Dallas County ballots include 3 gay candidates

Posted on 28 Oct 2010 at 9:17pm

Log Cabin president says election offers LGBT voters several viable Republican candidates to back

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The ballot for this year’s election is long — nine pages in some parts of Dallas County. Voters will decide races for district attorney, county clerk and county judge in addition to a number of family, district and criminal court judges.

Those are in addition, of course, to all statewide positions and members of the Texas and U.S. House of Representatives.

Four propositions also appear on the ballot. Two countywide questions would legalize beer and wine sales throughout Dallas County. Two are city questions about selling two parks.

Three openly gay candidates appear on the ballot. Gary Fitzsimmons is seeking re-election as county clerk. Tonya Parker is running for 116th Civil District Court judge. And Peter Schulte appears on the ballot in parts of the city. He is challenging Dan Branch for the Texas House in a district that includes parts of Oak Lawn.

All three are Democrats.

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein touted a number of Republican candidates, especially some running for judicial positions.

“Jonathan Neerman is an attorney and lined up quite a few competent people who know what it takes,” Schlein said.

Neerman is chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

This is not a complete list but highlights some races of interest in the LGBT community.

District Clerk
Former City Councilman Craig Holcomb is treasurer of Fitzsimmons’ re-election campaign.

“As Dallas County district clerk, he has moved that office into the 21st century,” Holcomb said of Fitzsimmons.

For the first time, all documents are now transmitted electronically.

Fitzsimmons has saved almost $1 million for his office since he was first elected in 2006 when compared with his predecessor during the previous four years. He also removed a one-year backlog of family court filings.

“And I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has in the last four years,” Holcomb said.

Fitzsimmons worked for Holcomb for 15 years.

Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore said, “He’s one of the more competent elected officials in Dallas County.”

Fitzsimmons’ opponent in the race is Tammy Barnes, 47. She has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and is a candidate for a masters’ in criminal justice from the University of North Texas.

Barnes is a member of the Lancaster Zoning Board of Adjustment,  a Big Sister volunteer and president and casework volunteer for Family Outreach of Southern Dallas.

County Judge
Clay Jenkins defeated County Judge Jim Foster in the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Wade Emmert in the general election.

“We need to have someone who sees the county as needing tending and not as their own personal playground,” Moore said of the county judge’s office. “Clay has a good perspective on that.”

She said he has the personality and wherewithal to be a good county judge.

Jenkins served as an intern to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost and was Oscar Mauzy’s law clerk when he served on the Texas Supreme Court.

Jenkins is president of the law practice Jenkins & Jenkins, with offices in Dallas and Waxahachie. This is his first run for public office.

Emmert is also an attorney and serves on the Cedar Hill City Council.

“On the City Council, he develops budgets and does the things that are needed as county judge,” said Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein.

Emmert often attends Log Cabin meetings and Schlein believes that if elected he’d be open and accessible to the LGBT community.

County Commissioner District 4
Former Dallas City Council member Elba Garcia is challenging 16-year incumbent Ken Mayfield for County Commissioner District 4.

Mayfield is known for his combative style in Commissioners Court. Fitzsimmons called him “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

In 1995, Mayfield signed a letter with two other commissioners regarding condom distribution.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” Mayfield and the others wrote.

Garcia, on the other hand, is seen as a strong ally of the LGBT community. She served four terms on the Dallas City Council representing North Oak Cliff.

Moore called the county commissioner seat critical when it comes to funding HIV services at Parkland hospital.

“She was not only there for us, she was first in line leading the effort,” Moore said of Garcia’s tenure on the council. “She was instrumental in passing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.”

But Mayfield, Moore said, is one of the LGBT community’s worst enemies.

In the last days leading up to the election, Mayfield has been accusing Garcia of voter fraud. Mayfield’s supporters said that absentee ballots were sent when none were requested and they charge that Garcia encouraged people to vote twice.

No charges have been filed.

District Attorney

Danny Clancy is challenging incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney.  Although Watkins sought LGBT support in his first campaign, Moore said that as district attorney he has been a divisive figure, accused of being a celebrity D.A. and not doing his job here.

Neerman believes that more than any other race, this is the one for the LGBT community to consider voting Republican.

Clancy has been an assistant district attorney, criminal court judge and private attorney. He has prosecuted more than 250 cases and, as judge, presided over more than 450 cases.

“Clancy will protect all of Dallas County,” said campaign spokesman Brian Mayes.

He said that this race is between a D.A. caught in a number of ethical controversies who refuses to pursue a number of cases and a prosecutor who is tough on crime.

