Prizm News / October 22, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
An early voting party took place in Columbus on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11.

HRC, Equality Ohio and other groups are working to harness the power of LGBTQ and allied voters. And there are a lot of us.

 

Commentary by Bob Vitale

We’ve given the world music and art and artificial intelligence, “Leaves of Grass,” “The Matrix” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

 

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And you’ve seen what we can do when we fill a dance floor.

So just imagine the impact the LGBTQ community could have on an election.

Efforts to mobilize so-called equality voters—not just those who identify as LGBTQ but all who place a priority on nondiscrimination laws and other pro- LGBTQ measures—are kicking into gear as the Nov. 6 election draws nearer and the stakes get higher.

In Ohio, voters will choose a new governor and attorney general, a U.S. senator, 16 U.S. House members, 17 state senators, 99 state representatives, and scores of judges, county commissioners and other government officers.

Nationally, control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are up for grabs, along with the power to shape and pass legislation, oversee federal agencies and provide a powerful check on President Donald Trump.

More than 1.5 million Ohioans fall into the equality voter category, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which is leading efforts in the state to get them to the polls on or before Election Day. It’s a number that can sway close races like the contest for governor between pro-equality Democrat Richard Cordray and a longtime LGBTQ nemesis, Republican Mike DeWine.

“That number (of equality voters) can make a big difference,” says Shawn Copeland, Ohio’s state director for HRC Rising, as the get-out-the-vote effort is called. “We are a massive voting bloc in any election.”

Make that: We can be a massive voting bloc. Copeland says we’re not always a reliable group for candidates who share our desire for LGBTQ equality. We don’t trust the system for the most part, he says. We sometimes tune out of politics, especially in years like this when we’re not picking a president.

But it appears that might be changing in 2018. HRC has hired three regional organizers in Ohio this year to coordinate with local LGBTQ organizations, recruit volunteers for political campaigns and its own efforts, register voters, and encourage people to vote.

It’s a battle-tested strategy that already has scored victories. In 2016, a concentrated HRC effort in North Carolina brought down Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed legislation wiping out local nondiscrimination laws and regulating restroom use in the state by transgender people.

HRC mobilized LGBTQ voters in Alabama for last year’s special U.S. Senate election in which pro- equality Democrat Doug Jones defeated the notorious homophobe, Republican Roy Moore.

And here in Ohio, HRC supporters made 10,000 calls this spring for Lakewood Democrat Nickie Antonio in her primary bid to become the first LGBTQ member of the Ohio Senate. The four-term state representative, a lesbian, was snubbed by Cuyahoga County’s Democratic machine, but she won her primary by 10 percentage points.

For the fall, HRC has endorsed nearly two dozen more Ohio candidates:

Cordray and running mate Betty Sutton for governor and lieutenant governor.

• Statewide candidates Steve Dettelbach for attorney general, Kathleen Clyde for secretary of state, Rob Richardson for state treasurer and Zack Space for state auditor.

• U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for re-election and U.S. House candidates Aftab Pureval of Cincinnati (1st District), Joyce Beatty of Columbus (3rd District), Marcy Kaptur of Toledo (9th District), Danny O’Connor of Columbus (12th District), Tim Ryan of Niles (13th District), Betsy Rader of Geauga County (14th District) and Rick Neal of Columbus (15th District).

• Ohio General Assembly candidates Louise Valentine of Westerville (19th Senate District), Mary Lightbody of Westerville (19th House District), Beth Liston of Dublin (21st House District), Allison Russo of Columbus (24th House District), Casey Weinstein of Hudson (37th House District), Jeremy Blake of Newark (71st House District) and Taylor Sappington of Nelsonville (94th House District).

LGBTQ organizations throughout Ohio also are working together under the banner “Come Out to Vote” to boost our participation in the Nov. 6 elections:

• In Cleveland, a dodgeball competition, drag show, costume contest and free pizza will highlight a rally on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Cleveland State University Rec Center, 2420 Chester Ave., 44114. After the event, people will march to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to vote. (Get details here.)

• In Dayton, folks will gather outside the Montgomery County Board of Elections, 451 W. 3rd St., 45422, on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Get details here.)

• In Newark, where LGBTQ candidates are running for the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, equality voters will gather at the Licking County Board of Elections, 20 S. 2nd St., 43055, from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Get details here.)

• In Hamilton, there will be a rally outside the Butler County Board of Elections, 1802 Princeton Road, 45011, on Saturday, Nov. 3 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Get details here.)

• in Springfield, there’s a rally outside the Clark County Board of Elections, 3130 E. Main St., 45505, on Saturday, Nov. 3 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Get details here.)

• In Athens, where openly gay candidates are on the ballot for the Ohio House and the U.S. House, equality voters will rally outside the Athens County Board of Elections, 15 S. Court St., 45701, on Saturday, Nov. 3 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Get details here.)

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. You can email him at bobvitale@prizmnews.com.

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com