Garrett Baldwin is just 18 years old, but he’s already making a name for himself in the world of politics. He’s running against Nino Vitale, an anti-gay Republican in the Ohio House of Representatives. Though it’s likely to be an uphill battle — Baldwin’s district went heavily for Donald Trump — Baldwin is hoping he’ll be able to take advantage of the increasing dissatisfaction among the Republican base.
Baldwin says that though he’s openly gay in the staunchly Republican 85th district, he doesn’t get much pushback on that topic. He says, When they hear I’m a gay candidate I don’t get a lot of feedback on that because it’s not important. They want to know what I stand for and how I’m going to move the district in the direction way they want it to go.” Garrett Baldwin also points out that he came out at 14, and now his homosexuality is old news.
Though the incumbent, Nino Vitale, is running for his third term, this is the first time Vitale’s even run against a Democratic candidate. In 2014, he ran unopposed in the general election, after defeating two other candidates in the Republican primary. In 2016, Vitale was unopposed even in the Republican primary.
If there’s good news for Garrett Baldwin, it’s that this year’s Republican primary had three other candidates, indicating that even Republicans may want a change. Vitale won the primary with 8,747 votes, or nearly 71%. In the Democratic primary, Baldwin ran unopposed and got 2,387 votes.
Garrett Baldwin pledges his priorities will public education and fighting Ohio’s opioid crisis. On the other hand, Nino Vitale is the author of House Bill 36, the “Ohio Pastor Protection Act” that says it protects religious figures from being forced to perform marriage ceremonies that don’t conform to their religious beliefs.
This is despite the fact that religious figures are already protected from this, and HB36 actually allows religious societies — like the Knights of Columbus — to discriminate against LGBTQ people by, for example, refusing to rent out a hall for a wedding reception, even though the society would otherwise be uninvolved in the wedding.