Gay municipal candidates running in Dallas, Fort Worth

Posted on 01 Feb 2013 at 8:45am
Joel.Burns

OUT IN COWTOWN | Openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns files paperwork on Wednesday to seek re-election to a third full two-year term representing District 9. (Via Facebook)

FROM STAFF REPORTS
editor@dallasvoice.com

Openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns filed for re-election to a third full two-year term this week.

Meanwhile, a gay candidate in Dallas planned to launch his bid to give Big D its first openly LGBT councilmember in six years, as candidate filing began in May 11 municipal elections.

Herschel Weisfeld, a gay Dallas real estate developer, plans to run for the District 2 seat being vacated by Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, an LGBT ally who is term limited. Medrano’s nephew, Adam Medrano, is expected to run in District 2 against Weisfeld but had not filed as of press time. Medrano resigned from his city job last month, a requirement to run for council. He could not be reached for comment.

Burns, who was first elected in 2007 to complete the remainder of Wendy Davis’ term in District 9, is one of only three openly LGBT city council members in Texas, along with Michael Laster in Houston and Scott Sherman in Pearland.

Burns will again enjoy the backing of the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a PAC that backs LGBT candidates nationwide. Weisfeld said he’ll also seek the Victory Fund’s endorsement.

Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison said many of the group’s endorsements this year would be in municipal races, which he called important.

“People feel government most acutely on a local basis,” Dison said. “Having representation at that level shows the LGBT community they have a voice in those things.”

Dison cited Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker as an example of a success story.

“Houston is topping all sorts of rankings,” he said. “It’s a success story being led by an out lesbian.”

Weisfeld noted Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the nation and said while the city has LGBT allies on the council, “There’s nothing like having one of our own at the table.”

Dallas has not had a gay council member since Ed Oakley stepped down to run for mayor in 2007.

 “I think it’s imperative,” Weisfeld said. “I think we should have a LGBT representative sitting in one of those 15 seats.”

Weisfeld, who is also Jewish and bilingual, said having someone who is open and honest about their sexual orientation is also important because it’s a small part of who he is and what he would bring to the council, as well as active involvement in the LGBT community.

“I’m not embarrassed nor am I afraid to be honest about who I am,” Weisfeld said. “My qualifications speak highly of my ability.”

In another heavily LGBT district, seven candidates have filed to run to replace Councilwoman Angela Hunt, an LGBT ally who is also term limited.

Hunt has endorsed Philip T. Kingston. Other candidates include Jim Rogers, who began a campaign for the seat in 2011 but withdrew from the race when Hunt decided to run for a fourth term. As of the first campaign finance filing, District 14 candidate Bobby Abtahi raised $60,000, more than any other council candidate in any race. Abtahi said he expected quite a few candidates to enter this race and got a jump in fundraising to stand out from the crowd. Also running in District 14 are David Blewett, Kevin Curley, Charles Kobdish and Judith Liimatainen.

In District 1, two LGBT allies and council incumbents have been placed in the same North Oak Cliff district. Councilwoman Delia Jasso created the city’s LGBT Task Force in 2009, while Councilman Scott Griggs is the author of planned resolutions in support of marriage equality and a statewide ban on anti-LGBT job discrimination.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez said his organization will endorse in City Council races again this year even though the races are nonpartisan. Screenings take place on March 9 and endorsements will be ratified on March 19.

Narvaez said Stonewall’s bylaws do not allow the group to endorse a Republican so they will check primary voting records for affiliation.

“It would be nice to have an open member of the community returned to City Council,” Narvaez said, “but we need qualified people on the council, and that’s not the only qualification.”

Narvaez said Stonewall will probably only endorse in Districts 1, 2 and 14. Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance will screen candidates separately and endorse in races throughout the city.

In Cowtown, Burns said he hasn’t heard of anyone planning to run against him, but he’s prepared for challengers. He ran unopposed for re-election in 2009 and 2011.

The only other known openly LGBT candidate in North Texas thus far is Fort Worth school board First Vice President Carlos Vasquez, who’ll be seeking re-election to his seat. Vasquez became the secondly openly gay elected official in Fort Worth when he unseated an incumbent in 2008 to win the North

Fort Worth District 1 seat. Vasquez said he hopes he won’t have an opponent but that drawing a challenger is always likely.

Candidate filing in municipal elections continues through March 1.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 1, 2013.

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