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June 16, 2006

Former gay bar owner seeks Ohio House seat

 

Cleveland--A former bar owner hopes to become the first gay Ohio House member.

William McGivern, former owner of Cleveland�s gay bar Muggs, is the Republican nominee in the 14th Ohio House District, which includes southwest Cleveland wards 19, 20 and 21, Parma Heights and Brook Park.

The heavily Democratic district was represented by Dale Miller before he left to fill a vacant Ohio Senate seat.

McGivern, also a minister and advocate for the elderly and disabled, hopes his door-to-door campaigning throughout the district will sway disenchanted Democrats and independents to vote for him.

�I am not living comfortably, and there too much government in my life,� said McGivern of the reasons for getting into the race.

He will face either Mike Foley or Bill Ritter in November. Foley won a very tight Democratic primary in May and was appointed to Miller�s seat for the rest of the unexpired term. However, Ritter paid for a recount, now in progress, and says he will seek a new primary election. McGivern was unopposed in the GOP primary.

McGivern said he got politically active again last year working on David Lynch�s unsuccessful campaign for Cleveland mayor, and on Joan Synenberg�s successful one for Cleveland Municipal Court judge. Both are socially progressive, LGBT-affirming Republicans.

Prior to those campaigns, McGivern, 57, said his political work goes back to Barry Goldwater�s 1964 presidential campaign.

Lynch and Synenberg are now endorsing McGivern�s candidacy, as are the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, State Rep. Jim Trakas, and State Sen. Robert Spada.

The House Republican caucus he hopes to join, however, won�t return his calls, and McGivern believes that has everything to do with his being gay.

McGivern wants only local money in his campaign and is not likely to seek an endorsement from the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund in Washington, D.C.

�I don�t want any strings on the money,� said McGivern.

�I will bring my bedroom to the campaign,� McGivern said of his openness of his sexual orientation. He also makes no bones about his support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell, who is arguably Ohio�s most anti-gay candidate.

�With Blackwell, once he�s in office he will be a totally different person,� said McGivern. �His goal is not to be governor, but to move on.�

McGivern said he is happy to appear with Blackwell as part of the Republican ticket, and as a reminder to voters that he and his partner James English are not barnyard animals.

Blackwell compared gay and lesbian couples to barnyard animals while campaigning for the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

�If we let one issue control us, we�re in trouble,� said McGivern. �If we vote for [Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted] Strickland, we�ll be wrong on everything else.�

McGivern�s activities within the LGBT community include membership in the Log Cabin Republicans and NOCI, the Northern Ohio Coalition, Inc.

Democratic primary still contested

At press time, McGivern�s Democratic opponent remains unclear.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections took over two weeks to announce the results of the hotly contested primary, and Ritter is calling for a new election.

The result is important for the LGBT community because this is one of the balancing seats in a power struggle inside the House Democratic caucus. Social progressives allied with LGBT causes are on one side and conservatives, most of whom voted for the �defense of marriage act,� are on the other. The outcome affects who gets leadership positions and committee assignments.

There were four candidates in the May primary: Foley, Ritter, Susan Mahon and Erin Sullivan Lally.

Foley, an attorney and director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, was endorsed in the primary by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats and represents the progressive side of the larger tiff.

History teacher Ritter represents the conservative side.

During the campaign, Ritter sent a letter to voters highlighting Foley�s support for same-sex marriage and his Stonewall endorsement as reasons to vote against him.

Early vote tallies had shown Ritter with a slim lead, but the final results put Foley 178 votes ahead of him, with the other two trailing. However the election had irregularities throughout the county, and Foley noted that there are 47 missing absentee ballots.

After the results were announced on May 20, Foley was appointed to the seat by the House Democratic caucus.

The Board of Elections meets June 19 to certify the results of Ritter�s recount. After that, Ritter has ten days to ask a court to order a new election.

He says he is going do that. If the court agrees, the primary race will be held again.

Ohio presently has seven openly gay or lesbian elected officials, all at the local level. They include city council members Mary Jo Hudson in Columbus, Mark Tumeo in Cleveland Heights, Joe Santiago in Cleveland, Nickie Antonio in Lakewood and Lourdes Santiago in Toledo.

Dayton�s Joe Lacey is Ohio�s only gay school board member, and Kenneth Fallows of Haskins is the state�s only gay mayor.

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