Will Dallas elect its first openly gay city council member since 2007? Who will prevail in a race between two strong LGBT allies in North Oak Cliff? How many races will end up in June 15 runoffs because no candidate garners more than 50 percent? With no mayor’s race on the ballot in Dallas, will voter turnout citywide top 10 percent?
It’s Municipal Election Day in North Texas, and we’ll learn the answers to these questions and more in just a few short hours. Polls close at 7 p.m., and yours truly will be here at the Instant Tea Brewery, while intrepid news staffers David Taffet and Anna Waugh do their best watch party crawl. Shortly after 7, we’ll post early voting results, which may give us a good indication of the outcome in some races. Election Day voting results will follow sometime later tonight.
Here’s a quick summary of the races we’ll be watching most closely:
• Dallas District 1: Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs, both incumbents and both LGBT allies, were placed in the same North Oak Cliff district when council maps were redrawn in 2011. Jasso created the city’s LGBT Task Force, while Griggs is the author of a council resolution backing marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections. The District 1 race is expected to be close and likely will come down to the wire.
• Dallas District 2: Two openly gay candidates, Herschel Weisfeld and Vernon Franko, are running in this Oak Lawn district. But they are underdogs. The favorite, Adam Medrano, has declined to answer questions about his sexual orientation despite an arrest in connection with homosexual activity in a public restroom in 2000. Medrano, the nephew of term-limited incumbent Pauline Medrano, is widely expected to win the seat. But with a total of four candidates in the race, Medrano could be forced into a June 15 runoff against Weisfeld if he fails to capture more than 50 percent of the vote tonight.
• Dallas District 3: The city’s most anti-gay council member, Vonciel Hill, faces challenger Claudia Meyer in this heavily redrawn district covering parts of South Dallas, South Oak Cliff and Mountain Creek. Meyer has expressed strong support for the LGBT community and is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, but she faces an uphill battle tonight. .
• Dallas District 13: Openly gay businessman Leland Burk faces Jennifer Staubach Gates in this district covering all of Preston Hollow, one of the city’s wealthiest and most conservative areas. Each of the two major candidates has spent approximately $350,000 on the race, and early voting turnout has been far higher than in other areas of the city. The race is expected to be tight.
• Dallas District 14: Seven candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by staunch ally Angela Hunt in one of the city’s most heavily LGBT districts, which covers parts of Oak Lawn, East Dallas and downtown. Two of the three frontrunners, Bobby Abtahi, Philip Kingston and Jim Rogers, are expected to advance to a runoff tonight. All three have expressed strong support for the LGBT community.
• School board races: In Dallas, gay candidate Arturo “Art” Sierra is hoping to become only the second out DISD trustee in history. Sierra is a longshot as he tries to topple incumbent Eric Cowan in District 7. In Fort Worth, gay District 1 school board member Carlos Vasquez is trying to hang on to his seat despite widespread opposition within the LGBT community. On Friday, Vasquez lashed out at gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, after Burns made positive comments about one of Vasquez’s two challengers, Jacinto Ramos Jr.