Mayes said sexual orientation would play no role in how tough Clancy would prosecute. He said that he’s looking for support from Log Cabin Republicans and the rest of the LGBT community.

“He’s a good guy,” said Mayes. “His heart’s in the right place. He has no political agenda in fighting crime.

“It’s about competence vs. incompetence,” said Schlein. “Not about left and right.”

County Criminal Court No. 2
Dan Montalvo is challenging incumbent King Fifer for County Criminal Court No. 2.

Schlein said Montalvo spoke to Log Cabin at the recent Grand Ol’ Party. He told the group he’s challenged about being Hispanic and Republican just as Log Cabin is questioned about being gay and Republican. Schlein believes he’d be a fair judge.

Montalvo is challenging Democratic incumbent Jeff Rosenfield.

116th Civil District Court
Tonya Parker faces Mike Lee for 116th Civil District Court.

“She’s one of the most eminently qualified people running to be judge and we support her 100 percent,” Moore said.

Among her honors, Parker was listed as a rising star by Texas Monthly three times and in 2006 was named Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Outstanding Young Lawyer.

Mike Lee is an attorney whose practice focused on civil litigation. He has significant experience representing minors in cases before Dallas County juvenile courts.

“Mike Lee’s a good guy,” said Schlein. “He’s someone gay people should be comfortable with,” he said.

193rd District Court
Carl Ginsberg is an active member of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. He took the lead in educating his colleagues about gender-marker changes and said that there’s statutory authority to make those changes.

“Believe it or not, there’s actually the legal authority in Texas to do it,” Ginsberg told Dallas Voice earlier this year.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats President Pennington Ingley said, “He’s an avid supporter of ours. He’s very approachable and has been a strong supporter of LGBT issues.”

His opponent is Republican Wes Johnson.

194th District Court

Judge Ernest White presided over the Jimmy Lee Dean hate crime trial. The jury handed down a sentence even tougher than the one the prosecutor suggested.

Michael Robinson was a witness to the crime. He testified in the case and sat through the entire trial. He said he was impressed with how White handled the case and allowed his testimony to be given.

“The LGBT community needs more judges like Judge Ernest White to allow crimes like these to be heard fairly and without any bias towards the community,” Robinson said.

“Judge White allowed all the evidence to be heard so the jury could make a decision to convict Bobby Singleton [to receive] 75 years and Jonathan Gunter [to receive] 30 years [in prison].”

His opponent is Republican David Lewis.

292nd Judicial District Court

Lisa DeWitt is challenging incumbent Democrat Larry Mitchell.

“She’s a member of Log Cabin,” Schlein said of DeWitt, “an open and active supporter.”

DeWitt uses her Log Cabin endorsement in all of her campaign literature and stood up for the group when questioned about her support and involvement, Schlein said.

Log Cabin honored her recently at their Grand Ol’ Party. She has been a county attorney and a public defender.

The Democrat in the race is Larry Mitchell.

298th Civil District Court
Emily Tobolowsky is a longtime member of Stonewall Democrats but her current claim to fame is from her cousin Stephen. He plays disgraced gay music teacher Sandy Ryerson on Glee.

Before her 2007 election, Tobolowsky was an attorney with experience from commercial, real estate and employment litigation to family law.

Her opponent in the race is Bryce Quine, a trial lawyer and a partner at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.

301st Family District Court

Judge Lynn Cherry, a Democrat, ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change at the request of DART.

That ruling began a push by a number of groups to get DART to change their discriminatory policy against transgender employees and had LGBT groups questioning why the agency would interfere in a family court matter.

Cherry hasn’t commented on the matter or explained why an employer’s opinion would be considered in a family court matter.

Her opponent is George White, a family court attorney with 35 years experience. He has completed more than 8,000 cases. He was member of the Texas Army National Guard. Schlein calls him affable and said he’s been to a couple of Log Cabin meetings.

302nd Family District Court  Judge Tena Callahan declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision related to a gay couple who had married in Massachusetts and filed for divorce in Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the divorce. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned her decision. The divorce is again on appeal. “She would say she made the right decision and was just doing her job,” Moore said.

Her opponent is family law attorney Julie Reedy, who endorsed Callahan before deciding to run for the office herself. Reedy’s campaign website refers to Callahan’s decision by saying, “I promise NOT to legislate from the bench and will serve the court to the letter of the law.”

Propositions
Two countywide propositions appear on the ballot in Dallas. The first would lift the restriction on sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the county. The second would allow restaurants throughout the county to sell beer and wine without being private clubs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

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