Columbus--The likely GOP candidate for Ohio governor has chosen an anti-gay activist as his running mate.
Ohio attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro announced March 23 that he has chosen Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich as a running mate in 2006.
Petro, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner, is believed to be the front runner in the field of three contenders for the GOP nomination, which also includes Auditor Betty Montgomery and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
Petro is perceived to be the most moderate of the three and the most likely to appeal to mainstream voters. He has the backing of the GOP establishment and the powerful �Team Householder� group headed by former House Speaker Larry Householder.
That group, according to a 109-page strategy memo that became public last year, passed socially conservative legislation, including the �defense of marriage act,� to undermine Blackwell�s hold on the right wing of the Republican Party.
Heimlich, of Cincinnati, is closely tied to Citizens for Community Values and anti-gay crusader Phil Burress.
Burress and his group are responsible for nearly every anti-LGBT action in Ohio for over a decade, including Cincinnati�s Article 12, the Ohio marriage ban amendment passed last fall as Issue 1, and the �defense of marriage� act that preceded it. They have inserted themselves into numerous legal matters around the state adversely affecting LGBT families.
Heimlich, a key figure in passing Article 12 in 1993, was paid $55,000 by CCV three years ago to produce a study that said it had no adverse effect on Cincinnati�s economy. The study contradicted every other one on the subject and became part of Burress� campaign to keep the anti-gay provision, which voters repealed last fall.
Burress and Issue 1 organizer Rev. K.Z. Smith headed Heimlich�s failed mayoral campaign in 1997 and supported his 2002 campaign that elected him to the Hamilton County Commission.
As a member of Cincinnati city council, Heimlich also supported measures to strip the city�s Human Relations Commission�s ability to hear complaints from gays and lesbians. He opposed GLBT representation on the citizens review panel set up to monitor allegations of police bias.
Petro was the first Republican and the first state elected official to oppose Issue 1. He had no objection to putting a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution, but didn�t like the measure�s vague second sentence, which has already produced litigation.
New religious-right group forms
Ohio Christian conservative leaders are organizing to elect Blackwell governor in 2006 through their newly-formed Ohio Restoration Project, according to a March 27 New York Times report.
The project, according to the Times, will deploy 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentacostal, and Roman Catholic leaders called �Patriot Pastors� to do grassroots organizing and make endorsements in favor of Blackwell and their other candidates.
�The establishment of the Ohio Republican Party is out of touch with its base,� Fairfield Christian Church pastor Russell Johnson told the Times. �It acts as if it lives in Boston, Massachusetts.�
Johnson is a primary organizer of the project, which intends to form a political action committee to raise $1 million, and register 500,000 new conservative Christian voters in support of Blackwell.
Petro�s campaign spokesperson Matt Cox said the decision to add Heimlich to the ticket is not an attempt to define Petro as someone who can appeal to the religious conservatives.
�Phil Heimlich and Jim Petro have been friends for some time,� said Cox. �[Heimlich] has an impeccable record as a city councilman and county commissioner, and he shares [Petro�s] passion for reforming government.�
Cox added, �I disagree that [Petro] is trying to run as a moderate. He is solidly pro-life. He is attempting to run as who he is.�
Cox noted that Petro and Heimlich �share common ideas on fiscal and social issues.�
�[Petro] knows that Heimlich could be governor,� said Cox. �He could step right into that role, even though they are not lock-step on all issues.�
�Phil Heimlich is a man of integrity and character,� said Cox. �He supported Jim Petro. They are a good match.�
Cox said that having Blackwell in the race �could require more time [of Petro] working his base of support,� but the choice of Heimlich was �not based on trying to appeal to wings of the Republican Party.�
Leis to chair Montgomery effort
Montgomery announced March 28 that her Hamilton County campaign chair will be that county's notoriously anti-gay Sheriff Simon Leis.
Sheriff since 1987, Leis gained national attention in April 1990 when he led attempts to shut down a Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center.
Leis is also allied with Burress and CCV.
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