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Ohio's Hamilton County Elects First Woman, First LGBTQ+ Sheriff

Charmaine McGuffey

Charmaine McGuffey makes history in the county, which includes Cincinnati.

Democrat Charmaine McGuffey has won the race for sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio, making her the first woman and first member of the LGBTQ+ community to hold the post.

McGuffey, a lesbian, beat her former boss, Sheriff Jim Neil, in the Democratic primary in April, then defeated Republican Bruce Hoffbauer, a Cincinnati police lieutenant, in Tuesday's general election. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is the third most populous county in the state.

She joined the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in 1983 and rose through the ranks. In 2013, Neil, in his first year as sheriff, promoted her to major in command of jail and court services, making her the highest-ranking woman in the department's history.

During her tenure, the Hamilton County Justice Center went from being the worst-ranked large jail in Ohio to the best, and McGuffey won several awards. But Neil fired her in 2017. She says it was because she's a lesbian and she raised concerns about the use of force by officers. He says it was because she created a hostile work environment. She has sued him in federal court, and the lawsuit is set to go to trial in December.

In an interview with The Advocate in May, McGuffey said she is committed to rehabilitation of prisoners but is also a strong believer in law and order. "There are consequences for behaviors," she said, and when people commit crimes, they have to pay a price. But that doesn't mean they should be thrown away, she added, saying, "People redeem themselves all the time."

She now is one of a very few LGBTQ+ people ever elected to a county sheriff's position in the nation.

"Charmaine ran on a platform of reform against men accused of homophobia, sexism, racism and excessive uses of force," Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed McGuffey, said in a press release. "Her victory is vital during this pivotal moment for our nation, when the demands of protesters must be shared by the elected officials who represent them. Throughout her campaign, Charmaine built trust with voters by sharing her authentic story as a lesbian and a woman in a profession were there are too few of either. Charmaine's strategy will be emulated by other LGBTQ candidates running as change agents."

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