GLBT political organization’s leaders encouraged by number of qualified candidates seeking group’s backing
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed a record 66 candidates in the March 7 Democratic Primary after screening 82 candidates last Saturday and Sunday, according to Jesse Garcia, communications director for the organization.
Michael Moon, Stonewall president, said the number of candidates seeking the gay organization’s endorsement is an encouraging sign.
“In the past, we have had candidates one or two who were supportive of our community but didn’t ask for our endorsement because, given the districts they were in, our endorsement would have worked against them. But all these candidates asked for our endorsement, and I think that says a lot about the strength in our community now.”
Garcia said the qualifications of the candidates were also impressive.
“We had seasoned attorneys, educators and business professionals who really want to create change and are doing so proudly with an LGBT endorsement on their campaign materials,” Garcia said.
Each candidate seeking Stonewall’s endorsement was asked how he or she voted on Proposition 2, the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment approved by voters last fall. Only one said he voted for the amendment, and another refused to answer, Moon said.
“Needless to say, neither of them got our endorsement,” he added.
John Warren, a candidate for Dallas County Clerk, said in the early stages of his campaign that he voted for the amendment because of his religious beliefs, Moon said. But at the weekend screening sessions, Warren said he now regrets that vote, “and he seemed really sincere about it,” Moon said.
“John Warren is a prime example of where our community can do some education. He knew on Saturday he wouldn’t get our endorsement because of that vote. But he came and he asked for it anyway,” Moon said. “A lot of these candidates are first-time candidates. But by coming to our meetings and talking to us, they have become more educated on our issues. That has an affect on how they would vote on things, and it’s something our community needs to do more of.”
Barbara Mallory Caraway, a candidate for the District 110 seat in the Texas House, “got very defensive” and refused to answer when she was asked about her vote on Proposition 2.
“She was very evasive and her answers on gay marriage were very convoluted. As the screening session went on, the questions started to get a little hostile and she eventually said she wasn’t actually asking for our endorsement,” Moon said.
Stonewall ended up endorsing the District 110 incumbent, Jesse Jones, in the District 110 race. It was the first time Jones has sought an endorsement from a GLBT group, and he gave an impressive presentation, Garcia said.
Six of the organization’s gay members are on the primary ballot.
Two of those, Jack Borden and Tom Malin, are running against each other for the Democratic nomination for the District 108 seat in the Texas House. Stonewall endorsed Malin in that race, but delayed that decision for a day while the organization’s leaders investigated allegations about Malin. Moon declined to disclose the allegations but said the organization had found nothing to support them.
Other gay Stonewall members who received the organization’s endorsement were Gary Fitzsimmons, who is unopposed in the primary in his race for Dallas County District Clerk; Andy Smith, who faces Allen Vaught in the race for the District 107 seat in the Texas House; Jim Foster who is unopposed in the primary in the race for Dallas County Judge; and incumbent Mike Dupree, facing challenger Jaime Cortes in the primary race for constable, Precinct 5.
Both Vaught and Cortes also screened with Stonewall and asked for the endorsement.
Of the 62 candidates Stonewall has endorsed, 11 face opposition in the primary. Among them is Larry Jarrett, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Marine who is running against B.D. Howard and Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney. Watkins also screened with Stonewall.
“In a race like that, where we have two viable candidates who want the endorsement and who are both good on GLBT issues, the endorsement comes down to intangible things,” Moon said. “Craig Watkins is a good person and would be good on our issues, too. But when all those things are equal, it comes down to a question of how familiar our community is with the candidate, how active the candidate has been.”
He added, “Either Larry Jarrett or his campaign manager attended every one of our meetings last year. Larry was at the Pride parade. He was at our voter registration events. The people in Stonewall and in the GLBT community know him now. That swayed the vote in his favor.
In other contested races, Stonewall endorsed:
– Barbara Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer, in the race for U.S. Senate. She is running against Darrell Reece Hunter of Amarillo and Gene Kelly. Radnofsky spoke to the group in September.
– Former U.S. Representative Chris Bell in the race for governor. Former Texas Supreme Court Judge Bob Gammage also screened with the organization and asked for the endorsement. Other candidates in the primary are Rashad Jafer and Felix Alvarado.
– Scott Chase in the race for District 4 county commissioner. His opponent is Rose Renfro.
– Greg Allbright in the race for county clerk. Three other candidates screened with Stonewall, too. They are John Warren, Harry O. Trujillo and Darryl Brigham.
– Heath Harris in the race for 195th Criminal District Court judge. His primary opponent is Fred Tinsley.
– Sally Montgomery, the incumbent in the race for County Court at Law No. 3. Her opponent is Baltasar Cruz.
– Alan Barr in the race for County Criminal Court No. 6. His opponent is Angela King.
– Jeff Rosenfeld in the race for Criminal Court of Appeals No. 2. His opponent is Brian O’Shea.
Stonewall endorsed 54 candidates who are unopposed in the primary. Garcia said that going through the endorsement process with candidates who are unopposed is important because it helps “weed out those who do not support the LGBT community,” and it helps those who are supportive bring in more volunteers and contributions.
Stonewall mailed endorsement forms and questionnaires to all the candidates in the Democratic Primary three weeks before the screening sessions last weekend. Only those who reserved speaking time or returned completed questionnaires were eligible for the organization’s endorsement, Garcia said.
Early voting for the March 7 primary takes place Feb. 21 through March 3. Run-off elections, if necessary, will be held April 11, with early voting from April 3-8. The last day to register and be eligible to vote in the primary is Feb. 6. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will have a table set up and be registering voters from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Market, 3930 Cedar Springs Road.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 20, 2006.