Gays pick up ally on council; Gandara falls in schools race

Posted on 14 May 2009 at 7:05pm
By John Wright News Editor

Ann Margolin pledges support; LGBT precincts go against Prop 1


Ann Margolin

The LGBT community picked up an ally on the Dallas City Council in the form of Ann Margolin in May 9 municipal elections, according to Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

But the only openly gay candidate endorsed by DGLA, Cassandra "Cassie" Gandara, was handily defeated in her bid to become the first-ever Hispanic member of the Board of Trustees at Dallas County Schools.

All told, eight of 12 candidates endorsed by DGLA this year won their races, while three lost and one advanced to a runoff.

"I would say overall I’m very pleased," Fink said this week.

"We’re of course disappointed that some of our endorsed candidates did not win, but I think across the slate we did pretty well," she added.

Fink said one of the high points of the election for the LGBT community was a victory by Margolin over Brint Ryan in District 13. Margolin will replace Councilman Mitchell Rasansky, who’s stepping down due to term limits.

Rasansky has never been a strong supporter of the LGBT community, according to Fink, and at one point he was the only one of 14 council members who hadn’t appeared in the annual gay Pride parade.

Margolin completed the DGLA endorsement process during the campaign, filling out a questionnaire and conducting an interview with the group’s political action committee. But Margolin declined to formally seek DGLA’s backing, possibly because she feared it would be used against her by Ryan, who didn’t respond to the group’s endorsement packet at all.

"I think she will be an ally of our community, and I think she has a strong track record as a very fair-minded public servant," Fink said of Margolin. "That will be a major change in that district and I think the LGBT residents and voters in District 13 will find that they have a strong supporter in Ann Margolin, and she will find that there are many LGBT supporters in District 13."

In an e-mail to Dallas Voice this week, Margolin said she was "thrilled to have so much support from the gay and lesbian community." The North Dallas district reportedly has a rapidly growing LGBT population.

"I want Dallas to be a city with a seat at the table for everyone and will work to make that happen," Margolin said. "I support diversity and my door is always open to discuss any issue of concern."

In the race to fill the other open seat on the City Council, DGLA-endorsed candidate Delia Jasso was the top vote-getter and advanced to a June 13 runoff in District 1.

Jasso will face off against Justin Epker as they vie to replace Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia, who’s also stepping down due to term limits.

Garcia, who’s expected to run for Dallas County Commissioners Court next year, has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community.

Jasso appears to be the favorite heading into the District 1 runoff, having captured 43 percent of the vote to Epker’s 36 percent. Epker didn’t respond to DGLA’s endorsement packet at all.

District 1 also featured the only openly gay candidate running for City Council this year, Daniel Benchot. Benchot finished fifth in a field of six candidates, capturing just 4 percent of the vote.

The other council race that’s headed to a runoff is in District 7, where DGLA-endorsed candidate Anthony "Tony" Rios was eliminated. Fink said DGLA will consider re-endorsing in the runoff, which pits incumbent Carolyn Davis against challenger Ron Price. Neither Davis nor Price responded to DGLA’s endorsement packet.

In District 5, where incumbent Vonciel Jones-Hill won re-election, DGLA-endorsed candidate Don Robinson finished third with 17 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, seven incumbents backed by DGLA were re-elected: Pauline Medrano (District 2), Dave Neumann (District 3), Steve Salazar (District 6), Sheffie Kadane Jr. (District 9), Linda Koop (District 11), Ron Natinsky (District 12) and Angela Hunt (District 14).

DGLA didn’t make endorsements in Districts 4, 8 or 10.

"We’re very positive and very optimistic about the council as a whole in going forward working with our community," Fink said. "I think we’ve got a lot of good supporters and advocates even though we don’t have an openly LGBT person on the council at present."

In the Dallas County Schools race, DGLA-endorsed candidate and longtime LGBT ally Larry Duncan was the top vote-getter among four candidates seeking two seats. But the other DGLA-endorsed candidate for the Board of Trustees, Gandara, finished third with 16 percent of the vote. Duncan and second-place finisher Mary Darby won the two seats.

Dallas County Schools provides transportation and other services to the 14 independent school districts in the county, and Gandara would have been the first Hispanic and first openly LGBT member of the Board of Trustees.

Fink said she believes Gandara fell victim to a lack of education among voters, many of whom voted for only one candidate when they could have voted for two.

With 129,747 voters going to the polls in the county, there were fewer than 100,000 ballots cast out of a possible 259,494 in the Dallas County Schools race.

"I think the whole idea of voting for two is sort of foreign to most people," Fink said. "I think that was very confusing for a lot of voters and I think it hurt Cassie obviously a great deal."

Fink also said she was again disappointed by overall voter turnout in municipal elections, which was about 11 percent countywide.

As usual, turnout was higher in what are considered to be the six most heavily LGBT precincts in Dallas, with about 24 percent of registered voters going to the polls, according to statistics compiled by Dallas Voice.

The six most heavily LGBT precincts voted heavily against Proposition 1, which would have barred the city of Dallas from building and owning a proposed $500 million Convention Center hotel.

Sixty-one percent of voters in the six most heavily gay precincts voted against Prop 1, compared to 51 percent citywide.

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce was among the groups opposing Prop 1.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 15, 2009.

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