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Ohio Dems name Collin Burton to head party LGBT caucus
Columbus--The Ohio Democratic Party has named a grassroots campaign organizer to head its Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus.
Collin Burton took the position March 10 and says his opportunity and challenge is to unite the “fractious” LGBT Democratic Party organizations around the state, and to connect LGBT Democrats to field organizing tools and resources.
He fills a post that was vacated when James Winnett left last year.
Burton was born in Youngstown and graduated from Westerville High School, is a co-founder of the Activist Nation, which organizes young adults and college students globally around progressive political causes, including LGBT equality. He attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he co-founded the Gay Straight Alliance.
“The first thing the caucus has to do is support Ted Strickland and Yvette McGee Brown at the top of the ticket in 2010 and support Democratic candidates down the ticket. This is the way we hold the Apportionment Board,” said Burton.
Ohio’s Apportionment Board, which will draw new legislative districts based on the 2010 Census, is controlled by whichever party holds two of these three offices: the governor, the secretary of state and the auditor.
“The next thing to do is get LGBT candidates elected,” Burton continued.
The election of LGBT candidates is one area Burton sees where the LGBT Caucus can depart from the Ohio Democratic Party’s goals.
The party makes pre-primary endorsements in some statewide races, but generally avoids doing so in local races.
The LGBT Caucus, according to Burton, “will be there for LGBT candidates pre-primary.”
Burton draws a distinction between the LGBT Caucus and the Stonewall Democrats he will be working closely with.
“The LGBT Caucus is different because it is inside the Ohio Democratic Party,” Burton said. “The Stonewall Democrats are an affinity group. They are outside, influencing the party on LGBT issues.”
Burton said he wants to support existing Stonewall Democrat groups and help get more started.
“We’re going to be supportive, and connect these groups to field tools and field directors,” said Burton.
“It’s all about education and understanding, and getting these groups to work on campaigns that ODP has prioritized,” Burton said.
Burton said his position also has a fundraising function.
It will not, however, have a direct lobbying function in the Ohio Statehouse.
“I will have no direct influence on legislation,” Burton said. “The caucus will influence legislation by electing LGBT-friendly candidates who will vote on legislation.”
And, Burton said, he will be a resource to advocacy groups like Equality Ohio, which tries to pass LGBT legislation.
Burton plans to be visible throughout the state, write a monthly column, and use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to engage LGBT Democrats.
The LGBT Caucus began in 2005 as part of an initiative by ODP Chair Chris Redfern to engage LGBT voters.
The Ohio Democratic Party is the only state political party in the nation with a paid full-time staffer dedicated to the LGBT community.
The caucus is on the web at www.ohiodems.org/lgbt.
The Activist Nation is on the web at www.campusactivism.org.
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