Running mates may show candidates' LGBT stances
Columbus--With hotly contested primary elections less than three months away, Ohio�s gubernatorial candidates are raising money and picking running mates that give insight into the tickets outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters and their allies.
Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has chosen three-term State Rep. Tom Raga of Mason as his lieutenant governor candidate.
Raga was a sponsor of the House �Defense of Marriage� legislation introduced that became law in 2004.
He�s a match for Blackwell, who co-chaired the Ohio presidential campaign of George W. Bush and promoted the passage of the anti-gay state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and other rights to unmarried couples. Blackwell said the Bush campaign had asked him to push the measure to get their base to the polls.
Blackwell has raised $1.5 million during the second half of 2005.
He has also linked his campaign to two controversial anti-gay Christian churches, Rod Parsley�s World Harvest Church in Columbus, and Russell Johnson�s Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster.
Both churches started political action projects which are the focus of a complaint to Internal Revenue Service over the appearance that their mission is to elect Blackwell governor.
At an appearance with Parsley in October 2004, Blackwell promoted the marriage ban amendment by telling a Toledo church crowd that barnyard animals �know better� than same-sex couples.
Blackwell told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Raga, who disagrees with Blackwell on many other issues, including his support of raising taxes, is a �thought leader, person of faith and family man� and said both men have no tolerance for �the forces that are trying to run religion out of the public square.�
The Blackwell campaign did not respond to calls for comment for this report.
Petro replaces Heimlich with Padgett
The other Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, announced January 30 that first-term State Sen. Joy Padgett of Coshocton would be his running mate.
She replaces anti-gay Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, who decided to run for re-election to his current post instead. Padgett was serving as a regional chair of Petro�s campaign.
Padgett did not sponsor the DOMA bill while she was in the House, though she voted for it.
To win her senate seat, Padgett ran against Democrat Terry Anderson, who is best known as the reporter taken hostage in Lebanon in 1986. Padgett ran ads with a photo of Anderson shaking hands with one of his captors of six years, suggesting he would be soft on terrorism.
Also controversial was Padgett�s campaign mailing with a picture of a bride and groom headlined �One man, one woman� designed to suggest that Anderson might try to change the definition of marriage in Ohio.
As a senator, however, Padgett has been working with LGBT advocates to make legislation more LGBT-affirming.
Petro was the first Republican to oppose the Ohio marriage ban amendment. However, his new campaign website says �Jim Petro has always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jim is opposed to same sex marriage and supports the President�s [federal] proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.�
Boasting a �cash on hand� advantage over Blackwell, Petro raised $872,000 during the second half of 2005.
The Petro campaign did not respond to calls for comment for this report.
Strickland names GLBT ally
There are three Democrats seeking the governor�s office: U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, State Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland and former state representative Bryan Flannery of Strongsville.
Strickland, of Lisbon south of Youngstown, leads the gubernatorial money derby with $1.9 million raised during the second half of 2005.
He named former Attorney General Lee Fisher to be his running mate on January 26.
During his tenure in the U.S. House, Strickland�s Human Rights Campaign scorecard ratings improved steadily. He participated in an October event organized by Equality Ohio to oppose a Parsley rally at the Statehouse, featuring Blackwell.
Fisher had broad LGBT support when he ran for governor in 1998.
Strickland said he and Fisher share a commitment to economic and social justice that includes LGBT Ohioans.
�I never considered [Fisher�s] past LGBT support because I never questioned it,� said Strickland of his choice.
Strickland said issues such as same-sex marriage are divisive and keep voters from facing other issues such as education, health care and economic matters.
�It�s not that issues of justice and tolerance are unimportant,� said Strickland, �but in the short term, Ohioans are unlikely to reach consensus over them. We cannot debate those issues to the exclusion of the others.�
�However, I will state positions strongly and clearly as I should,� said Strickland.
Strickland said he has heard speculation that a constitutional amendment banning gay adoption and foster parenting could be introduced to rally social conservatives to vote.
�I would oppose those efforts and try to expose the awfulness of such an action,� said Strickland.
Fingerhut backed hate crime law
Fingerhut is the most recent entry, and did not file a 2005 campaign finance report.
Fingerhut has a longstanding relationship with the LGBT community. He fought the DOMA legislation in the senate, and has attempted unsuccessfully to move Ohio toward adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state�s �ethnic intimidation� law.
The Fingerhut campaign said a running mate will be announced �soon,� but it did not happen by press time.
Flannery has raised $90,000. He has little record with the LGBT community outside of voting against DOMA bills while he was in the legislature.
The Flannery campaign did not respond to calls for comment for this report.