Two for Toledo
Gay candidates vie for the same council seat
Toledo--Ohio�s Glass City is again distinguished by having two openly gay candidates run for an at-large city council seat. It occurred for the first time last year when gay Republican David Schulz and gay Democrat Tom Meinecke were candidates.
Neither were elected, but when a council seat opened in May, lesbian Lourdes Santiago was appointed by the Lucas County Democratic Party to fill the seat until November�s general election.
Now Santiago is running to hold the seat against five other candidates including Schulz.
The non-gay candidates are Democrats Bob Vasquez, Joe McNamara and James Mohn, and Republican David Davison.
Toledo was also the only Ohio city to have a gay council president until Louis Escobar did not seek re-election in 2005.
Santiago, an attorney, has served on council six months.
She narrowly lost a bid to become a municipal judge in 2005.
In that race, Santiago did not hide that she is a lesbian with a partner of 34 years and a 17-year-old son, but she asked that it not be revealed by a Gay People�s Chronicle story.
This time, Santiago said, �I made a conscious decision not to disappoint [the LGBT community] again.�
When Santiago was sworn in as a member of council, the Toledo Blade reported that she is lesbian, which Santiago says was by her choosing.
�I made a decision to make that clear on the day of my appointment,� she said.
�The sense is that the gay and lesbian community and the Gay People�s Chronicle and others were disappointed that I was not more vocal in that campaign,� said Santiago, �but I did not want that to be an issue in that campaign.�
Santiago has been an advocate of the LGBT community and is a board member of Equality Toledo. She started the University of Toledo LGBT group Spectrum and helped start the Lavender Triangle group.
�But first and foremost, I am a Latina of African-American descent,� said Santiago. �And I have a record of working on women�s issues, prostitution, domestic violence, peace issues, advocating for alternative energy, and Latina and African-American concerns.� She is originally from Puerto Rico.
Prior to her appointment to council, Santiago worked practiced law in the city�s taxation division. She also served as the city�s acting director of the Department of Development and the Department of Neighborhoods.
Santiago said most Toledoans are progressive and tolerant, and that being lesbian is not a negative issue for a public official there.
�Toledo has a tradition of focusing on what you can bring to the job and what you have done,� Santiago said.
Schulz, a purchasing agent, finished 10th of 12 candidates in 2005, in a race where the top six were seated.
He is the founder of the Log Cabin Republicans of Northwest Ohio and is a member of the Lucas County Republican Central Committee. He is also active with Equality Toledo.
Schulz has continued his 2005 campaign theme of improving government, and has added improving the economy to his stump message this year.
�Good government is the foundation for a good economy,� said Schulz.
Schulz, said he got into the race �because of unfinished business� from his first run.
Schulz�s 2005 race was centered on city government reform. During that campaign, he exposed corruption around former councilor Bob McCloskey.
McCloskey later pleaded guilty or no contest to three counts of bribery, forcing him to resign from council--opening up the seat Santiago was appointed to.
Schulz also spearheaded an initiative to clarify Toledo�s charter on term limits for council members that will appear on the ballot with him.
�I was ahead of the times last year,� said Schulz. �This year is my time.�
Schulz had the endorsement of the GOP in 2005, which he said was not easy to get due to his criticism of George W. Bush in 2004.
Neither Toledo candidate has the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, though both have applied. The Washington, D.C. group supports the election of openly gay and lesbian candidates and donates to their campaigns.
There are currently eight gays and lesbians in Ohio elected office, including Lourdes Santiago. All but two are city council members: Joe Santiago (no relation) in Cleveland�s Ward 14, Mary Jo Hudson in Columbus, Mark Tumeo in Cleveland Heights, Nickie Antonio in Lakewood, Eve Sandberg in Oberlin, Dayton school board member Joe Lacey and Haskins mayor Kenneth Fallows.