Jeremy Blake, a Democrat running for the Ohio House from the 71st District, cooks up some scrambled eggs at the Licking County Farm Bureau’s Farmers Share Breakfast in March. Blake is a City Council member in Newark. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Blake)

From Congress to county auditor, candidates promise to support their communities and ours.


[Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Prizm, but only included 11 candidates. We learned of Rebecca Howard’s candidacy in Ohio House District 53 and Matthew Guyette’s candidacy in the state’s 8th Congressional District 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:

Billy Sharp
Ohio House District 10
Billy Sharp

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:



Mary B. Relotto
Ohio House District 24
Mary B. Relotto

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.

Relotto, the founder of Dames Bond, a women’s business network, has identified small-business development, education, equality and mental health as issues she wants to address.

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:


John McManus
Ohio House District 41
John McManus

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


Zach Dickerson
Ohio House District 42
Zach Dickerson

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:


Rebecca Howard
Ohio House District 53
Rebecca Howard

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:


Jeremy Blake
Ohio House District 71
Jeremy Blake

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.




Garrett Baldwin
Ohio House District 85
Garrett Baldwin

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

The 85th House District includes Urbana, Bellefontaine and parts of Champaign, Logan and Shelby counties.

Baldwin’s priorities include public education and directing adequate resources to fight Ohio’s opioid crisis.

More info: FB: Garrett Baldwin for HD-85



Taylor Sappington
House District 94
Taylor Sappington

“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:


Nickie Antonio
Ohio Senate District 23 
Nickie Antonio

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:


Melinda Miller
Ohio Senate District 31
Melinda Miller

Melinda Miller touts her experience as a teacher, waitress, line cook, small-business person, mom and community organizer.

Her opponent in the 31st Senate District, incumbent Republican Jay Hottinger, has held public office since 1992.

The bi Democrat, who’s unopposed in the May primary, wants to raise the minimum wage, strengthen environmental protection and emphasize treatment over punishment in addressing Ohio’s opioid crisis.

More info:



Matthew Guyette
U.S. House District 8

Greenville resident Matthew Guyette in 2014 against then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner because no one ever seemed to step up.

This year, he’s running against Boehner’s successor, first-term Republican Warren Davidson, in the Southwest Ohio congressional district that includes Butler, Clark, Darke, Mercer, Miami and Preble counties.

The openly gay Democrat opposes the Republican tax cuts, favors the Affordable Care Act and wants to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.

He also criticizes congressional Republicans for turning a blind eye on President Donald Trump.

“Republicans in Congress are expected to fulfill their oversight responsibility as a check on the tendencies of an imperial president. Instead, they have been willing accomplices in Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI,” he says.

More info:



Rick Neal
U.S. House District 15
Rick Neal

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.

Neal is talking about jobs, healthcare, infrastructure and education, and the contrast with Stivers also is pronounced on LGBTQ issues.
The Democrat is openly gay and endorsed by the Victory Fund; Stivers has not scored a single point in Human Rights Campaign ratings over four terms in Congress.
The 15th District includes parts of Columbus’ South and Northwest sides and neighborhoods such as German Village, Victorian Village, the Short North and the Arena District; the suburbs of Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington, Hilliard and Grove City and areas stretching from Athens to Wilmington.

More info:



Lis Kenneth Regula
Portage County Auditor
Lis Kenneth Regula

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