New Log Cabin chapter kicks off tonight

Posted on 31 Jan 2012 at 3:45pm

Vice President Lisa DeWitt, from left, Treasurer Van Freeman and President Thomas Purdy are among the board members for the new Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. (JOHN WRIGHT/Dallas Voice)

Three-and-a half months after National Log Cabin Republicans de-chartered the group’s previous Dallas chapter, the newly rechartered LCR affiliate will host a kickoff party tonight at Texas Land & Cattle on Lemmon Avenue in Uptown.

National Log Cabin Republicans booted the old chapter — and its President Rob Schlein — in October for engaging “in a consistent pattern of behavior that detracts from the mission of our organization.” Schlein had invited two leaders from GOProud, a competing national gay Republican group, to speak at the chapter’s annual dinner. He had also written an unsanctioned column published by Dallas Voice saying he would support Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president if Perry became the Republican nominee.

After the chapter was de-chartered by national, Schlein formed Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, which remains active. National Log Cabin, meanwhile, rechartered the Dallas chapter and installed 33-year-old Thomas Purdy as president. Purdy had been on the board of the old group.

“I just felt like it was important that the chapter and the brand continue in Dallas,” Purdy told Dallas Voice recently. “If I didn’t step in, I don’t know who would have. I feel like staying with Log Cabin I’m in a better position to affect change both on a local and national level.”

Purdy said he joined the Log Cabin chapter about 2½ years ago and had been on the board for about a year when the group was de-chartered. He said he wasn’t “a direct player” in the controversy that led to the split, but had a good relationship with the national office, which approached him about leading the new group. He noted that he called Schlein to discuss the matter before deciding to apply for a new charter, and said he’s open to working with Metroplex Republicans on some initiatives.

Purdy said the new chapter has a four-person board that’s been busy with planning for the last few months. He said the group waited until now to relaunch to “let some time pass as a sign of respect,” due to anger and hurt feelings over the split.

Purdy said he’s hoping for a turnout of 30-60 people at tonight’s meeting, where the group will unveil its mission, values and vision, and launch a membership drive. Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert and George Clayton, a gay Republican member of the State Board of Education, are expected to attend, Purdy said. Beginning in February, the Log Cabin chapter will hold regular meetings on the third Tuesday of every month, at Texas Land & Cattle.

The other board members are Vice President Lisa DeWitt, Treasurer Van Freeman and Secretary Les Reed, Purdy said. DeWitt, a 55-year-old straight ally and attorney who’s running for the Dallas County District Court No. 2 seat this year, said she first attended a Log Cabin meeting during her unsuccessful 2010 judicial campaign.

“I found the LCR club to be one of the most welcoming and informative,” she said. She continued going to meetings and received the group’s Courage to Lead award. DeWitt said even though she has a lot of friends in what is now Metroplex Republicans of Dalllas, fellowship wasn’t as important as the mission of group.

“I think it’s so important that there continue to be a Log Cabin here,” she said.

Purdy called DeWitt “our shining example on the local level” as the group tries to reach out to the county and state party, and to the broader LGBT community.

“Our job is really to make the party a more friendly party to LGBT issues,” Purdy said. “We’re in the business of building relationships.”

He acknowledged that in Texas, “It’s a tall order.”

Tonight’s Log Cabin Republicans kickoff party begins at 6:30 at Texas Land & Cattle, 3130 Lemmon Ave. For more information, email dallas@logcabin.org.

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