From Congress to county auditor, candidates promise to support their communities and ours.
[Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the April issue of Prizm, which will be available across Ohio starting April 1. The story in the magazine, however, only includes 11 candidates. We learned of Rebecca Howard’s candidacy in Ohio House District 53 after our deadline.]
By Bob Vitale
Even in bright red Licking County, where Donald Trump won 62 percent of the vote in 2016, Jeremy Blake sees a blue wave building.
“There’s just so much energy, particularly among people who have been marginalized,” says the Newark City Council member, who’s running this year for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
If that anti-Trump wave washes over Ohio—we’ll get our first indication in the state’s May 8 primary—a dozen LGBTQ candidates could benefit.
Blake, who would become the first openly gay black member of the General Assembly, sees LGBTQ voters as part of the coalition that’s fired up and ready to send a message when they cast ballots this year.
While more LGBTQ legislators in Columbus would boost the prospects for long-stalled legislation to expand Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws, it’s broader issues such as healthcare, jobs, gun violence and government inertia that candidates are talking about.
In Newark, cuts in state aid to local governments have reduced police and fire staffing to their lowest levels in 30 years.
“Decisions happening at the Statehouse are not helping people,” Blake says. “We need a change in leadership.”
Meet Blake and other LGBTQ Ohioans seeking local, state and federal office this year:
Ohio House District 10
Eight Democrats are running for their party’s nomination in House District 10, which includes Downtown Cleveland and neighborhoods such as Ohio City and Tremont. The winner will have no Republican opponent in November.
Activist Billy Sharp, who also could become the first openly gay black state lawmaker, is endorsed by Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. Among his priorities, he says, are jobs and job training, healthcare, and bringing state resources back to the district.
More info: billysharp2018.com
Mary B. Relotto
Ohio House District 24
“Running for office is the most important thing I will ever do in my lifetime,” says Mary B. Relotto, a lesbian Democrat running for the Ohio House in District 24, which includes the Clintonville area of Columbus and the suburbs of Upper Arlington and Hilliard.
She’s running against two other candidates in the Democratic primary. Former Upper Arlington City Council member Erik Yassenoff is the Republican candidate.
More info: votemaryb.com
Ohio House District 41
The vice president of the Dayton Board of Education says he sees first-hand the impact of state policies on local schools.
“We need less testing and more room for creativity and career education in our local schools,” he says.
John McManus is a gay Democrat challenging incumbent Republican James Butler in Ohio House District 41, which includes the Dayton neighborhood of Belmont, the suburbs of Oakwood and Kettering, and the community of Centerville.
More info: FB: John McManus for State Representative
Ohio House District 42
Civility between Democrats and Republicans is important to Zach Dickerson. He’s a Democrat, and his family are Republicans.
The openly gay market research manager for LexisNexis faces Wright State University student Autumn Kern in the May primary. Four Republicans, including incumbent Niraj Antani, are running for the GOP nomination.
The 42nd Ohio House District includes Miamisburg, West Carrollton, Moraine and other parts of southern Montgomery County.
After the February mass murder of high school students and teachers in Parkland, Fla., Antani suggested allowing 18-year-olds to carry guns to school. Dickerson’s response: “I think that is wrong.”
More info: votezach.com
Ohio House District 53
Rebecca Howard, an instructor and consultant in early childhood education, is a lifelong resident of Butler County who’s running to represent the 53rd Ohio House District, which includes Oxford and Middletown and areas in between.
Why is she running? “Because I’m fed up,” she says on her website. Howard promises to listen to the entire district; stand up to “attitudes of privilege and power that justify bigotry, racism, discrimination, hatred, violence, and sexual assault;” and push for gun control measures including universal background checks and banning devices to increase the power of semi-automatic weapons.
Her opponent, Republican Candice Keller, recently said that teens who’ve been speaking out against gun violence “would rather be eating Doritos and playing video games.”
More info: howardfortheOhio53rd.com
Ohio House District 71
Jeremy Blake, who works for Denison University, is a Democrat running in Ohio House District 71, which covers Newark and other parts of Licking County east of Columbus. He’s unopposed in the primary and will challenge incumbent Republican Scott Ryan in November.
The second-term Newark City Council member wants to address healthcare and job opportunities, and he says the state needs to be a partner again with local governments in Ohio.
Ohio House District 85
Garrett Baldwin could start his political career before he begins his actual career. The Mechanicsburg High School senior is unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face the winner of a four-way GOP primary that includes incumbent Nino Vitale.
More info: FB: Garrett Baldwin for HD-85
House District 94
“Person by person, street by street, we are going to reach out…to help empower residents in Southeast Ohio,” promises Taylor Sappington, a Nelsonville City Council member who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Jay Edwards, a Republican.
Sappington, an openly gay Democrat, is running in Ohio House District 94, which includes Athens and portions of Athens, Meigs, Washington and Vinton counties.
Among his proposals: closing tax loopholes in order to raise money to improve roads and rural internet access.
More info: sappingtonforohio.com
Ohio Senate District 23
The first openly gay person elected to the Ohio House is running this year to become the first openly gay person elected to the Ohio Senate.
Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, has served four House terms and has introduced nondiscrimination bills in every session. She vows to continue advocating for the LGBTQ community in the Senate.
She faces a primary challenge from fellow state Rep. Martin Sweeney of Cleveland. The winner will have no Republican challenger in the fall.
The 23rd Senate District includes West Side Cleveland neighborhoods, Lakewood, Parma and other areas of Cuyahoga County.
More info: nickieantonio.com
Ohio Senate District 31
Melinda Miller touts her experience as a teacher, waitress, line cook, small-business person, mom and community organizer.
More info: melindaforohio.com
U.S. House District 15
Taking on the Republican who’s running his party’s efforts to maintain control of the U.S. House is no small task. But pundits keep re-evaluating Democrat Rick Neal’s odds against four-term Rep. Steve Stivers in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.
More info: rickneal.com
Lis Kenneth Regula
Portage County Auditor
The first transgender Ohioan to seek elected office, Lis Kenneth Regula is running for auditor in Portage County.
He’s a biologist and University of Akron faculty member, a mentor at Kent State University’s LGBTQ Center and chairman of the Kent Environmental Council.
Regula says he would work to modernize county government processes and make it more efficient. His professional experience requires the same skills as a county auditor, he says.
As a researcher, I have extensive experience with permits, audits and compliance practices, as well as detailed record keeping and formation of protocols and best practices. I have run a small business and served on several nonprofit boards. Like a strong county auditor, a successful businessman or board member must budget carefully and keep track of every penny.”
More info: FB: Lis Kenneth Regula for Auditor