Democrat Nina Turner is looking to make the leap from the Ohio Senate to supervising elections and protecting voter rights as Ohio Secretary of State.
Turner, 45, a former Cleveland city councilwoman, is expected to announce that she’ll run against GOP incumbent Secretary of State Jon Husted, 45, formerly of Kettering. She has a press conference scheduled in Cleveland on Monday morning, followed by events across the state including Tuesday in Dayton.
Turner was appointed to a vacancy in the Ohio Senate in 2008 where she quickly built a reputation for fighting for the middle class, women’s reproductive health care and voting rights. Her fiery-no-holds-barred oratory skills have made her a darling of the national cable TV shows, including The Ed Show on MSNBC and The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
Her floor speech Thursday on the state budget bill was classic Turner. Dressed in a navy blue suit and heels, Turner criticized the GOP-backed spending plan for imposing new requirements on women seeking abortions. In the span of a few minutes, Turner quoted Robert F. Kennedy, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, ‘The Godfather,’ and the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statute of Liberty.
She wrapped up with this doozy: “I would kindly ask that the members of this body grow a pair – ovaries or otherwise. I urge a no vote on this bill.” Watch video of her remarks here.
She once appeared at a Statehouse press conference wearing a pink t-shirt that said GOP (Get Out of my Panties) to protest Republican efforts to put Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for federal family planning money – something that is now included in the state budget bill.
Turner defends her feisty style, saying that is just who she is. “People like genuineness. They like a fighter and I’m a fighter,” she said.
After conservative Republicans pushed for the anti-abortion “heart beat” bill last year, Turner responded with Senate Bill 307 which would have required men seeking Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs to first see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency. Not surprisingly, the bill died in committee.
She isn’t always at odds with Republican leaders. She signed on early to support Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s school reform plan and she favors expanding Medicaid — both policies embraced by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Turner is the oldest of seven children and started working odd jobs as a teen to help support the family. Her mother died of a brain aneurysm at age 42, leaving Turner, who was a 22-year-old community college student, to care for her younger siblings. Her mother died penniless and on welfare. “My husband and I raised my siblings. It was hard,” Turner said.