Numerous LGBT candidates file for office up and down the ballot
JAMES RUSSELL | Staff Writer
The deadline for individuals to appear on the March 1 primary election ballot ended Monday, Dec. 14.
Now the race to March 1 begins.
That’s when primaries for the two main parties, Democrats and Republicans, take place. (The Green and Libertarian parties both hold their nominating conventions later in the year.)
While many political junkies have their eyes on the presidential race, plenty of other offices are up for grabs, too. That includes all Congressional seats and state house seats, as well as other statewide offices, such as the office of railroad commissioner where Republican incumbent David Porter withdrew at the last minute.
Numerous state senate seats and state board of education seats are up for grabs as well.
In Harris County alone, seven LGBT candidates are vying for offices ranging from Congress to county commissioner. Pat Bryan is an out gay man running against
incumbent Republican Rep. Ted Poe, a rabidly anti-LGBT legislator.
Bryan, in an e-mail to the Houston Chronicle, described himself as the “gay, recovering alcoholic, ex-convict with Aspberger’s syndrome running for Congress to defeat Ted
Poe in the Texas Second Congressional District. So you can see I do not have many secrets.”
Jennifer Rene Pool, who is transgender, is vying for a seat on the Harris County Commissioners Court. She previously was a candidate for Houston City Council.
Down the ballot, voters will decide contested races for county commissioner, treasurer and a number of judicial seats as well.
Given Texas’ deeply Republican tilt, the balance of power may not change. But another shift is occurring for sure: the number of out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates vying for office is increasing. An informal count of out candidates this cycle is near 20.
That includes two incumbent Democratic state legislators, Reps. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso and Celia Israel of Austin. Gonzalez is running for her third term and faces a primary opponent. Israel, who is running for her second full term, is unopposed in her primary but will have a Republican challenger.
Additionally, two out candidates are running for open state house seats. Democrat Ruby Resendez, the former director of the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce, is running for an open San Antonio House seat being vacated by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who is running for Senate.
Huey Rey Fischer (no relation to Rep. Fischer) is running to replace retiring Rep. Elliot Naishtat, a longtime representative who withdrew his candidacy and announced his retirement on Friday, Dec. 11.
Fischer, who identifies as queer, is the son of an undocumented immigrant who has been actively involved in Democratic politics and is a former legislative staff member.
He cites former state Rep. Glen Maxey, an out gay Austin Democrat, as a model legislator.
If elected, Fischer would be the youngest member of the Texas Legislature and the third out member in the chamber along with Israel and Gonzalez.
“I’m not only looking to fill Naishtat’s shoes but to keep pushing the ball on progressive causes. I’m going in with all my heart,” Fischer said.
Those progressive causes include LGBT issues.
“We need to give communities the flexibility to enact nondiscrimination ordinances and end employment discrimination. We need to tackle violence targeting the LGBT community. We need to tackle LGBT youth homelessness. We have [to try to] end gay conversion therapies,” Fischer said. “Marriage equality was a huge step for LGBT equality, but we can’t forget other issues.”
He sounds just as passionate about other progressive issues as well like increasing the minimum wage, lifting restrictions on access to abortion and make college more affordable.
“I come from a working class background. My mom is undocumented. At the end of the day poverty is at the core of every single issue, like racism and classism. We need more people who get what it means to take care of working class Texans.”
The race may be packed with viable candidates, but Fischer’s not going negative.
Fischer, who served as president of the University of Texas at Austin chapter of the University Democrats, is confident he will win the packed March primary, the main battle in this solidly Democratic district.
“I’m excited about the race,” Fischer said. “It’s gonna be fun. I’m gonna stay positive.”
In Dallas County, out lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez is running for re-election. She is unopposed in the Democratic primary but will face one of three Republicans in the November general election.
And in a last minute twist, incumbent County Commissioner Theresa Daniel will face first-time candidate and out gay man Ryan Minyard.
Minyard, who is 28 and an Alabama native, filed 30 minutes before the filing deadline at Dallas County Democratic Party Headquarters.
Before moving to Dallas a few years ago, he mulled a bid for county commissioner in Alabama, where he is from.
“I looked at running [in Alabama] but was bullied out of it,” Minyard said. “I told myself never again.”
But of all races, why county commissioner?
“There are not a lot of things you can do. It’s not necessarily about policy but administration,” Minyard said. “I’ve seen people abused in the county and not know where to go. I want to see the court have an open door policy where people express their concerns in an open forum.”
Running as an openly gay man certainly means Minyard would advocate for the LGBT community, but he would support other issues, too.
“Dallas County may be Democratic and have a lot of accepting people, but it still matters I’m gay,” Minyard said. “There are still people who are anti-gay here. It shouldn’t have a huge impact when it comes to how things are done. If my orientation has a positive impact, then good. If it has a negative impact, so be it. I’m gay, but I’m also so much more.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2015.