Activists urge LGBT voters to go to polls early

Posted on 19 Jan 2006 at 7:37pm
By Tammye Nash Staff Writer

Gay Democrats optimistic about chances to unseat anti-gay Republicans at local, state, federal levels



Gary Fitzsimmons, left, an openly-gay Democrat, is running against Republican incumbent Jim Hamlin for Dallas County district clerk. Jim Foster, center, is running against Republican incumbent Margaret Keliher for Dallas County judge. Foster is gay and a Democrat. Gay Democrat Jack Borden, right, faces Republican incumbent Dan Branch in the District 108 race for the Texas House.

Early voting opens Monday, but many people might dismiss the idea of voting early, intending instead to cast their ballots on the traditional election day, Nov. 7.

But things happen, and too often, Election Day comes and goes without that intended vote being casts, said Shannon Bailey, president of Texas Stonewall Democrats.

“Good intentions don’t count at the ballot box,” Bailey said.

“Voting early is simply a matter of getting the task done and out of the way,” he continued. “So many people wait until Election Day, and then something comes up. They have a bad day. They have to work late. And they end up not voting at all.

“That’s why we push so hard for people to vote early and get it over with, especially during that one weekend of early voting when most people are off work and have more time to go vote,” Bailey said.

And for the LGBT community, voting is especially important in this mid-term election, Bailey said, when the community has the chance to break what some activists see as a legislative stranglehold by anti-gay forces.

A poll conducted from Oct. 6 through Oct. 13 for National Public Radio by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research indicates that Democrats often seen as more liberal and more gay-friendly than Republicans hold a growing margin in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The survey, which had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, said that 51 percent of those polled said they planned to vote for a Democrat in their congressional districts, while only 40 percent planned to vote for a Republican.

The Democrats face a tougher but not impossible task in gaining control of the Senate, according to Reuters/Zogby poll results released Oct. 5.

Those polls showed that Democrats lead in five of 10 crucial Senate battlegrounds, including three Republican-held seats in Pennsylvania, Montana and Rhode Island and in Democratic-held Maryland and New Jersey.
To gain a Senate majority, Democrats must hold their own vulnerable seats and sweep six of the seven at-risk Republican seats, including knocking off five Republican incumbents.

Closer to home for LGBT Texans, Republican incumbent Rick Perry who angered many with his support for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment in 2005 and by suggesting that gay and lesbian military veterans should move out of the state if they don’t like the state’s anti-gay-marriage laws continues to lead the four-way race for governor.

Even though only 33 percent of voters polled in an Aug. 31 survey by Rasmussen Reports said they planned to vote for Perry, the remainder were divided three ways, with independent Carol Keeton Strayhorn in second place with 22 percent, Democrat Chris Bell claiming 18 percent and independent Kinky Friedman taking 16 percent.

But, Bailey said, Democrats “are poised to make some gains in the Texas House this year.”

“In the Senate, because of the way the elections work with the staggered four-year terms, the seats that are up for election this time are just not in play for us [Democrats],” Bailey said.

“Just like the congressional districts, the Texas Senate districts are drawn to be so slanted toward one party or the other that it is really difficult to make changes.”

The Texas House districts are drawn in a similar fashion, Bailey continued, “but it still seems to be more even in some of those races, at least in our local districts and in one district in Harris County.”

Bailey said recent polls by the Texas House Democratic Caucus show that races in Districts 102, 106 and 107 in North Texas are “all competitive for the Democrats. It just depends on the turnout. But it does appear those are winnable districts for us.”

Dallas County Democrats have seen this election as major opportunity, with the most viable Democratic candidates in more than a decade. For the LGBT community in Dallas County, Bailey said, Gary Fitzsimmons’ race against Republican incumbent Jim Hamlin for Dallas County district clerk is the best shot.

A win by Fitzsimmons, who is openly gay, would be “breaking yet another barrier for our community,” Bailey said.

“When Gary wins, we will be the only county in the country, as far as we know, to have two county-wide elected officials.”

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, elected in 2004, is a lesbian. She was the first Hispanic and the first woman elected to the office.

“I have become quite confident about Gary’s chances of winning,” Bailey continued. “He is doing all the right things in his campaign. And we really broke a barrier when he got the Dallas Morning News’ endorsement. Any candidate getting the Morning News endorsement over an incumbent is a real feat, but for an openly-gay candidate to be endorsed over a Republican incumbent is just amazing.”

Openly-gay Democrat Jim Foster is running a tough campaign against Republican incumbent Margaret Keliher for Dallas County judge. But, Bailey acknowledged, “Jim’s race is a little more difficult in that he faces a female and an incumbent. That makes things harder for him.”

Openly-gay Democrat Jack Borden is running against Republican incumbent T. Evan Fisher in Texas House District 108. But Bailey has said that district is virtually unwinnable for a Democrat.

Early voting polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Monday and running through Oct. 27. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 28, and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 29.

Early voting polls will also be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 30-Nov. 3.

In an effort to boost the early voting turnout, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the J.P. Joyce Community Vote Foundation will hold a Pride at the Polls rally from noon to 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 on the patio at Sue Ellen’s, 3903 Cedar Springs Road. The rally will include speeches by candidates, food by Stonewall Democrats and music by Kris Landherr, plus free transportation to the polls for those who want to vote early.

E-mail nash@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.

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