Three candidates lose, but Statehouse will be friendlier
Columbus--The results of this week�s election are expected to benefit LGBT Ohioans, despite defeats of three openly gay and lesbian candidates in Toledo and Cleveland.
Toledo city council lost lesbian member Lourdes Santiago in a five-way race that also included gay candidate Dave Schulz.
Santiago, who was appointed to the seat in May, finished second to fellow Democrat Joe McNamara. Republican Schulz finished fourth.
Santiago received 30% of the vote to McNamara�s 35%, and Schulz garnered 13%. Two other Democrats, Bob Vasquez and James Mohn, finished third and fifth with 15% and 3%.
The two gay candidates in the race provided an opportunity for LGBT inequality to be discussed. A late October candidate forum hosted by Gays and Lesbians United drew candidates from both parties for local, state and federal contests. At the forum, candidates talked about how allowing rights and benefits for same-sex couples could benefit the Toledo area economically. The event was widely covered by the local media.
Santiago, a Latina of African-American descent, was tremendously popular in the inner city but, according to local pundits, had difficulty connecting with more affluent, white voters in the southern and western outer areas. She also ran and lost a bid for municipal judge last year.
She could not be reached for comment.
Schulz said, �I got caught up in the mind-numbing, robotic Democratic tsunami that hit Toledo, Ohio and the nation.�
He also spearheaded a city charter amendment to help clarify and enforce the city�s term limits on elected officials. That amendment passed with 75% of the vote.
Schulz said he has already been called by Democrats wanting to collaborate with him on improving city government, which was his platform.
Schulz also ran for council in 2005, where he finished 10 of 12 in a race where the top six were seated. He got a higher percentage of the vote this year while spending less money on the race. He plans to remain active in GOP politics.
Cleveland Republican William McGivern lost his bid for the Ohio House District 14 seat to incumbent Democrat Mike Foley, 76% to 21%.
McGivern, the former owner of Muggs gay bar, based his campaign primarily on issues affecting senior citizens.
He was endorsed by former New Jersey GOP governor Christie Todd Whitman�s �It�s My Party, Too� project to make the Republican Party more tolerant.
Ironically, McGivern was gay-baited by local Republican leaders who said they were doing him a favor by increasing his visibility.
McGivern could not be reached for comment, but he is expected to continue working on senior issues as he did before becoming a candidate.
Anti-gay legislation can be stopped
The statewide success of Democrats is being hailed as a victory for LGBT equality, and a rejection of the anti-gay stances taken by much of the Ohio GOP slate.
Democratic gains in the Statehouse are believed to be enough to stop any anti-LGBT action and get some favorable executive orders, but not enough to pass LGBT rights and benefits through the legislature, which is still controlled by conservative Republicans.
Democrat Ted Strickland will be Ohio�s next governor. He and his lieutenant governor Lee Fisher were endorsed by most of the state�s LGBT political groups. They prevented the race from becoming a referendum on homosexuality--which is the race their opponent Ken Blackwell wanted.
�We�re standing at the threshold of a new day in our state,� said Strickland during his acceptance speech. �Voters sent a clear message today, choosing unity over the politics of division.�
Fisher called Strickland, a Methodist minister, a man who �walks the walk and keeps his religion in his heart� unlike those who �talk the talk and wear their religion on their sleeve.�
Fisher�s comment was a direct shot at Blackwell�s pandering to anti-LGBT religious right groups, which turned out to be his only constituent support.
Srtrickland and Fisher won 2,256,808 votes. Blackwell and his running mate Tom Raga got 1,383,987.
In contrast, Blackwell�s signature issue, the 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage, got 2,915,160 votes, showing the unpopularity of Blackwell�s narrow focus on social issues in this election.
Democrats took all but one of the other statewide executive offices, with candidates heavily backed by LGBT money and volunteers.
Jennifer Brunner, a longtime LGBT ally, led Republican Greg Hartmann for secretary of state. Brunner�s campaign was directed by three former Stonewall Columbus staffers.
Another longtime LGBT ally, Richard Cordray, will be Ohio�s next treasurer, soundly defeating anti-LGBT activist Sandra O�Brien.
Marc Dann defeated Betty Montgomery to become Ohio�s next attorney general.
The one exception is the auditor�s race, where Mary Taylor, a prot�g� of the anti-LGBT Summit County Republican Party, defeated Democrat Barbara Sykes, who was preferred by most LGBT political and advocacy groups.
Republicans, however, won both Ohio Supreme Court races. The seven-member high court, which will hear marriage ban amendment cases, will be all Republican. Justice Terrance O�Donnell will keep his seat, and will be joined on the court by Robert Cupp.
Democrats William O�Neill and Ben Espy were preferred for the court by LGBT groups due to their more expansive judicial philosophies and history with the community.
The Ohio House will be more Democratic, though still controlled by Republicans. The new balance will be 53 Republicans to 46 Democrats, replacing the current mix of 59 Republicans to 40 Democrats.
Democrats won 9 of the 16 Senate districts that were up for election, picking up two seats for a total of 13 of the 33 Senate districts.
Kilroy-Price too close to call
U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, a Democrat heavily supported by LGBT political groups, defeated incumbent Republican Mike DeWine. Brown has a long relationship with the LGBT community and has been a steadfast advocate, including his support for marriage equality.
The U.S. House race in Ohio most influenced by LGBT support remained undecided at press time. In that Columbus race, Republican incumbent Deborah Pryce and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy were running too close to call.
With 98 percent of the vote in Wednesday afternoon and no provisional ballots considered yet, Pryce was leading with 101,636 votes, or 50.88 percent. However, neither candidate had conceded, and no official winner had been declared.
��This shows that candidates with a pro-equality message win,� said Equality Ohio political director Bo Shuff.
Shuff added that candidates like Blackwell with intolerant messages �went down to screaming defeat.�
Shuff said the Ohio legislature�s lame-duck session will be influenced by the voters� message.
�There�s no mandate for right-wing social policies,� said Shuff. �The tone there has to change. It has to reflect the ballot box.�
Shuff said the biggest difference between this election and the one two years ago was LGBT participation in effective, organized ways.
Andrea Wood, Equality Ohio�s communications director added, �This year, the LGBT community mirrored the conservative movement. We may not all agree on everything, but we accept the movement�s major goals, and that has made all the difference.