Candidates both tout support for LGBT community, but Jasso has DGLA endorsement; winner will replace gay ally Garcia on City Council
Early voting continues through Monday, June 9 in the special election to replace Dr. Elba Garcia in the District 1 seat on the Dallas City Council.
And both candidates in the race this week touted their support from and for the city’s LGBT community.
Delia Jasso, who brought in 42.5 percent of the ballots cast in the May city election, has been endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. Justin Epker did not screen with the DGLA PAC, but he said this week that was not intended as a slight to the community.
Epker received 36.3 percent of the votes on May 9. Four other candidates were competing for the seat in the general election.
Epker said that he did not respond to DGLA’s candidate questionnaire because he did not have the time or resources to respond to all of the screening questionnaires he received before the May 8 election.
"I am running a grassroots campaign out of my house with an army of volunteers, and I was flooded with questionnaires," Epker said. "I did the Dallas Morning News survey and a couple of other.
But then I realized that the questionnaires were taking away from my efforts to get
out there and talk to the voters face-to-face about the issues."
Epker did recently speak at a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, as did Jasso.
Despite some rumors that Epker has ties to anti-gay conservatives, the candidate said this week that he supports the LGBT community, and would continue to do so if he is elected to the council.
"I am glad the city has recognized gay and lesbian partnerships for benefits purposes. I have nothing at all against the city including gays and lesbians in its non-discrimination policy," Epker said in a telephone interview Wednesday, June 3.
"I have friends who are gay. I have members of the gay and lesbian community working on my campaign. And they are all confident they will have an ally in me on the City Council," he said.
Michael Bates, a gay real estate agent with Ebby Halliday who is treasurer for Epker’s campaign, backed up the candidate’s statements.
"Justin Epker is the most open-minded and liberal person I have ever known," Bates said. "He is a really good guy. He is my neighbor. Half our neighborhood is gay, and we all think very highly of him.
"He and his wife are the sweetest people. A lot of this conjecture is coming because he’s run a really good campaign; he’s clean, and they’ve got nothing on him," Bates said.
Adding that Epker previously worked for a gay-owned firm out of Austin, "and they think very highly of him," Bates said that while Epker may be financially conservative, sexual orientation is "just not an issue for him."
Epker said "lots of things are coming out [about him] that are untruthful" during the campaign. But he said the rumors don’t appear to be coordinated by Jasso’s campaign.
"I don’t have time for rumors," Epker said. "What is important are the issues. The issues are what I am running on. It doesn’t matter to me who you are; I have a unifying campaign. I am an independent thinker, and people respect that."
DGLA President Patti Fink said Wednesday that she has heard "wildly varying things" about Epker, "everything from he’s totally anti-gay to he’s totally liberal and supportive. I haven’t seen anything anti-gay come out of his campaign, and I wouldn’t say that he is anti-gay unless I did see or hear something that made me absolutely sure.
"But we do know that Delia Jasso is on our side. She screened with DGLA and got the endorsement. She has marched in the [Alan Ross Texas Freedom] parade before, and she has gone way beyond that in showing her support," Fink continued. "I just think it is very unfortunate that [Epker] didn’t take the time to participate in the DGLA screening process."
Jasso, for her part, said Thursday, June 4 that LGBT issues "will always be a top priority for me.
"I am very much aware that everybody deserves equal representation, equal benefits, equal everything," Jasso said. "My door will always be open. My phone number will always be available. Any concerns the LGBT community has will always be my concern. LGBT are just as important as anybody else.
"I came out front and center, first and foremost, and sought out the endorsement of DGLA, and I made sure they knew I am supportive of the LGBT community," the candidate said.
Jasso, too, pointed to her past participation in Dallas’ gay Pride parade, and noted that openly gay former City Councilmember John Loza supports her campaign. Daniel Benchot, the only openly gay candidate in the District 1 race, endorsed Jasso after placing fifth out of the six candidate field on May 9, according to Jasso’s Web site.
"Right now, we are focused on talking to the voters and making sure they know there is a runoff election on June 13, and that I am the one who has the qualifications, the experience and the dedication for the job," Jasso said. "A lot of people think I have already won because I was the top vote getter on May 9, so we are trying to make sure they know it isn’t over and that they need to get out and vote again."
Early voting continues through Monday, June 9 at the Martin Weiss Recreation Center, 1111 Martindell Ave., and at the Oak Cliff Sub-Courthouse, 410 S. Beckley Ave., in District 1.
Election day is Saturday, June 13. Jasso is the only candidate endorsed by DGLA in a runoff.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 5, 2009.