Stonewall Democrats member calls leader’s praise of 1 candidate “‘slap in face’ to others
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ candidate forum this week featured four mayoral hopefuls looking for support, one councilwoman seeking re-election to an Oak Lawn council seat, two gay candidates competing for an Oak Cliff council seat and two members who went for each other’s throats.
Candidate forums like this tend to attract a larger audience. But the number of participants at the group’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Feb. 20, seemed to be fewer and more subdued than usual.
Group spokesman L.D. Carter said he was also surprised not to see a larger turnout.
“Sometimes, there’s standing room only,” he said.
Carter attributed the lack of enthusiasm to the municipal election still being too far off to fully engage the gay political group’s members. The endorsement meeting on March 18 is still about another month away, he noted.
“It’s still a little too early,” he said.
It looked like it might also be a little early for the candidates because none of them seemed primed for the kind of battle we’ve come to expect in Dallas’ mayoral elections.
Lining up in alphabetical order, the candidates made their pitches.
Sam Coats, a former corporate executive and newcomer to city politics, told the group Dallas “doesn’t need another rock star” to be mayor, in an apparent reference to the glamour Mayor Laura Miller has brought to the office. It instead needs a choir director, he said.
Larry Duncan, a former four-term Dallas City Council member and trustee for the Dallas Independent School District, said the city is headed for a crisis, and he knows how to stop it.
“This city is headed down,” Duncan said. “If New York can go from worst to first, then there’s no reason we can’t.”
Roger Herrera, who has been sniping at Ed Oakley on dallasblog.com, was expected to liven things up. But he instead launched into the story of his life. He had just gotten to the point where he had joined the Navy and learned for the first time in his life “what it really means to be loved by another person” when Stonewall President Jesse Garcia told him his time was up just when he had everybody’s undivided attention.
Oak Cliff Councilman Ed Oakley, who seemed to be keeping as much distance between himself and Herrera as possible during the evening, reminded everyone that he was instrumental in getting the sexual orientation provision of the anti-discrimination ordinance passed, the city’s domestic partner benefits policy approved and enlisting other City Council members to ride in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
The only loud applause of the evening came when Councilwoman Angela Hunt went to the podium.
“I love my job,” said Hunt, who promised to keep fighting for neighborhoods and against crime.
Herbie Foster and Joseph Hernandez, who are both gay men living in Oak Cliff’s District 3, rounded out the forum. Both said they care about the district and want to serve the residents.
In a brief question-and-answer session, the candidates were asked about their positions on the redevelopment of Oak Lawn, clean air and the crystal meth epidemic.
Garcia was just moments away from closing the meeting when the only sparks of the evening flew.
When longtime group leader Shannon Bailey went to the podium to ask members to join him in helping Oakley stuff envelopes for a campaign mailing and praised the gay councilman, an outraged Mike Martin stood up and objected.
Martin complained that the announcement was insulting to the other three mayoral candidates who had come to the meeting seeking support for their campaigns. Two of them Coats and Duncan are straight.
“That’s a slap in the face to every other candidate who is here tonight,” Martin said.
Martin apologized to the other mayoral candidates for Bailey’s announcement, and Herrera thanked him for “having the guts to do that.”
When the meeting closed, Martin and Bailey stepped to the side and hashed it out.
Afterwards, Bailey insisted that he had done nothing wrong. It was group politics as usual, he said.
“He hates me,” Bailey said. “I don’t hate him, but it happens at almost every meeting.”
Maybe so, but it was the most captivating moment of the evening.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 23, 2007