ELECTIONS: Texas to get 1st gay legislator since ’03

Posted on 30 May 2012 at 12:18am

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, poses with campaign manager Michael Thomas at her Election Night victory party on Tuesday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Mary Gonzalez

FROM STAFF REPORTS

It appears as though Texas will get its first openly LGBT legislator in 11 years and only its second in history.

Gay candidate Mary Gonzalez, 28, was well on her way to capturing the Democratic Primary in El Paso’s House District 75 on Tuesday night.

With 20 of 27 precincts reporting, Gonzalez led Hector Enriquez 53 percent to 36 percent, according to results from the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Tony San Roman was third with 12 percent.

Gonzalez needs only to finish with more than 50 percent to avoid a July 31 runoff against Enriquez. There are no Republicans in the race, so if she wins the primary she will replace retiring Democratic State Rep. Chente Quintinilla in January.

Gonzalez would be Texas first out legislator since former Rep. Glen Maxey, D-Austin, left office in 2002. Texas is one of only 18 states that currently lack an openly LGBT state legislator.

Two other openly gay state legislative candidates were defeated Tuesday. Incumbent State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a staunch LGBT ally, won a landslide over  gay activist Ray Hill in House District 147. With half of precincts reporting, Coleman had 89 percent to Hill’s 11 percent.

And in Fort Worth, Democratic incumbent Lon Burnam defeated gay school board member Carlos Vasquez by a margin of just 150 votes, or 51 percent to 49 percent, in House District 90, with all precincts reporting.

Vasquez said he was disappointed that the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund didn’t endorse him, adding that the group’s support could have made the difference in getting the votes he needed to win.

“A lot of people didn’t think I’d get as close as I did,” he said. “It’s hard to beat a 16-year incumbent who spent twice as much [money] as I did.”

Vasquez said he plans to run again in two years.

Burnam said the close race was due to attack mailers against him in the last week of the campaign. But Burnam added that Vasquez was very gracious when he called to concede the race, and they’ve agreed to have lunch. Burnam is unopposed for re-election in the fall.

In other results Tuesday:

• Texas’ first openly gay Republican elected official, State Board of Education member George Clayton of Richardson, appeared headed for defeat. With more than half of precincts reporting, Clayton was in third place and out of a runoff in District 12, which covers Collin County and parts of northern Dallas County. Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, who held the seat for more than 20 years before Clayton pulled off a shocking upset in 2010, was leading the race Tuesday with 34 percent. Gail Spurlock was second with 24 percent, followed by Clayton with 22 percent. Clayton came out as gay last year amid a whisper campaign about his sexual orientation from a conservative group.

• An inevitable runoff in the highly contested Congressional District 33 became a reality with the votes narrowing down the field of 11 Democratic candidates to state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia. Veasey brought in 39 percent to Garcia’s 25 percent, forcing a runoff on July 31.

Veasey’s supporters gathered at Smokey’s Barbeque in Fort Worth to await the results. He eventually addressed the audience to thank them and to encourage them to get back out tomorrow to prepare to face Garcia in two months.

Garcia’s supporters trickled in throughout the evening at his gathering at the Oak Cliff Tower. Old friends, colleagues and volunteers mingled with food and drinks as they awaited the election results. About 200 people were expected in attendance throughout the evening.

• In the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison of Dallas, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is headed to a runoff against former solicitor general Ted Cruz.

With about half of precincts reporting, Dewhurst had 48 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 30 percent, and the Associated Press predicted a runoff in the race.

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert was third with 14 percent, followed by former SMU football star and ESPN analyst Craig James with 4 percent.
Leppert conceded early in the night that he wouldn’t make the runoff.

“We’ve had a lot of good days and this wasn’t one of them,” Leppert told The Dallas Morning News.

Cruz, a tea party favorite, repeatedly attacked Leppert during the campaign for appearing twice at gay Pride while mayor of Dallas.

In addition to appearing at Pride, Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff and repeatedly expressed support for the LGBT community. However, immediately after stepping down to run for Senate, in a slap in the face to the LGBT community, he sent out an anti-gay tweet and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

The other three major candidates in the race also said they opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions, but the majority of anti-gay rhetoric came from Cruz and James.

