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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 20, 2005

Two more cities have gay and lesbian candidates

Toledo--Two more Ohio cities, Toledo and Lakewood, will have the chance to elect openly gay and lesbian city council candidates this year.

Activist Thomas Meinecke, 51, announced May 18 that he is seeking an at-large seat on Toledo�s city council.

In Lakewood, Nickie J. Antonio, 49, is also seeking an at-large council seat.

Meinecke and his partner John Meinecke are known as the �Valentine couple� for their annual Valentine�s Day attempts to obtain a marriage license.

A DaimlerChrysler employee, Meinecke is also a labor activist through his United Auto Workers local and the GLBT Pride at Work constituency group of the AFL-CIO.

He is also a member of the Stonewall Democrats and a former co-chair of Gays and Lesbians United, and is� president of the Toledo Area Pride Center.

With 20 years of military service to his credit, Meinecke now serves Toledo through work on its veterans committee and civil rights advisory and program committees.

Meinecke said he expects 16 people to vie for six seats on the 12-member council, though he is one of the first to make his candidacy official for the September 13 Democratic primary.

The top six vote-getters will face Republicans in the November general election.

Though organized labor will not endorse anyone during the primary race, Meinecke said he expects individual support from union members, and has already packed union halls for campaign events.

The United Auto Workers have been progressive on issues of GLBT equality, and has negotiated non-discrimination protection and domestic partner benefits for all its members.

Meinecke said the fact that he is gay is widely known, and John accompanies him while campaigning. He also holds doctorates of theology and ministry from Andersonville Baptist Seminary.

Toledo city council president Louis Escobar is also openly gay. Escobar was first elected to an at-large seat in 1997. He has not yet announced his intention to seek re-election.

Escobar�s success �shows me that we don�t have the prejudice and biased atmosphere like in other parts of the country� in Toledo,� said Meinecke.

�If you want to know me as a gay councilman, also know me as the people�s councilman,� says Meinecke, whose campaign platform includes economic development, cutting the cost of city government, improving youth and senior citizen programs, and equality for all who make up Toledo�s diverse population.

Also a Democrat, Lakewood�s Nickie Antonio will compete in the city�s first non-partisan at-large election, which will ultimately seat three council members. Two of the incumbent at-large members, Michael Dever and Edward FitzGerald are running. Denis Dunn is not.

If seven or more candidates are in the race, Antonio will have a primary on October 4. If there are six or fewer, all will run in the general election in November, with the top three being seated on the seven-member council.

Antonio is an adjunct professor of urban affairs at Cleveland State University and consults with non-profit organizations and governmental bodies.

She also served as an executive assistant to former mayor Madeline Cain, where she handled community relations and communications. Prior to that, Antonio was a special education teacher.

Antonio is active in the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, and was a founder and past president of the North Coast HIV/AIDS Coalition and Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice.

Antonio organized CommUnity Conversations in 2003, to guide the broader community into conversations for the purpose of community building.

�It was right before the war,� said Antonio, �and Lakewood has a large Arabic population.�

Lakewood, with a significant GLBT population and a national reputation as a GLBT-friendly community, has also had public incidents where GLBT have been made to feel uncomfortable, due to a small but vocal anti-gay element.

�With 56,000 people in 5.6 square miles, Lakewood is a microcosm of the United States,� said Antonio. �These difficulties play out when issues are presented in a contentious manner.�

Antonio offers what she is calling a �respectful agenda,� which is based on keeping the city strong, protecting senior citizen services, keeping neighborhoods safe, and being respectful to those who treat others with respect.

Antonio says the matter of her being lesbian in the race will depend on how it is framed from the beginning.

�I will always be referred to as the gay candidate,� said Antonio, �but I have been totally embedded and active in the community beyond that as a parent, a concerned citizen, and an activist for the schools. I understand how the city addresses issues like community development, redevelopment, and honoring diversity. I can hit the ground running.�

Antonio and her partner Jean Kosmac have two college-bound daughters.�������

While Antonio and Meinecke seek council seats in northern Ohio, lesbian Columbus councilmember Mary Jo Hudson is seeking re-election in November after winning a May 3 primary.

Ohio currently has four openly gay or lesbian elected officials: Hudson, Escobar, Haskins mayor Ken Fallows and Bloomdale council member Skeeter Hunt. Both of the latter towns are just south of Toledo.



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