous gay and lesbian couples and their children who have the full rights and privileges of their employement, on par with their straight colleagues,� he said. �It is a great feeling, even though I now cannot take advantage of it.�

Tumeo returned to Ohio in 1997, both to spend time with his terminally ill father and to work for Cleveland State University.

�I have several siblings, nieces, nephews, uncles and the like here in Ohio,� he noted. �When I moved, my father was still alive but suffering with cancer. I was able to spend a good deal of time with him before he died.�

�Right now, I am working to build my campaign, attract volunteers and raise funds,� he said, noting that is now working, and he is trying to get volunteers to put together a web site.

Tumeo will be joining four other announced openly gay or lesbian candidates on the campaign trail in Ohio. Joe Santiago in Cleveland, Thomas Meinecke in Toledo and Nickie J. Antonio in Lakewood are all seeking council seats, while Mary Jo Hudson is running for re-election to the Columbus council seat to which she was appointed last September.

Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar has not yet announced his plans to run for re-election, and Hastings Mayor Ken Fallows is not up for re-election this year.

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