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January 11, 2008

Ohio caucuses may send four LGBT delegates to Denver

Cleveland--At least four LGBT Ohioans may be sent as delegates to the Democratic National Convention, depending on the outcome of the March 4 primary elections here.

As the presidential primary season began with the Iowa caucuses on January 3, Ohioans also caucused to select potential delegates for the presidential candidates.

Among them were a smattering of LGBT hopefuls stumping for their chosen candidates.

To become an Ohio delegate, one first submits an application indicating the candidate of choice, name, address, and “affirmative action information.” Among the boxes that can be checked off are “LGBT” and “Disabled.”

Those applications were due on January 1.

Only Democrats caucused in Ohio; the state’s Republican delegates are selected by the presidential campaigns and the party.

At the caucus locations, one in each of Ohio’s 18 congressional districts, supporters of the presidential candidates were assigned separate areas to meet. Potential delegates spoke to them, specifying why they should be selected. The candidate’s backers then voted for their delegates.

Varying numbers of delegates are selected in each district. In Cincinnati’s District 1, for example, there are two male and two female delegates per candidate, as well as one male alternate. But District 10 in Cleveland has three male and three female delegates for each presidential hopeful, along with one female alternate.

The March 4 Ohio primary election will determine the number of delegates each presidential candidate will get from the state. A candidate needs at least 15 percent of the primary vote to send delegates from Ohio to the national convention in Denver on the last week of August.

The Ohio Democratic Party had not compiled a list of LGBT delegate candidates, successful or not, by press time January 9. But at least eleven delegates let their presence be known through phone calls and e-mail lists like Cincinnati’s Rainbow News or the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats listserv.

In the 1st Congressional District, Ronn Rucker vied to be a delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton. He was unsuccessful in his attempt and chalked it up to superior organizing by union members who were able to mobilize more supporters than the city’s LGBT community provided him.

“It was a very much union-controlled event,” he said. “My speech was received well . . . but the unions brought their folks out in mass.”

“No LGBT folks showed up except my lover and Michael Chanak [a longtime gay activist],” he noted. “He and we had contracted hundreds, perhaps thousands.”

Each person attending the caucus could only vote for one candidate’s delegates, so any LGBT people there for other candidates would have been unable to vote for Rucker. However, both he and Chanak noted a dearth of familiar faces from the city’s queer community at the event, which was held at Wyoming High School.

“I left feeling we have no LGBT political community in Ohio any longer,” Rucker lamented.

His concerns were echoed by attorney Leslye Huff, who with her partner Mary Ostendorf sought to be Clinton delegates in Cleveland’s District 11. They were also unsuccessful, which Huff attributed to a lack of support from the LGBT community.

The Clinton field was a crowded one, at least in Districts 11 and 10, also in the Cleveland area. In the District 10 caucus, held at the United Auto Workers Hall in Parma, Clinton had four times as many people caucusing as Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama’s caucus, however, produced the only successful bid for delegate by an LGBT candidate in that district: attorney Jason Bristol, a partner in the law firm of Cohen, Rosenthal & Kramer.

Twenty feet away from Bristol, John Farina was unsuccessful in his bid to be a delegate for John Edwards, and Gay People’s Chronicle publisher Martha Pontoni lost her attempt to be a delegate for Clinton.

In District 11, while Ostendorf and Huff fell under the sheer numbers of potential delegates for Clinton, former Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio president Jason Lansdale was selected as one of the delegates for Edwards.

In District 9, Equality Toledo co-president David Mann was also successful in his bid to be an Obama delegate, while in Massillon for District 16, Chronicle staff reporter Eric Resnick was selected for Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Equality Ohio board member H. Paul Schwitzgebel was unsuccessful in his bid for the Obama delegation.

In District 17, which held its caucus at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, Tristan Hand of Warren was selected to be a delegate for Sen. Chris Dodd, who dropped out of the race later that night after disappointing results in the Iowa caucuses.

 

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