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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 14, 2005

Tumeo says he isn't running against Hicks

Incumbent's anti-gay crusade has cost Cleveland Heights $120,694

Cleveland Heights--�I�m not Jimmie Hicks� challenger,� said openly gay city council candidate Mark Tumeo. He says that to win, he needs to be one of the four top vote-getters on November 8, not run head-to-head with a single council member.

Tumeo, who is Cleveland State University�s vice provost for research and dean of graduate studies, and a former aide to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, is the only non-incumbent in a five-way race for four Cleveland Heights council seats.

Hicks has divided the community with his anti-gay crusading since 2002--a move that caused the weekly Sun Press to endorse Tumeo and incumbents Edward Kelley, Nancy Dietrich and Bonnie Caplan over Hicks, suggesting that Tumeo will be a better team player.

Hicks was the lone vote against a 2002 city ordinance that granted spousal benefits to its employees� same-sex domestic partners. It was Ohio�s first such ordinance, introduced by Dietrich.

Hicks led a citizens group that circulated petitions to hold a referendum on the measure.

The group failed to get enough signatures, but sued the city in the Ohio Supreme Court to put it on the ballot anyway.

Meanwhile, Tumeo helped organize Heights Families for Equality to fight the referendum if it made it onto the ballot.

But HFE and Tumeo parted in the summer of 2002, when HFE members began campaigning against Hicks� referendum before the court had ruled on the petition signatures. Tumeo advised waiting for the court, which ruled against the referendum in September of that year.

With a campaign already begun, HFE shifted their effort to a city domestic partner registry initiative, which voters passed in November 2003.

Tumeo, who is also an attorney, initially opposed the registry, telling the Sun Press in 2003 that it �could jeopardize the domestic partnership ordinance and may go beyond the scope of what�s valid for a city to do . . .�

�I think what they�ve [HFE] set up is the destruction of the very ordinance that gives substantive rights, for a registry that gives no substantive rights,� he told the paper.

After the registry passed, Hicks sued the city to stop it, incorporating some of Tumeo�s assertions in his arguments.

He lost in both the trial court and, last July, on appeal.

Hicks has said he will not appeal that ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. However, his attorney David Langdon indicated in court papers last winter that they may file a new suit against the registry under the state�s new constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

Hicks� antics have cost the city

According to the city�s public records, Hicks� suit against the registry has cost taxpayers $94,994 so far.

Moore v. Malone, the 2002 benefits signature suit, cost the city $25,140 to defend, after taxpayers paid $560 to process the ill-fated petitions.

Added together, Hicks� anti-gay campaigning has cost the city of Cleveland Heights $120,694 to date.

Many of Hicks� expenses in the registry case have been picked up by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Arizona legal group that opposes LGBT equal rights in lawsuits around the nation.

�What Hicks did is gravely disrespectful of voters,� said Tumeo of the suit against the registry, �and inappropriate given his oath of office.�

Still, Tumeo says he�s not targeting Hicks as an opponent.

�There are no polls,� said Tumeo, �But there�s a sense in Cleveland Heights that there should be a new person on council, but when you talk to some, it�s not always Jimmie Hicks.�

Pointing out that four years ago, Caplan got fewer votes than Hicks, Tumeo said, �Ed Kelley and Nancy Dietrich are well liked and will win re-election easily.�

�There�s no benefit to target anyone,� said Tumeo. �It�s not how I will serve if elected.�

Asked how he would feel if he and Hicks were elected and Caplan wasn�t, Tumeo said, �I want to be elected and I would be honored to be elected. I would miss Bonnie [Caplan]. I like Bonnie a lot.�

�But I have no desire to split the community and drive a wedge, like Jimmie Hicks did,� said Tumeo.

Tumeo now supports the registry

Tumeo has also changed his mind about the partner registry.

�It�s nice to be wrong occasionally,� he said. �I�m glad it passed, and I�m glad what I predicted did not come to pass.�

Tumeo also said he feared that having the registry on the ballot in 2003 would draw out anti-gay forces and put pro-gay members of council in political trouble.

�It was a matter of timing,� said Tumeo.

Tumeo said he has raised about half of the $20,000 he thinks he needs to win, and will continue raising money until the end.

He will also continue meeting voters at neighborhood coffees in homes, walking door-to-door, and doing direct mailing.

Tumeo said voters will see the candidates square off at candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Future Heights on October 20 and 27, respectively.

In addition to the Sun Press, Tumeo�s endorsements include the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the Cleveland Heights Democratic Club, Northeast Ohio Democracy for America, former state representative Barbara Boyd, former Cleveland Heights mayor Jack Boyle, and current council member Phyllis Evans.

Tumeo is joined by five other gay and lesbian candidates around the state November 8.

Mary Jo Hudson is defending her city council seat in Columbus, while Joe Santiago seeks the Ward 14 council seat in Cleveland. Nickie Antonio is vying for a council-at-large seat in Lakewood. David Schulz is campaigning for an at-large seat on Toledo�s city council, while Joe Lacey is running for the Dayton Public School board.

Related stories:

July 22, 2005:� Appeals court upholds Cleveland Heights partner registry

July 15, 2005: �Gay man seeks Cleveland Heights council seat

June 11, 2004:� Judge upholds Cleveland Heights partner registry

September 20, 2002:� Not enough signatures for benefits repeal, court says

May 24, 2002:� Signatures fall short, Heights benefits now in effect

May 2, 2002:� Both sides gear up for referendum on partner benefits

April 19, 2002:� Partner benefits pass, but repeal vote looms

October 19, 2001:� Council member sets off a flap with his opt-out e-mail



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