A lesbian candidate who is suing the sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio, has beaten him in the Democratic primary for the office.
Charmaine McGuffey, a former Hamilton County deputy sheriff, defeated Jim Neil by winning nearly 70 percent of the vote Tuesday, The Enquirer of Cincinnati reports. She will face Bruce Hoffbauer, a Cincinnati police lieutenant who was the only candidate in the Republican primary, in November. Cincinnati is the seat of Hamilton County, the third most populous county in Ohio. McGuffey would be the first Ohio sheriff from the LGBTQ community and one of only a few ever elected in the nation. She was endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
McGuffey and Neil have both been with the sheriff’s department since the early 1980s. Neil was elected sheriff in 2012, and the following year he promoted McGuffey to major in command of jail and court services, making her the highest-ranking woman in the department’s history. In 2015, she was named local and regional Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. The following year, the Ohio House of Representatives named her Public Citizen of the Year. During her tenure, the Hamilton County Justice Center went from being the worst-ranked large jail in Ohio to the best.
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 still pending.
The Hamilton County Democratic Party endorsed McGuffey over Neil in this year’s primary; it was unusual for the party not to endorse an incumbent. But Neil had angered many Democrats by appearing onstage at a rally for Donald Trump in 2016. He has apologized for doing so, but he has also faced criticism for allegedly failing to discipline officers for inappropriate use of force.
And his endorsement interview with the party “did not go well,” The Enquirer reports. At the January interview, party officials “read Neil the riot act” and asked him “whether he acknowledged disparities between how white people and black people are treated in the criminal justice system,” according to the paper.
“Sheriff Neil would only respond that he is color-blind,” party executive Britt Born told The Enquirer. He also praised some Republicans, Born told Cincinnati Public Radio.
Hamilton County has become largely Democratic in recent years, The Enquirer notes. Dems hold all three seats on the Board of County Commissioners and many county-wide offices.