Ohio Secretary of State: She’s different, but that might be good

October 30th, 2014


nina turner headshot

Nina Turner

Imagine yourself sitting in your apartment building on a chilly fall evening in Cleveland, Ohio. You’re at your desk, sipping on a pumpkin spice latte and surfing the web, checking your Facebook and Twitter feeds. As you’re browsing around, watching various Vine videos involving more pumpkins and something called Ebola, one article in particular catches your interest: “10 Outlandish Quotes from Ohio Senator Nina Turner.”


You’ve heard some things about her and have heard her name mentioned in your political science class once or twice. One student mentioned that she was “very polarizing” as well as “partisan and confrontational.” His name was Shamir. Didn’t he walk around with a Mitt Romney hat and T-shirt on for the 2012 election? You chuckle lightly to yourself when you think about it and decide to give the article a read. But as you read the article, your opinion starts to change and you get a little bit more curious.


You head to YouTube to see her in action. It’s as plain as day, she is indeed very candid and confrontational. Her language is free and at times could be interpreted as a bit unprofessional, but you also see someone not afraid to speak her mind. She’s clearly very passionate. You were curious before, but now you’re interested. You decide you should look into her a bit more, just to get a grasp of what she is really about.


An Ohio native, Turner was born the oldest of seven children to a family living in the city of Cleveland. She went to John F. Kennedy High School and later earned her associate’s degree at Cuyahoga Community College, before getting her bachelor’s and then her master’s in education at Cleveland State University.


Turner won her first political post, as Ward One City Council representative in Cleveland, in November 2004, after then-representative Joe Jones retired. She was later appointed to a seat in the Ohio Senate in 2008, to which she was elected for a full term in 2010.


Perhaps Turner’s most notable characteristic is her outspoken nature. She is a proud advocate of women’s rights, particularly for Planned Parenthood, and she has spoken up about this controversial issue on multiple occasions. In a 2012 press release, Turner spoke out against the Ohio government’s attempts to halve funding for Planned Parenthood:


“It is unbelievable that elected officials — stewards of the public interest — would seek to deliberately deny millions of working class and underprivileged women access to high quality healthcare services,” she said. “This new plan is another vicious, heartless, and unconscionable volley in the Republican war on women.”


Turner also gained a lot of attention in November of 2012 for showing up at a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse held by the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio in a provocative T-shirt that said “GOP: Get Out of my Panties.” This happened around the time that Turner had been considering running for Ohio Secretary of State.


Turner announced her bid on July 1, 2013, and won the Democratic primary for the position unopposed the following May 6. Since the beginning of her campaign, Turner has won endorsements from various important figures in politics, including former Cincinnati politician and talk show host Jerry Springer and former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The latter wrote a letter to Ohio Democratic Party donors, singing her praises and asking for them to show their support for her.


Turner joined Jerry Springer at an early voting rally on Oct. 16, as a part of her “Meet Me at the Box” initiative. In a statement issued by her campaign on the issue of voting, Turner commented that it was “critically important to the future of our state and it is imperative that folks come out to vote this year.”


Turner’s major focus for her campaign has been the right of voting, since that is what the Secretary of State is primarily responsible for: setting up and running elections. Voting in Ohio has been made more difficult for citizens.


Recently, MSNBC followed Turner around the city of Cincinnati to prove another point: early voting locations were changed and made inconvenient for voters.


Sitting at your computer, you scratch your head. As far as politicians go, she’s definitely a different case.


The next day, you bring the subject up to your political science professor, Dr. Elizabeth Stiles, who mentions that she met Turner when she was running for Cleveland City Council and went to lunch with her and two former students. Stiles mentions Turner’s intelligence and passion for politics. She notes that this passion and outspoken nature can both help and hurt her politically.


“Back when there was some type of bipartisanship, these kinds of stunts probably hurt because being moderate was considered a good thing,” Stiles said. “But with a more polarized electorate, people it might alienate may already be alienated, and the attention could bring in more supporters and funding.”


In other words, different can be good. People might be inspired by a politician who takes an up-front approach to the issues. Nina Turner may not the ideal Secretary of State, but she might be the necessary one. Maybe you will bring this up to Shamir in class tomorrow.