Metro Weekly

Lesbian running for sheriff in Ohio touts sexual orientation in ad to show she’s a fighter

Charmaine McGuffey says her record proves she won't be deterred by obstacles or personal attacks against her

Charmaine McGuffey – Photo: Charmaine McGuffey for Sheriff, via YouTube

An out lesbian seeking to become sheriff of a conservative-leaning county in Ohio is touting her sexual orientation in a new web ad to demonstrate that she is not afraid of taking on tough fights, and to reiterate her calls for criminal justice reform.

Charmaine McGuffey, who won the Democratic nomination for Hamilton County Sheriff in April, released a two-minute campaign ad showing her walking into a bathroom with sign reading “Dyke” posted on the stall door. 

“I’ve never been an insider. I wasn’t just a woman working in law enforcement. I was a gay woman,” McGuffey says in the ad. “That made me a target. A threat. But overcoming the impossible, well, that’s what I’ve done my entire life.”

The online ad covers McGuffey’s platform of pushing for criminal justice reform and her desire to investigate complaints of excessive use of force.

In the ad, McGuffey rehashes many of the issues that led to her victory over incumbent Sheriff Jim Neil, a Trump-supporting Democrat whom McGuffey claims wrongfully terminated her because she is a lesbian and in retaliation for her refusal to overlook complaints involving excessive force, sexual harassment, and other supervisory issues.

McGuffey later filed a federal lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, alleging discrimination due to her status as a lesbian and her failure to conform to traditional notions of gender-based behavior.

Neil, on the other hand, claimed that McGuffey had created a “hostile work environment” for other sheriff’s office employees, pointing to the report from an internal investigation that he claims found McGuffey in the wrong.

In July, a federal judge ruled that McGuffey’s lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and other county officials would be allowed to move forward.

Judge Susan Dlott cited disparities in the investigation launched against McGuffey and “hostile work” investigations launched against other employees, saying the differences “raise genuine issues of material fact from which jurors could reasonably doubt the employer’s stated explanation,” according to Cincinnati-based ABC affiliate WCPO.

It’s that struggle against Neil and against resistance to reform that McGuffey touts in her most recent commercial. 

“I worked my way up the ranks in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, all the way to major. First and only woman to ever achieve that rank,” she says in the ad. “I took our jail from the worst-ranked in the State of Ohio to the top-ranked. I wanted to move the Sheriff’s Office in one direction — towards reform and rehabilitation. But the current sheriff? He wanted something different.”

Related: Lesbian defeats Trump-supporting Ohio sheriff in Democratic primary

McGuffey now faces Republican Bruce Hoffbauer, a former Cincinnati police officer, in the general election. But Hoffbauer doesn’t emerged unscathed from McGuffey’s criticism, either. She cites his role in the 1990 shooting of an unarmed Black man, for which he was investigated for allegedly using excessive force, and claims he served on a police unit “notorious for terrorizing communities of color.”

As such, McGuffey claims, he is not qualified to be sheriff at a time when unrest over police brutality and calls for criminal justice reform have become one of the country’s most pressing issues.

“In my 33 years as a police officer, I’ve seen justice, and I’ve seen injustice. But I also know what it feels like to be targeted for who I am, and not something I’ve done, and there are systemic issues that we can no longer ignore,” she adds. “I’ve torn down barriers that were designed to keep people like me from ever getting a fair shot.

“The courage to do what’s right and just, no matter how difficult it may be, that’s what history is calling us to do,” she concludes, “and that’s the kind of sheriff I’ll be.”

While some may be shocked at McGuffey’s decision to emphasize her sexual orientation in order to make a point, McGuffey previously told Metro Weekly in an interview following her primary win that she’s unashamed of her identity and doesn’t intend to run away from hard political fights.

“I’ve been a woman in this business for many years, and I’ve been gay my whole life. So I’m not the faint of heart,” she said at the time. “I’m up for this fight. … And I believe I can win.”

Watch McGuffey’s ad below:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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