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November 7, 2008

Ohio seats go to gay and friendly candidates

Two out judicial candidates had a victory and a defeat in Ohio elections on November 4, while the Ohio House and several of the state’s U.S. House seats moved closer to the LGBT community.

Ohio’s first out lesbian judge, Mary L. Wiseman, appears to have sailed to victory in her first election to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in Dayton.

Democrat Wiseman was leading her Republican opponent Margaret Quinn by 58.4% to 41.5% on Wednesday afternoon. The Montgomery County Board of Elections was having difficulty counting paper ballots, so final results were not yet available.

However, the ballots waiting to be counted were not expected to change the result.

Wiseman was appointed to the court by Gov. Ted Strickland a year ago. She now becomes the first openly LGBT person to be elected to a bench in Ohio.

She is a former Dayton city commissioner who, in 1997, shared the distinction of becoming Ohio’s first openly gay or lesbian big-city elected official with Toledo city councilor Louis Escobar.

An hour’s drive to the east, Columbus attorney Shawn Dingus lost his bid for a seat on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Had he prevailed, Dingus would have joined Wiseman as an openly gay judge.

Dingus, a Democrat, lost to 18-year incumbent Republican Richard S. Sheward by 47.8% to 52.1% of the vote.

Chabot defeated in Cincinnati

Although Wiseman and Dingus were the only out LGBT candidates running in Ohio, the LGBT community was heavily involved in other campaigns around the state.

In the U.S. House District 1, Steve Driehaus pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the nation by defeating seven-term incumbent Republican Steve Chabot in the Cincinnati area.

Driehaus, a state representative, has an interesting relationship with the LGBT community. He was one of a few Democrats who joined with Statehouse Republicans to vote for the “defense of marriage act,” or DOMA, in 2004.

Since then, however, he has become more LGBT-affirming, which caught the attention of the Human Rights Campaign. Driehaus supports the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, while Chabot has a long anti-gay record.

The race was a House “dark horse” bet that paid off for the HRC.

The Washington gay lobby group contributed to Driehaus’ campaign and provided field consultants, plus staffer Ann Crowley. HRC volunteers were active in the campaign.

Kilroy-Stivers race too close to call

In the Columbus-area House District 15, the race was too close to call at press time Wednesday afternoon.

Republican state senator Steve Stivers was leading Democratic county commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy by 321 votes, with an entire precinct and provisional ballots left to count.

LGBT Democrats were heavily backing Kilroy, and LGBT Republicans backed Stivers.

HRC supported Kilroy, who is more gay-affirming than Stivers and has a long history working for LGBT equality.

Stivers was one of two Republican state senators to vote against the 2004 DOMA, and supports equality in housing and employment in principle, though not the Equal Housing and Employment Act currently before the Ohio general assembly, unless it is amended.

If Stivers wins, the seat will remain at least as LGBT-affirming as it currently is with incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce. Should Kilroy prevail, the seat will become markedly more so.

EHEA sponsor wins U.S. House seat

Farther to the north, House District 16 flipped from anti-gay to pro-gay with Democratic state senator John Boccieri’s victory over Republican state senator Kirk Schuring.

The district, currently represented by Republican Ralph Regula who is retiring, covers Stark, Wayne, Ashland and most of Medina counties.

Boccieri is a co-sponsor of the Ohio Equal Housing and Employment Act and voted against DOMA in 2004. He was endorsed by HRC and received their maximum contribution.

Schuring, a favorite of anti-LGBT religious conservatives, voted for DOMA.

HRC intern Matt Thackston spent six weeks with the campaign as an organizer, and HRC staffer Alison Delpercio joined the campaign for the final get-out-the-vote drive.

Among Boccieri campaign volunteers, there was a visible and significant LGBT presence.

Ohio House becomes more friendly

All incumbents were re-elected to the Ohio Senate, so it will remain the same, with a Republican majority.

The Ohio House, however, appears to have changed to Democratic control.

Some races were too close to call at press time, but Democrats were claiming at least 50 of the House’s 99 seats.

LGBT resources helped change the political landscape in that chamber, ensuring that anti-gay measures will be defeated and the Equal Housing and Employment Act will probably pass the Ohio House in the upcoming session.

John Carney in Columbus’s District 22 and Ray Pryor in District 85, south of the city, soundly defeated their Republican opponents. Both Democrats had been targeted by gay-baiting Ohio Republican Party mailers.

In the Columbus-area District 20, Democrat Nancy Garland won with the help of Equality Ohio, the Ohio Democratic Party LGBT caucus and canvassers from Massachusetts who spent an October weekend in the district.

Democrat Jennifer Brady, also an Equality Ohio endorsement, narrowly lost in west-suburban Cleveland’s District 16.

If the Democratic majority holds, the next Speaker of the Ohio House is expected to be State Rep. Armond Budish from Cleveland’s east side suburb of Pepper Pike. Budish is a long time supporter of LGBT equality.

Former Ohio and U.S. Rep. Mary Rose Oakar of Cleveland will be joining the Ohio Board of Education. She is a supporter of LGBT equality and could be the swing vote on the divided board.

In his 10th District Court of Appeals bid, Republican State Sen. David Goodman went down to defeat.

Goodman is the LGBT community’s stongest Republican ally in the Ohio legislature. He is the party’s only Senate sponsor of the Equal Housing and Employment Act, who voted against DOMA four years ago.

Goodman will remain in the Ohio Senate through 2010.




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