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February 1, 2008

Justin Nelson seeks Perry County commission seat

Mount Perry, Ohio--A gay man is seeking a seat on the Perry County Commission.

Justin Nelson, 22, a Democrat, is running for the seat currently held by Republican Fred Shriner.

Shriner faces Timothy Phipps in the Republican primary on March 4. Nelson’s Democratic primary opposition comes from Bill Gilligan, Michael Kimble, and Charles Van Horn.

Nelson says victory is possible in this rural county located between Columbus and Zanesville, if he can win the precincts Shriner didn’t in the last election.

Nelson owns and operates an online business that sells used textbooks to college students. He has an associate degree in business management from Zane State College in Zanesville.

Nelson is also the co-founder of the Perry County Democratic Forum, a website resource for Perry County residents, and served a term on the editorial board of the Zanesville Times Recorder.

According to Nelson, the LGBT community is not organized in Perry County, but of the ten campaign volunteers he has, two are openly gay.

“It’s live and let live here,” Nelson said. “I don’t hide that I’m openly gay, but mostly people don’t like to talk about it. But if they ask, I tell.”

To date, no opponent has raised the issue of Nelson’s sexual orientation.

Nelson said he will need “a few thousand dollars” to win the primary, and has raised about $1,000 so far.

“I have been working with James Winnett, the LGBT outreach coordinator at the Ohio Democratic Party,” said Nelson, adding that he will apply for a Victory Fund endorsement after the primary election. The Washington, D.C. fund backs openly gay and lesbian candidates.

The Perry County Democratic Party is not making endorsements in the primary race.

Nelson is forward-thinking in his rationale to run as an openly gay candidate in an area of the state where such decisions are difficult, and where there is not much organizational support.

“We can no longer be afraid to be open in running for public office,” Nelson said. “If we don’t change people’s perceptions, they will use the same model of hate against us that they have used for 50 years.”

If he wins, Nelson would become the state’s second openly gay county commissioner. Wood County commissioner Tim Brown came out last September, after he was outed on a blog. Ohio has six other out elected officials, all at the local level.

Nelson’s campaign website is www.nelsonforperry.com.


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