Despite Leppert’s defeat, he could play kingmaker as his endorsement is viewed as key in the runoff between Dewhurst and Cruz.

• There will also be a runoff in the U.S. Senate race on the Democratic side, where state Rep. Paul Sadler led with 34 percent with about half of precincts reporting. Grady Yarbrough was second with 26 percent, follwed by Addie Dainell Allen with 24 percent and Sean Hubbard with 16 percent.

It was a major disappointment for Hubbard, a community organizer from Dallas who hoped to at least get into the runoff. At his watch party at The People’s Last Stand at Mockingbird Station, Hubbard said Democratic campaigns had not gotten the attention they deserved.

“It’s all been about Dewhurst and Cruz,” he said.

Yarbrough has no campaign website and has filed no paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, according to reports. He may have benefited from name confusion. Ralph Yarborough was a U.S. senator From Texas from 1957 to 1971.

Hubbard campaigned as a proud liberal and ally to the LGBT community. He received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and other chapters around the state.

• In Congressional District 30, 10-term incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson easily captured the nomination, defeating the first two serious primary opponents she’s faced in 20 years. With half of precincts reporting, Johnson had 71 percent of the vote. State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway was second with 18 percent and attorney Taj Clayton was third with 11 percent.

Johnson is widely considered a staunch LGBT ally. However, her reputation in the community was recently tarnished by the revelation that she voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, but has been running misleading campaign ads suggesting that she’s had a perfect record on LGBT issues for 20 years.

Speaking Tuesday night at her district office on Maple Avenue in Uptown Dallas, Johnson told the crowd that people voted for someone with a record who works hard for them. She said she planned to return to Washington on Wednesday morning.

“We have a major agenda to complete before the term is done,” she said.

“When you go into this business, you know you’re going to go before the voters every two years,” Johnson added. “Two people chose to run. That might not have been the greatest decisions they’ve made.”

But she said that anytime she has a challenger, she takes it seriously.

Despite President Barack Obama’s recent support for same-sex marriage, Johnson said she doesn’t expect any pro-gay legislation to come before the full House of Representatives during the current term. She said Democrats are struggling to keep bad legislation from passing but added that she thinks the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has a chance in the next session.

“It depends on what happens in November,” she said. “If we [Democrats] get a majority, I predict it will pass.”

She even held out hope for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“People are becoming more educated,” she said.

Johnson is now a sponsor of the bill that would repeal DOMA.

At Clayton’s watch party at Cedars Social in South Dallas, about 30 people crammed into corners of the restaurant and bar to talk above the noise and music to socialize and discuss the campaign’s efforts to force a runoff with Johnson.

John Tackaberry, an openly gay campaign consultant for Clayton, said the low voter turnout overall in the late primary was “unfortunate” and affected Clayton’s chances.

“It’s unfortunate that the calendar was against Taj and all the candidates,” he said. “If [the primary] had been in March, it would have been more competitive.”

• Lesbian Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez won the Democratic Primary in a landslide. With more than half of precincts reporting, Valdez had 74 percent of the vote to challenger Charlie Thomas’ 26 percent. Valdez will face Republican Kirk Launius in November as she seeks a third four-year term.

Valdez said she felt “darn good” about the results and was honored by the support from Dallas County Democrats, adding that the fight for her re-election is not over as her attention now turns to the general election.

“We’re going to have to do a pretty aggressive campaign in the general election,” she said. “It would be good to have just as good a result in the general as in the primary.”

• In Denton County, openly gay candidate for Denton County Democratic Party chair John McClelland lost to Phyllis Wolper.

• In Harris County, openly gay 215th District Court Judge Steven Kirkland lost his primary to Houston attorney Elaine Palmer. Kirkland received 38 percent of the vote to Palmer’s 62 percent. Kirkland has held the seat since 2008.  Meanwhile, gay interim Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis beat Houston attorney Keryl Douglas. Lewis captured 55 percent of the vote.

• In Travis County, lesbian Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg beat challenger Charlie Baird with 74 percent to win her a second term. But John Sisson, an openly gay deputy constable challenging incumbent Greg Hamilton for Travis County sheriff, lost as he received only 28 percent of the vote.

 

 

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