In a move that underscores major differences within the LGBT community in this year’s municipal elections, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance on Saturday endorsed City Councilman Ron Natinsky for mayor and incumbent Angela Hunt in District 14.
DGLA also issued a rare warning against Mike Rawlings in the mayor’s race, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.” In response to the DGLA warning, Rawlings denied that he would ever put economic development before civil rights. “Civil rights come first,” he said.
Last month, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed former Police Chief David Kunkle for mayor and openly gay challenger James Nowlin in District 14. Natinsky had pulled out of Stonewall’s candidate screening over questions about his eligibility for the group’s backing because he’s a Republican.
But unlike Stonewall, DGLA is nonpartisan — and so are municipal elections.
DGLA joined Stonewall in endorsing Scott Griggs over incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3, as well as openly gay challenger Casie Pierce over incumbent Carolyn Davis is District 7. However, in addition to the mayor’s race and District 14, DGLA broke with Stonewall in endorsing incumbents Sheffie Kadane Jr. and Jerry Allen in Districts 9 and 10, respectively, again showing the group’s willingness to back candidates with GOP ties.
DGLA also endorsed Luis Sepulveda in District 6 over Monica Alonzo, who received Stonewall’s backing, in the race to replace outgoing Councilman Steve Salazar. And DGLA backed incumbents Linda Koop (District 11) and Ann Margolin (District 13), who didn’t seek endorsements from Stonewall.
In the the mayor’s race, DGLA noted that it endorsed Natinsky in two of his three campaigns for the District 12 council seat. Natinsky sought DGLA’s backing in all three of his council campaigns.
“Ron has been engaged with our community and supportive of GLBT concerns throughout his time on the council, and we believe that Ron brings not only a strong depth of understanding of issues and goals for improving the lives of GLBT Dallasites, but also creative solutions to achieve lasting fairness for all in the City’s relations with our community and the way it does business internally and externally,” DGLA wrote in a press release announcing the endorsement.
Both Kunkle and Rawlings also sought DGLA’s endorsement for mayor, and it was unclear what specifically prompted the group’s warning about Rawlings.
“It is a very rare thing in our 34 years of endorsing candidates,” DGLA President Patti Fink said of the warning in the group’s press release. “Candidate interviews are confidential, but I think it’s important to note that PAC members felt very strongly that their extensive exchanges with Mr. Rawlings on topics relating to city contracts were troubling enough to warrant a warning to GLBT voters.”
In a recent interview with Dallas Voice, Rawlings said he opposes requiring city contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies or offer domestic partner benefits, because it would amount to playing “the ethics police” and could hurt business. The city already requires contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, but does not require them to offer domestic partner benefits.
Contacted this afternoon, Rawlings said he was “blindsided” by DGLA’s warning, adding that it “hurts me terribly.”
“Never in my life has economic development taken precedence over the civil rights of individuals, and it would never in the future do that,” Rawlings said.
Rawlings said he misunderstood a question from DGLA about the issue during his interview with the group. He said he wasn’t aware that the city already requires contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
Rawlings said DGLA asked whether he would support adding such a requirement, and he responded that he would not.
But he said given that the city already requires contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, he supports keeping the requirement in place and would not seek to repeal it.
DGLA leaders also were not aware until recently that the city requires contractors to have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, which apparently led to the group’s question about whether candidates would support adding the requirement.
“It was a false question that they were asking me,” Rawlings said. “I bought into their question.”
Rawlings said he takes full responsibility for the error and called DGLA representatives on Saturday to apologize.
In the District 14 race, the LGBT community is deeply divided between Hunt and Nowlin. Like Pierce in District 7, Nowlin is vying to become the first openly gay person to serve on the council since 2007. But Hunt has been a staunch LGBT ally throughout her six years at the horseshoe. Fink noted in DGLA’s press release that a candidate’s sexual orientation only becomes a factor when all other things are equal.
“Angela has a strong history of appointing LGBT constituents to boards and commissions, and she is a visible sustaining presence at LGBT community events, large and small,” DGLA said in its explanation of the endorsement. “While considering a possible mayoral run may have prematurely drawn hopefuls for her District 14 seat, Angela clearly merits a fourth and final full term at Dallas City Hall, and with great pride DGLA again wholeheartedly endorses Angela Hunt for District 14.”
DGLA’s full slate of endorsements is below. Download the group’s press release in its entirety here.
District 1 — Delia Jasso
District 2 — Pauline Medrano
District 3 — Scott Griggs
District 6 – Luis Sepulveda
District 7 – Casie Pierce
District 9 – Sheffie Kadane, Jr.
District 10 – Jerry Allen
District 11 – Linda Koop
District 13 – Ann Margolin
District 14 – Angela Hunt
District 15 / Mayor – Ron Natinsky