Group’s screenings for primary run from Friday night through Sunday morning and are open to the public, but only members can vote on slate
With 57 of the 77 Democratic candidates in Dallas County scheduled to interview with Stonewall Democrats this weekend, the group is preparing for a tightly scheduled, three-day marathon endorsement meeting.
The screenings begin from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, April 13, at CWA Local 6215, 1408 N. Washington Ave. They continue Saturday and Sunday in the Vixin
Lounge at Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton. The screenings are open to the public, but no audio or video recording is allowed. Only Stonewall members who are current 30 days prior to the meetings can vote, participate in deliberations and ask the candidates questions. But to vote they must be present for all candidates in a race.
“If you vote in a race, you have to be witness to the interviews of every candidate in that race,” Stonewall political chair Clinton said.
Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said the endorsements are very important because Stonewall is the largest Democratic group in the area and has a 70 to 75 percent success rate in endorsing candidates who are later elected.
Many organizations also rely on Stonewall’s decision to base their own endorsement because some clubs don’t conduct their own screenings, he said.
“It’s so important to get the right person and to screen for the right person,” Narvaez said.
Clinton was appointed last year by Narvaez to serve as the political chair. As such, his main job is to organize and run the endorsement screenings.
Screenings are each 10 minutes long and consist of a three-minute intro that allows the candidates to address the audience. Candidates are then asked three questions that have been selected prior to the screening and are not revealed until the interview, Clinton said.
“The questions generally fall into specific LGBT-issue questions and perhaps questions related to a candidate’s activity as far as campaigning or issues related to the Democratic platform,” he said. “I wouldn’t say they’re gotcha questions.”
The questionnaires sent out to the candidates ask them eight to 10 questions in preparation for the endorsement screening, Clinton said, adding that the interviews help the members who have not seen the questionnaire answers better understand the candidate’s views.
“We want them to have a sense of what Stonewall is interested in, which has a dual purpose of working to improve the quality of life for members of the LGBT community, but it’s also a Democratic club,” he said. “Sometimes those work hand in hand and sometimes there’s a little bit of distance between the two.”
Clinton said about 30 percent of the decision is from the questionnaire answers, 30 percent from the research individuals have conducted into a candidate and the other 40 percent is from the questions the audience asks in the candidates’ remaining time.
While the scheduling has been a bit hectic with one of the most compact schedules for the screenings planned, Clinton said his work and the work of the endorsement committee will prove successful when the members vote on who to endorse.
“My wife could probably attest that I’ve had better days, but I see light at the end of the tunnel, and I think we’re going to have a good endorsement process,” he said. “There are some races from my conversations with people there might be some surprises.”
For a full schedule of the candidate screenings, visit StonewallDemocratsofDallas.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 13, 2012.