Not Exactly Kissing Cousins

Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel is not going to Washington and he may not be at the next Ratner family wedding either. | JOSHMANDEL.COM

In 2010, Josh Mandel, then a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, rode the Republican wave to win election as state treasurer by 14 percentage points. In last week’s election, however, he fell short in his US Senate challenge to incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown by more than five points.

Mandel not only lost the confidence of Ohio voters, but, as the Huffington Post reported several days before the election, he was also having family troubles –– troubles that played out publicly in a full page ad in the Cleveland Jewish News. There, members of the Ratner family, including New York real estate developer Bruce Ratner and his brother Michael, who formerly headed the Center for Constitutional Rights, took their relatively new cousin-in-law to task for his opposition to marriage equality. Mandel, who four years ago married Ilana Shafran, who is part of the Ratner clan, said in a debate last month that he did not share Brown’s support for gay marriage or for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell –– now in place, without incident, for more than a year –– though he insisted he does not condone discrimination.

In a Dear Josh letter, nine members of the Ratner family wrote, “Four years ago you came into our family. We still remember the excitement surrounding your wedding, and how happy our family members were as they described it afterwards. So we were deeply saddened when you announced during your October 18th debate with Senator Sherrod Brown that you believe only some people should share this right to marry the person they love, while others should not. Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize. They were married almost eight years ago in Massachusetts… Their wedding, like yours, was a beautiful and happy occasion for all of us in our family.”

The ad’s authors made clear that for the Ratners, the quarrel was very much a family values matter, writing, “Your discriminatory stance violates these core values of our family.”

Ellen Ratner, Bruce and Michael’s sister, is the White House correspondent for Talk News Radio Service and was described as a “feisty liberal lesbian” by when she became a Fox News contributor half a dozen years ago.

The New Republic, in September, reported that Bruce and Michael Ratner made financial contributions to Brown’s campaign, so it is likely their ad was aimed more at applying family pressure on –– as opposed to making a political ask of –– their beloved cousin.

The Huffington Post reported that while the student government president at Ohio State University, Mandel, who is 35, supported domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples, but he has since backed off of even that marriage-lite posture.