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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 2, 2007

Patrick Shepherd leaves Stonewall Dems top post

Cleveland--To some, he�s the face of LGBT Democratic political activism. To Democratic elected officials throughout the state, he�s the gay �go to� guy.

On February 8, Patrick Shepherd, 36, will become the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats� past president as the group he helped organize six years ago elects his successor.

�It�s a consolidation of my political commitments. If I don�t step aside,� said Shepherd, �I will be over-committed and start under-producing.�

�One of the reasons I want off the Cleveland board is to focus on statewide organizing,� Shepherd added. �There are some cities in Ohio without an organized Stonewall Democrats presence.�

Shepherd will continue to serve on the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party executive committee, a post he has held since 2001. He is also seeking a fifth two-year term to the board of the National Stonewall Democrats, which he also helped organize.

Shepherd was also appointed to co-chair the new Ohio Democratic Party LGBT Caucus by his college friend Chris Redfern, who now chairs the Ohio Democratic Party.

�It�s not healthy for one person to have all these roles,� Shepherd said.

�If I�m the face of LGBT people in the Democratic Party, it�s not the healthiest thing in the world. There should be many faces,� Shepherd said.

Shepherd has seen to it that the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats had a very visible presence in key Cuyahoga County races, including three in 2005 which elected openly gay councilors in three cities: Nickie Antonio in Lakewood, Joe Santiago in Cleveland and Mark Tumeo in Cleveland Heights.

�I�d like to think we had a part in Nickie, Joe and Mark�s victories,� Shepherd said. �But they were great candidates on their own, and the most we did was set the stage for their victories with work started earlier in the decade.�

Shepherd noted three election nights that define his tenure at the helm of Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. The first was 2004, when Ohio passed its anti-gay constitutional amendment and George W. Bush was returned to the White House largely on an election strategy that included passing that amendment.

�2004 was demoralizing on so many levels,� said Shepherd. �But what was most heartening were the weeks and months in the aftermath of that debacle.�

�I thought the community would give up,� Shepherd said. �What happened was quite the contrary. People showed up. There were old activists we hadn�t seen in a while, and new faces--new blood.�

�With that, Nickie Antonio led efforts that produced the strategic plan that led to the successes of 2005 and 2006,� Shepherd said.

Shepherd was also working behind the scenes to make sure what he thought was a major error in 2004 did not happen again.

Shepherd said the LGBT community was caught up in some of the work of �527 groups� that formed as a result of campaign finance reform, which led to �mass duplication of efforts� and wasted resources.

�The day after the election I swore to myself that would never happen again,� said Shepherd. �It became my personal mission.�

By 2005, the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats were recognized as a leader among Democratic Party constituency groups.

The group was influential in municipal races throughout the county, and candidates wanted exposure at CSD events and CSD endorsements.

By 2006, the Cleveland group and the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio were primary stops for statewide candidates, and more than $1 million LGBT-identified dollars were in those campaigns.

Shepherd headed a committee working to transition from the Taft administration to the Strickland one. Because of the LGBT organization and efforts, an unprecedented number of LGBT people got appointments in the executive offices now held by Democrats.

�In 2006, we became visible at all levels of the Democratic Party,� said Shepherd, �and we are electing candidates supportive of the LGBT community.�

�It�s not out of the goodness of [Democrats�] hearts,� Shepherd said. �They realize that we are one of the pieces of the puzzle of victory and that we are willing to work.�

Shepherd says LGBT Democrats in Ohio are more organized than those in other states, except Florida.

�We�re about two years behind them,� said Shepherd.

�The perception of LGBT power [in the Democratic Party] will continue to grow,� said Shepherd, �as long as we run for office and get elected, work on campaigns, and contribute money.�

Shepherd sees the Democratic Party a �the change agent� in the struggle to achieve LGBT equality, and that success depends on LGBT visibility at every level.

Cleveland City Council will publicly recognize the contributions of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats at its regular meeting February 12.




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