Leppert still refuses to commit as gay-friendly in last-minute interview
Mayoral candidate Tom Leppert again this week refused to say whether he is gay-friendly even after the Dallas Voice was asked by a third party to do one last interview to clarify the candidate’s position on LGBT issues.
“I don’t know what the definition is,” Leppert told Dallas Voice on Thursday afternoon, June 14. “I think we need to be inclusive of everybody in this community, so you can go ahead and put whatever definition you want to it.”
Leppert’s opponent in the June 16 mayoral runoff, openly gay City Councilman Ed Oakley, later said he believes Leppert’s response is indicative of his background.
“I think that if he truly understood our community, it would have been an easy answer,” Oakley said. “He clearly doesn’t know how to answer the question because he has not had interaction with our community.”
It was one of several LGBT-related issues Leppert addressed during the last-minute, 15-minute sit-down interview with the Voice at his campaign headquarters.
Leppert again denied involvement with recent anti-gay attacks on Oakley. Those attacks included a robo call last weekend saying the three biggest issues in the race are “crime, education and homosexuality.” The call was sent out by the Heritage Alliance. There also was an e-mail sent out by the ultraconservative Eagle Forum this week attacking Oakley for being gay.
“When I’ve heard about some of these other things, the first thing that we have done is said, “‘We don’t want it,’” Leppert said. “‘If people send that stuff out that I view as negative, I will tell them, “‘Don’t send it out.’”
Campaign mailers earlier this year included a photograph of Leppert with LaNeil Wright Spivy, a longtime leader of the Dallas Eagle Forum.
But Leppert said he has no affiliation with the group.
“To be truthful, I’m not sure I could tell you what Eagle Forum was,” he said. “I assume it’s a Republican group the way you said it to me.”
But Oakley later noted that at least two people pictured in Leppert’s campaign mailers and television ads are “deeply rooted” in the Eagle Forum.
“I don’t know how he can say he doesn’t know what the Eagle Forum is,” Oakley said.
In the interview Leppert explained, “I didn’t choose her [Spivey]. It was the folks that were doing the pictures. I visited with her. She seemed like a nice person to me.”
As an example of his inclusiveness, Leppert pointed to his recent appearance at a candidate forum sponsored by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.
“I had five people come up to me afterward and say: “‘You switched my vote. I’m going to vote for you.’ So I’ve got people from every part of the community who are supporting me.”
Asked why he never used the words “gay” or “lesbian” during the forum, Leppert said it was because the questions already contained those words.
“They were specific questions that were based on gay, lesbian, bisexual,” he said. “I’m a little bit lost by your question to be truthful with you.”
Asked whether he has any gay friends, Leppert initially said he was unsure, then switched to yes. But then he said he wasn’t sure what it meant to be “open or out.”
“There are people that are friends of mine and there are parts of their personal lives that I probably don’t know about, but it’s also not an issue to me. I don’t look in terms in labels.”
Asked about his religion, Leppert said he is Christian. Asked whether he believes homosexuality is immoral, he said: “I don’t make judgments on people.”
Oakley has accused Leppert of conducting a whisper campaign, attempting to spread the word that Oakley is gay without appearing to be behind the effort. But Leppert insists the accusation is false.
“It is important to me,” Leppert said. “My reputation is important. I’ve always been someone who’s been known for being fair, being open and engaging everybody.
“On a personal basis,” he added, “when someone makes charges like that, I don’t think that’s right. I realize people in campaigns can say anything they want, but it’s not right and it’s not how I’ve conducted myself.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.