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September 10 , 2010

Out candidates come up short in county primary

Cleveland--Neither openly LGBT candidate on the primary ballot for the first Cuyahoga County Council got enough votes to be nominated.

Both Dale A. Smith and Tim Russo were Democratic candidates in District 7, which contains Cleveland�s wards 3, 7, 8, 9 and 12.

The neighborhoods of Ohio City, Tremont, Glenville, Hough, Slavic Village, Little Italy and University Circle are part of District 7, as well as downtown and the entertainment areas of the Flats and the Warehouse District.

In one of the lowest-turnout primaries on record, District 7 voters selected Yvonne Conwell, a political newcomer and wife of Cleveland councilor Kevin Conwell. She earned 36 percent of the vote and will face Republican Phyllis Crespo, who ran unopposed.

Michael Leroy Nelson, Sr. finished second with 23 percent. Cleveland Public Theater founder James Levin finished third with 12 percent.

Openly bisexual blogger Tim Russo finished fourth with 12 fewer votes than Levin.

Next was Clark Broida with 8 percent, then James D�Amico with 3 percent.

Dale A. Smith, an openly gay community activist, finished seventh, garnering 3 percent of votes.

Victor Miller and Timothy Trogdon rounded out the field of nine, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.

�I�m disappointed, but it was a good experience and definitely a learning experience,� Smith said on election night.

�It was my first run,� Smith said, �and I had no name recognition.�

�I�m willing to do it again,� Smith said, �depending on what the next possibilities are.�

Smith, who raised and spent $6,000, said it may have hurt not having the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats endorsement.

Smith is a member of the group, but neither he nor Russo had its endorsement.

The Cleveland Stonewall Democrats have a requirement that candidates get 60% of the membership�s vote to be endorsed. No one in District 7 got that much.

But, Smith said, it also meant not having the LGBT community get behind him.

Smith believes Conwell�s support by the AFL-CIO made the difference for her.

�I fully support Yvonne Conwell,� Russo said, adding that he will campaign for her.

Russo said his campaign met his expectations �very well� and that there were no surprises for him election night.

Asked if he will run again, Russo said, �Who knows?�

Julian Rogers won his race in District 10, the only other district with no Stonewall Democrats endorsement, also because no one got 60%.

Rogers worked as an aide to Mary Boyle in her U.S. Senate campaign and has run a few races on his own since. He is very LGBT-affirming, and likely to win the general election in November.

The Stonewall Democrats endorsed a majority of winning candidates, however.

In District 1, endorsee Nicole Dailey Jones won. Dailey Jones is also a former aide to Mary Boyle and is the sister of Keith Dailey, who is Governor Ted Strickland�s spokesperson.

State Sen. Dale Miller, also endorsed, won in District 2. He is the sponsor of the LGBT Equal Housing and Employment Act in the Ohio legislature, and a long time LGBT advocate. He will also likely win the general election.

Former state senator Dan Brady defeated Stonewall�s endorsee Chris Ronayne in District 3. As a senator, Brady stood for marriage equality during the DOMA fight and later introduced the Ohio�s first bill to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

An openly LGBT candidate, Alan Crossman of the Green Party, will face Brady in the general election, as will Republican Patty Gascoyne.

Stonewall endorsee Barbara Ferris lost to Chuck Germana in District 4.

Ann Marie Donegan defeated endorsee Mike Piepsny in District 5.

In District 6, Frederick Taft, Stonewall�s pick, prevailed in a three-way race.

Pernel Jones, Jr., defeated Stonewall�s choice of Henry Warren in District 8.

Former Judge C. Ellen Connally, Stonewall�s choice, led a field of eight in District 9.

In District 11, Sunny M. Simon topped Stonewall�s choice of Phil Robinson.

The Stonewall Democrats picked the winner in the county executive race, with Lakewood mayor Edward FitzGerald coming in first of four. He will face Republican Matt Dolan and a field of independents, including former county commissioner Tim McCormick.

FitzGerald has grown into his role as an advocate for LGBT equality, with a mixed record in his early years as a Lakewood councilor.

He voted against domestic partner benefits for city employees in 2000, complaining that the vote was held during an election year.

The same year, he voted for a hate crime ordinance, but protested flying a rainbow flag at City Hall before voting to declare Pride month 2003. He voted for a similar declaration in 2007.

Fitzgerald supported the appointment of an anti-gay councilor when there was a vacancy in 2004.

He is also a supporter of Nickie Antonio, the Lakewood councilor who will most likely become Ohio�s first openly LGBT legislator in January.

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