Gay candidate is top vote-getter in general election field of 6
FORT WORTH Tarrant County is one step closer to having its first openly gay elected official.
Joel Burns was the leading vote-getter with 37.5 percent on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in the six-candidate race for the District 9 seat on the Fort Worth City Council.
Burns, a 38-year-old openly gay real estate agent and city zoning commissioner, advanced to a runoff against Juan Rangel, who finished second with 23.4 percent of the vote. Burns captured 1,608 votes to Rangel’s 1,006.
The runoff is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11.
“It was a great result,” Burns told Dallas Voice on Wednesday. “I was very excited to come in not only first but so far ahead of all the other people.”
Candidate Chris Turner, whose name had been used in an anti-gay attack on Burns during the race, finished third with 18 percent of the vote.
The attack came in the form of comments by District 3 City Councilman Chuck Silcox during a meeting of the Fort Worth Women’s Club that also was a forum for Republican state House candidates on Oct. 24.
“This is an excellent time to have Republicans get out and support a Republican,” Silcox told the crowd. “We have two people of opposite partisan politics, opposite philosophical persuasions and opposite sexual orientations.”
“I didn’t tell you which one was homosexual,” Silcox added, pointing to Turner. “He’s married to a female, and the other’s married to a male. You make your own mind up.”
Neither Turner nor Silcox returned phone calls from Dallas Voice seeking comment about the matter. But Turner’s business partner, Craig Murphy, denied Turner was behind the comments.
Regardless, Burns said he believes the incident cost Turner votes.
“What was said by Mr. Silcox hurt Mr. Turner, and Mr. Turner’s failure to respond to it hurt Mr. Turner,” Burns said.
Burns said he is extremely confident about his chances in the runoff against the 60-year-old Rangel, who is currently a member of the Fort Worth school board. Rangel also did not return a phone call.
“I feel very, very good going forward,” Burns said. “I think I’ll finish in as strong a first place in the runoff as I did in the first election.”
Burns acknowledged that if he wins, he’ll make history for the growing LGBT community in Tarrant County. But he said it’s not something he thinks about too much. Instead, he said the focus of his campaign is building safe neighborhoods, economic development and transportation planning.
“I think about it only when people bring it up to me,” Burns said.
“I’m running to represent everyone. In all honesty, I literally forget that.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 9, 2007