FROM STAFF REPORTS
Dallas will go another two years without an openly gay person on its 15-member City Council — unless someone comes out.
Three gay candidates running in two districts were defeated in Municipal Elections on Saturday, the fourth consecutive cycle in which the city’s voters have failed to elect an openly LGBT person to the council.
Dallas school board member Adam Medrano, the nephew of term-limited incumbent Pauline Medrano, soundly defeated out candidates Herschel Weisfeld and Vernon Franko in City Council District 2, which covers much of the traditional gayborhood. And Jennifer Staubach Gates, the daughter of Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, trounced gay businessman Leland Burk in District 13, a conservative area that covers all of Preston Hollow.
Medrano, who’s been on the DISD board since 2006, refused to answer questions about his sexual orientation during his City Council race, despite an arrest 13 years ago in connection with homosexual activity in a public restroom. If Medrano were to come out as gay after the election, he would give the city its first out representative on the council since 2007. With 49 of 50 precincts reporting, Medrano had 58 percent of the vote, followed by Weisfeld with 36 percent.
Medrano thanked dozens of supporters who attended his watch party at Peak & Elm Cocina Y Bar, reminding them that he would follow through on campaign promises and still be involved with the schools.
“I promise to work hard for District 2 just as I‘ve done on the school board. I’m going to put our neighborhoods first,” he said. “And I’m not leaving DISD. … I’m going to miss it but I’m not leaving.”
During Medrano’s speech, Mayor Mike Rawlings showed up.
“OK, now it just sunk in,” he said when Rawlings shook his hand amid cheers.
Weisfeld and his supporters gathered at ilume to watch election results come in. Weisfeld brought up the large number of mail-in ballots that were a big part of the difference in the race. But he said he was glad he received more than a third of the vote and still planned to be involved in various city causes and projects.
“I’m proud of our community that stood up for a first-time candidate,” he said.
He added that he would be willing to work with Medrano on LGBT issues and would gladly serve on Medrnao’s staff as an LGBT liaison.
“I look forward to working with Adam if he’ll have me,” Weisfeld said. “I would be willing to be an out and open liaison to gay community to advise him on LGBT issues if he’ll add me to his administration.”
In other races of interest to the LGBT community, Councilman Scott Griggs handily defeated Councilwoman Delia Jasso in North Oak Cliff’s District 1. Griggs and Jasso, two incumbents who are both LGBT allies, were placed in the same district when council maps were redrawn in 2011. Jasso’s defeat means another council member will have to take over the LGBT Task Force she launched after she was first elected in 2009. Griggs, the author of a proposed council resolution backing marriage equality, has said he’d be willing to take over the Task Force, but it’s unclear if that will happen. With 27 of 28 precincts reporting, Griggs had 61 percent of the vote to Jasso’s 39 percent.
Griggs said he’d like to move the vote on his marriage equality resolution — currently set for June 12 — to the same date as a Pride Month kickoff at City Hall, now set for June 5.
“If the opportunity comes up, I’d welcome sponsoring the LGBT Task Force,” Griggs said.
Griggs said he would like to move in the direction of a Human Rights Commission. He said a standing commission would have more transparency, be more formalized and come under the open meetings act, but he said he’d like to see the Task Force continue as an advisory body.
But Griggs said his main concern is addressing quality of life issues and service requests in his district.
Former Old Oak Cliff Conservation League President Michael Amonett said he expects continued good things from Griggs.
“Honesty, fairness and an open door policy under his leadership,” Amonett said.
Meanwhile, Bobby Abtahi and Philip Kingston advanced to a June 15 runoff in District 14, which covers parts of Oak Lawn, downtown and East Dallas. The race featured seven candidates vying to replace staunch LGBT ally Angela Hunt, who was term limited. Hunt endorsed Kingston, but many in the LGBT community got behind Abtahi. Jim Rogers, who also had his share of LGBT support, finished third and out of the runoff. Kingston captured 33 percent of the vote to Abtahi’s 25 percent and Rogers’ 18 percent.
“We feel very confident going into the runoff,” Kingston said at his Election Night watch party at the Pour House on Skillman.
Abtahi, whose supporters gathered at the Stackhouse on Gaston, said: “We’re exactly where we want to be.”
In other races, anti-gay incumbent Vonciel Hill cruised to re-election in District 3, defeating gay-friendly challenger Claudia Meyer. Hill is the lone sitting Dallas City Council member who has refused to appear in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
In District 6 in North Dallas, Lee Kleinman defeated Ori Raphael in the race to replace term-limited incumbent Linda Koop, who has been supportive of the LGBT community. In Pleasant Grove’s District 5, Rick Callahan and Jesse Diaz are headed to a runoff. Diaz is endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
In the District 7 Dallas school board race, openly gay challenger Arturo “Art” Sierra was defeated by incumbent Eric Cowan. Incumbent Lew Blackburn, who was instrumental in pushing through an LGBT-inclusive bullying policy in 2010, was re-elected in District 5.
And in Fort Worth, openly gay school board member Carlos Vasquez is headed to a runoff in District 1 against challenger Jacinto A. Ramos Jr.
Vasquez has faced his share of opposition within the LGBT community, including from openly gay City Councilman Joel Burns.
“Congrats to friend JaCinto Ramos Jr. on coming in a strong 1st with 46% against an incumbent and former incumbent,” Burns wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “On to the runoff for the next FWISD Trustee!”
In Plano, Harry LaRosiliere was elected the city’s first black mayor. LaRosilier attended a kickoff for Collin County’s gay Pride event in March and organizers have said they believe he’ll be an ally.
In San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro, an outspoken supporter of marriage equality, was re-elected to a third two-year term.
Two Pflugerville school board members targeted for supporting domestic partner benefits won re-election Saturday, while El Paso voters approved a charter amendment adding gay employees to the city’s nondiscrimination policy.