Tuesday, October 19

“Ignorance, animosity & shallow respect” – Ohio LGBTQ+ org blasts mayoral candidate; she responds

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Cleveland Stonewall Democrats (CSD) released a statement on Monday to address the conduct of Barbara Danforth, a candidate for mayor of Cleveland Heights.

CSD is an independent LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy organization that regularly endorses various candidates for office. CSD leadership stated that Danforth’s responses during their candidate vetting process “came from a place of not just ignorance, but animosity and shallow respect towards the [LGBTQ+] residents of Cleveland Heights.”

Danforth, a former nonprofit CEO, prosecutor, and assistant attorney general, sought the endorsement of CSD in her bid to be the first mayor of the suburb on the east side of Cleveland. In 2019, Cleveland Heights residents voted to change their form of government from a city manager-council structure to electing their first mayor in the city’s 100-year history, resulting in this 2021 election.

After interviewing the Cleveland Heights mayoral candidates during the week of July 17th, CSD announced their endorsement of Kahlil Seren on July 23. The organization described their support for Seren, the vice-mayor of Cleveland Heights,  as “overwhelming.”

CSD shared that they do not normally speak publicly about the interviews, education sessions, or candidate questionnaires, but were compelled to do so based on statements that Danforth made after the endorsement process indicating that she told CSD that she supported granting protections to the LGBTQ+ community.

CSD said Danforth was lying about her statements “after being rejected for endorsement.”

Officials from CSD told The Buckeye Flame that Danforth’s statements of support ran counter to her responses during the vetting process.

“The issue is the stark contrast is between what she said in the interview and the statement she is circulating,” said Dara Adkison, President of the Board of Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. “Her interview was top ten one of the worst candidate interviews I’ve ever done. Then she sent an addendum that was inadequate trying to walk back her interview. Now we see her campaign circulating this statement we’ve never seen that is a polar opposite to her interview. [Danforth] is in the extreme minority of candidates to have argued and refused to learn in an interview. Specifically, she said she would need to ‘ask the jews’  how they felt about trans people using the bathroom they want.”

Cleveland Heights is home to 8 different Jewish synagogues.

The Buckeye Flame reached out to Danforth to respond to the public statement from CSD, and specifically to address their impression that she “argued and refused to learn” in their vetting process, and her alleged “ask the Jews” statement.

Danforth sent us the following statement:

I support full and equal rights for all LBGTQIA+ people, including equal access to restrooms for transgender and non-conforming people.

When I was interviewed at the Stonewall Democrats endorsement meeting, I expressed my uncertainty about reconciling transgender bathroom choice with those holding different views.

I took the advice offered that I talk with another community leader who had to address his own conflict on the issue. I met with that person for an in-depth conversation which resulted in the position I have expressed here.

As a black woman I have dealt with the battle for equality and equal rights my entire life. It is core to my beliefs. At the interview, I acknowledged that I needed more information to form a position.

To those upset that I did not respond as they had hoped or that I did not examine the issue in a timelier way, I apologize. I certainly understand your disappointment and anger. I felt it was important to be honest with you. I will always be honest with you, and I will always listen. And as I have here, I will take into account additional information in formulating my positions.

Danforth did not address the “ask the Jews” statement.

In their posted statement, CSD reiterated their support for Seren.

“If you care about civil liberties there is no comparison between these two candidates. It is our hope that Cleveland Heights will continue to be a city full of diversity, and get a leader in the mayor’s office who will work for equity and equality of all. “🔥

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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