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July 31, 2009

 

Summit Stonewall Democrats founder seeks Akron council seat

Akron--The founder of the Stonewall Democrats of Summit County is seeking a seat on Akron’s city council.

Sandra Kurt, an industrial engineer at Goodyear, says she wants more out of life than contributing to a corporation’s bottom line, and seeks to take the Ward 8 seat from the man who was appointed over her to fill it in February.

Kurt, who is openly lesbian and a 21-year resident of the ward, is possibly the front runner in the five-way primary race September 8.

University of Akron professor Raymond Cox was appointed to the seat by council to fill the remainder of the term when Bob Keith became the Clerk of Council.

Kurt and Cox were among 19 who applied.

Kurt’s other Democratic opponents are Bruce Bolden, Will Padilla and Marian Shank. The primary winner will square off against Republican Elizabeth Smith on November 3.

Ward 8 is in northwest Akron, including the former homes of rubber company executives. Stan Hywet Hall, once the Seiberling estate, is its most famous attraction.

The ward’s residents tend to be well educated and influential. It consistently has a high voter turnout and it tends to be politically progressive. Kurt notes that more Ward 8 residents voted against the Ohio marriage ban amendment in 2004 than any other ward in the city.

Kurt has the backing of Summit County Democratic Party Chair Wayne Jones and Summit County Executive Russell Pry, who used to be the county party chair. Both attended her July 21 fundraiser.

Kurt said it was Pry and Jones who asked her to begin the Stonewall Democrats group. At the time, she was vice chair of the Summit County Progressive Democrats, a precinct committee chair and sat on the party’s central committee.

“I always prepared a sample ballot for my precinct and helped people get to the polls to vote,” Kurt said, “and [Pry and Jones] know that.”

In 2008, they honored Kurt with the first Distinguished Service Award.

Kurt is also supported by State Rep. Mike Moran and Akron school board president James Hardy. Both were at the fundraiser.

Kurt says being an industrial engineer is all about efficiency, and she wants to bring her professional expertise to Akron government.

If successful, Kurt will be the only elected official in the city with a technical background.

“There are lots of ways to make processes more efficient,” said Kurt, giving an example of a system she designed for Goodyear that allows electronic routing of budgets instead of passing papers around for signatures.

“Now we do in a week or less what we used to do in months,” she said.

If elected, Kurt will be the city’s first openly gay official.

She has been endorsed by the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund, and talks about her involvement with the Stonewall Democrats on the stump, in her campaign literature and at voters’ doors as she canvasses six days a week.

“There’s only been one less-than-positive remark,” she said.

Of being out as a member of city government, Kurt said, “It will have the same impact on members of council as it did my co-workers at Goodyear. As people hear me talk about my life and my partner, they become more aware of our issues. It takes away the weirdness or otherness about our lives.

Kurt was an active member of Stonewall Akron and Out in Akron in the 1990s.

While Kurt is campaigning, her partner of eight years, Tina Jarosch, looks after the house and runs things behind the scenes.

Kurt’s campaign is on the Internet at http://kurtforcouncil.com.

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