Democratic LGBT activists are pleased about the recent defections of two local officials from the Republican Party.
State Rep. Kirk England, R-Grand Prairie, and Dallas Criminal Court Judge John Creuzot announced last week they will seek re-election as Democrats in 2008.
“It’s a very good trend for anyone’s who’s progressive,” said Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
England’s switch from Republican to Democrat is unprecedented for Texas in recent years and narrows the GOP majority in the House to 80-70.
“All we need now is another six seats, and that could happen,” Garcia said.
Creuzot is a former Democrat-turned-Republican who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Ann Richards. He became a Republican in 1995 in the wake of the party’s successes of 1994. But Dallas’ countywide Democratic sweep of 2006 prompted him to head back across the aisle, and the same is expected of other local judges.
England, who defeated Democrat Katy Hubener by fewer than 200 votes in November, said in a statement that his disappointment with House Speaker TomCraddick, R-Midland, prompted the switch.
“In December of 2005, when I filed to run for office, I made a promise to the hardworking families in our community to fight for our public schools, fight for affordable health care and to fight for them on pocketbook issues,” England said. “After one session in the House, I found that the Republican leadership in Austin had no tolerance for the values and priorities of the folks I represent.”
Hubener is a straight member of Stonewall Democrats and has not made an announcement about whether she plans to run again, Garcia said.
“Right now we’re awaiting her decision,” Garcia said. “Katie’s always been a strong supporter of the LGBT community.”
Garcia said Stonewall members also planned to reach out to England previously viewed as a moderate Republican to try to learn more about his record.
Paul Scott, executive director of Equality Texas, said England voted in favor of some gay-friendly bills during this year’s General Session but was not a champion of the statewide LGBT organization’s causes.
“Specifically, with regard to Kirk England, we see that he was not one of our opponents,” Scott said.
Although Equality Texas is nonpartisan, it typically gets a better response from Democrats, Scott added.
“Every single seat has such importance going into the next legislative session,” he said.
Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, questioned Creuzot’s integrity but refrained from commenting on England’s decision.
“It seems like the judge just did it out of strategy to stay elected, but I can’t speak for the representative,” Schlein said.
Schlein added he believes that Mayor Tom Leppert’s victory over former City Councilman Ed Oakley this summer dispels the notion that the defections reflect any “big trend.”
“From what I’m hearing and seeing, the Democratic vote from 2006 didn’t get bigger; the Republicans just stayed home,” Schlein said. “I kind of question whether that’s a trend or it was a blip. My own feeling is that it was a blip.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 28, 2007