LAKEWOOD, Ohio, (WCMH) — Leadership at the Ohio Statehouse is shaking up heading into the new year and Senator Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) is stepping up as the first openly gay minority leader after almost 12 years as a lawmaker.

“It was a diverse group of people who sent me here and I am determined to get work done for them,” Antonio said.

“In my mind, she has the best attributes of not only a legislator, but a leader,” Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said. “She’s approachable, she’s got a great sense of humor, a great sense of humility about herself.”

Two bills that Antonio describes as “anti-LGBTQ” nearly became law this past legislative session. She said she is proud they did not make it past the finish line.

“I’m a part of, I’m not the full reason for it, but I’m a part of the reason why we’ve been able to push back,” Antonio said. “Talk about these things and really prioritize what moves us forward, not what moves us backward.”

Going into 2023, Antonio said, while she is working for all Ohioans, it is important to make sure young people have a reason to stay in Ohio.

“To push forward with policies that reflect their values, and their values are that they appreciate and celebrate diversity and want to see the state do that as well,” Antonio said.

“She’s really smart and is able to dialogue on a lot of different issues and part of that is because she’s been a legislator for a long time,” Huffman said.

Antonio said her priorities include making sure there are good-paying jobs in the state, something both her Democratic and Republican colleagues agree with. She also said the next general assembly is the time to pass legislation that removes the death penalty in the state.

“We got close, we got the most diverse group of legislators ever on board as co-sponsors, we had companion legislation in the house,” Antonio said.

Last week, while Gov. Mike DeWine did not provide his opinion on the death penalty, he said, “we’ve had no execution, I don’t anticipate any.”

Antonio said her other priorities include having transparency and accountability for all schools in the state and ensuring accessible, quality child care across Ohio.