SCOTUS plaintiff Jim Obergefell officially on the ballot in November, seeks seat in Ohio General Assembly

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Photo by Nick Cammett / AP
Photo by Nick Cammett / AP

Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the historic 2015 US Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage nationally, will be on the ballot in Ohio this November.

Obergefell ran unopposed in the August 2 Democratic primary for a General Assembly seat representing a swath of Ohio's Lake Erie coastline in Erie and Ottawa Counties. His opponent will be the incumbent Republican, D.J. Swearingen.

Unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Swearingen, a Sandusky attorney, has centered his campaign on what he calls "kitchen table" issues rather than bizarre conspiracy theories. Obergefell also is playing down ideology and stressing inclusiveness and unity.

"It really just all comes down to: Can't we all just get along and treat each other like human beings? Can't we be decent people?" Obergefell told the Democratic Women of Erie County at a recent campaign event. "And we all deserve to be part of 'We the People.'"

The race marks Obergefell's first foray into electoral politics. He may face tough going.

GOP mapmakers redrew the 89th House District that Obergefell hopes to represent, and the district now leans nearly 57% Republican, according to Dave's Redistricting App, a political mapmaking website. That should favor Swearingen in a state that Donald Trump carried twice by wide margins, and where Republicans control every branch of government.

On the other hand, Obergefell is the best-known state legislative candidate on Ohio's 2022 ballot and among its top legislative fundraisers so far, having outraised Swearingen more than 4 to 1, according to campaign finance reports.

Because of his stature as an LGBTQ civil rights icon, Obergefell has drawn support and funds from national progressive groups — including the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and Democracy for America — as well as in-state donors.

Obergefell said he believes his party can reach moderate Republicans and independents with their message of inclusiveness if voters "see the Democratic Party being obvious, being clear, being direct on what they believe in and what they will fight to protect and support."