By Aaron Marshall, The Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nickie Antonio has been a special-ed teacher and a “soccer mom.” She has chaired the Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus and is in her second term on the Lakewood City Council.
She is also openly gay.
It’s that last fact that is getting the attention in light of Antonio’s narrow victory in the 13th House District Democratic primary over fellow Lakewood council member Tom Bullock. With Tuesday’s win, the 54-year-old now stands on the verge of becoming the first openly gay person ever elected to the Ohio legislature.
Antonio knows she would be a gay pioneer at the Statehouse if elected this November, but she hopes that she won’t be defined by what would make her unique in Ohio elected politics.
“Truly my goal would be to bring my many skills and attributes to work as part of the team getting the work done for the people of Ohio,” Antonio said. “Hopefully, once the first [openly gay] thing is done, there doesn’t need to be so much of a focus on that. How to best fix a hole in the budget — that’s not an issue where sexual orientation makes a difference.”
The mother of two must beat Jeremy Caldwell, an Independent candidate who is largely unknown, on the Nov. 2 ballot in the solidly Democratic district that includes Lakewood and parts of Cleveland’s West Side to be elected to the legislature.
Antonio was spurred into seeking elected office in part by seeing her mother’s home foreclosed upon, and her platform for the 13th District seat focuses on job creation and retention as well as putting into place the best educational practices in K-12 schools.
Antonio — who has lived with her partner Jean Kosmac for 25 years — is only the third openly gay person to run for the Ohio House or Senate in Ohio history, according to gay political observers. Both previous candidates were in Columbus’ 25th House District, which includes a portion of the rainbow-flagged Short North, but neither managed to crack 35 percent of the vote in Democratic primaries.
Being openly gay and elected to any office in Ohio is still a relative rarity. In 2009, the Ohio Democratic Party touted that 10 gay candidates — including Antonio in her second Lakewood council race — had won election mainly in school board and city council races.
“It’s about building the farm team and being willing to run for office,” said Collin Burton, a full-time staffer for the Ohio Democratic Party who solely works on outreach and candidate recruitment in the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities. “They do also need more attention and need to be given the confidence that they can win these races.”
Story Courtesy Of The Plain Dealer