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December 31, 2010

Two out candidates are finalists for Columbus council seats

Columbus--Two prominent members of the LGBT community have made it through to the final round of selection for two vacant Columbus City Council seats.

Out of a pool of 49 original applicants, each of the five remaining council members selected up to four names. Stonewall Columbus executive director Karla Rothan’s name was put forward to the next round of the selection process by councilor Priscilla Tyson, while Outlook publisher Michael Daniels was nominated by Hearcel Craig.

They are hoping to fill the seats being vacated by Charleta Tavares, who was elected to the Ohio Senate, and council president Michael Mentel, who is resigning to spend time on family and career. He is the general counsel for an engineering firm.

The names were put forward on December 22. They now go into interviews before the city council members on January 6, 7 and 10 before final nominations on the evening of January 10. Each council member will vote for a candidate to fill each of the two vacant seats, and if a majority of council members select the same candidate, he or she can then take office.

The original pool of candidates had a third recognizable name from Columbus’ LGBT community, that of Russ Goodwin, former president of the Stonewall Democrats of Central Ohio.

Among the other hopefuls, however, are some big names. One is exiting state treasurer Kevin L. Boyce, who was a council member from 2000 to 2008, and State Reps. Dan Stewart and Marian Harris, who have both been term-limited out of the House of Representatives.

There is also the executive director of St. Stephen’s Community House, Michelle Mills. She and Boyce were the only two who were put forward by more than one councilor each. Mills was chosen by Hearcel Craig and Troy Miller, while Boyce’s name was put forward by Craig and Priscilla Tyson.

State Rep. Marian Harris, who served one term in the Ohio House of Representatives, is also in the running, along with Ohio Department of Natural Resources deputy director Anthony J. Celebrezze III, Columbus school board member Shawna Gibbs and other candidates who are members of community boards or local business people.

The Columbus city council has previously had an openly lesbian member: Mary Jo Hudson, who served from September 2004 to January 2007, when she was appointed director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Ten other openly gay or lesbian Ohioans hold elected offices, including city councilors, judges, school board members and one state representative. Another nine, including Hudson, have held office in the past.

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