Parker expected to win re-election in Houston

With lesbian mayor at the top of the ballot, 4 LGBTS among candidates for seats on City Council




Daniel Williams  |  Contributing Writer

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who’s 2009 election made her the first out LGBT mayor of a major American city, faces five challengers in her bid for re-election on Nov. 8, and more than one of those challengers brings a decidedly anti-gay record to the race.

Most prominent among the anti-gay candidates is Dave Wilson, who is infamous for his decades-long efforts to roll back advancements for LGBT Houstonians.

In recent weeks, the Wilson campaign has launched robocalls attacking Parker, as Wilson claims, using her position to advance her “alternative lifestyle.”

Also in the race are perennial socialist candidate Amanda Ulman, little-knowns Kevin Simms and Jack O’Conner, and Fernando Herrera.

Last year Herrera ran as the Republican candidate for Texas House District 148 against Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar. During that race Herrera responded to a questionnaire from the right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation with a statement that he opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt or be foster parents.

A poll of 748 likely voters, published by television station KHOU-Houston on Oct. 17, shows Parker with a commanding lead, with 37 percent of the respondents saying they intended to vote for her. Most pundits expect the incumbent to win re-election handily.

Her five challengers split 11 percent.

But the big winner in the poll was “Do Not Know,” the option that pulled in more than 50 percent, reflecting the disinterest most Houstonians appear have towards the race.

Council elections

Houston has a 16-member city council, made up of 11 members representing districts assigned letters A-K, and five at-large positions. All 16 council members are up for election, as is the city controller, the position Parker held before being elected mayor.

Incumbent City Controller Ronald Green is unopposed.

The lack of a real contest in the mayoral race has driven voter participation down 20 percent from the last municipal elections in 2009, sending candidates scurrying for every available vote.

With Parker at the top of the ticket, several LGBT candidates are among those vying for a seat at the council table.

In at-large position 2, transgender candidate Jenifer Rene Poole and gay candidate Bolivar “Bo” Fraga are among the crowded field of 10 jockeying for position in the race.

Poole has the support of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Young Stonewall Democrats, while Fraga has the endorsement by the term-limited position incumbent, lesbian political veteran Sue Lovell.

Other position 2 candidates are Eric Dick, Elizabeth Perez, David Robinson, Kristi Thibaut, Griff Griffin, Rozzy Shorter, Andrew Burks and Gordon Goss.

In District C, gay candidate Josh Verde is one in a field of five contenders, including former state Rep. Ellen Cohen, who has the backing of the GLBT Political Caucus and Stonewall.

Other District C candidates are Brian Cweren, Karen Derr and Joshua Verde.

Gay candidate Mike Laster enjoys the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the GLBT Political Caucus and both Stonewall clubs in his District J race. Laster has handily outstripped his two rivals — Rodrigo Canedo and Criselda Romero — in both fundraising and endorsements, but the race remains highly contested.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Granola cluster


Hot men, a funky vibe, a thriving downtown scene and easy acess to the mountains add up to make Denver the Austin of the Rockies

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

“There are two seasons in Colorado,” asserts Cartman on South Park. “Winter and July.”

That’s not really true, anymore than the cliché that Dallas is always hot. (Remember three snowstorms this year?) In fact, it’s not all that unusual to see folks walking around in shorts or without winter coats, albeit in weather that would chill most Texans.
With summer on the horizon, the already highly livable Mile High City is ideal for warmth-seekers who want to enjoy the outdoors — or the many sophisticated options Denver offers.

Some cities are tweedy; some are silky or denimy or flannely or, God bless ’em, polyester’d; Denver is a hybrid of Gor-Tex and burlap — in the best possible way.

What is it about hilly college towns with capitols that breed a certain crunchy, alternative-lifestyle vibe? Dallas doesn’t have it, unless you count Deep Ellum, which you can’t (at least not since 1996). With its comfortable, old condos and warehouses, an easygoing pace, overcast skies and small-city atmosphere, Denver resembles a Rocky Mountain version of Austin or Seattle.

But there’s more to the appeal of Denver than just the environment. Colorado is the state with the fittest population in the Union, and many of the men here exude an unpretentious, earthy masculinity — one local woman told me the unofficial nickname of the city is “Menver.” Scruffy guys are common here, hot in a granola-hiker-outdoorsy way. (Grindr, though, is a lot more popular that Scruff; go figure.)

Maybe what attracts them to this city of 600,000 is the diversity of options, from fine dining to museums to history.

It’s easiest to stay downtown, where tons of options — from a performing arts center to an urban mall with moviehouse to a full-fledged convention center — provide a hub of activity. The Hyatt Regency, a skyscraper of a hotel with an upper floor bar overlooking the Rockies, an extensive in-house gym and refreshing spa (complete with expert massages), provides a comfortable, mainstream and centrally located hotel option. Clean, well-appointed and easy to spot, it fits the bill nicely.

Denver was founded in 1858, and has long remained the hub of culture and industry in the mountainous part of the western plains. Cowboy culture exists, of course, just like in Texas, but there’s an urbane sensibility as well.

Consider the Tattered Cover, a cavernous hardwood-and-exposed-beam-and-brick bookstore and café in a former warehouse on 16th Street in LoDo (Lower Downtown). While bookstores across America are closing, Tattered Cover is a destination for locals who line up for their scones and to read a paper. Then, you can stroll around the corner and visit Rockmount Ranch Wear. The storefront for the company that invented the sawtooth pocket design and snap short buttons is a friendly place where you can see a display of their most famous shirt: The one worn by Jake Gyllenhaal (and rescued by Heath Ledger) in Brokeback

DESTINATION DOWNTOWN | Public art, thriving businesses and a free shuttle makes Denver accessible and packed with options. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Mountain. (It sold at auction for $101,000.)

Both are in the LoDo district, near the terminus of the 16th Street Mall. This mile-long plaza, designed by I.M. Pei, is served by a fast, convenient and free shuttle that makes getting from one part of town to the other a breeze. While in LoDo, visit the old Union Station, now undergoing a facelift but still operational. Across from the station, duck into the historic Oxford Hotel, a charming boutique property with an enchanting foyer (much refinished after years of disrepair following its stint as a brothel.)

In addition to accommodations, the Oxford offers food and drink worth your time. The Cruise Room Bar is a reproduction of the interior of the Queen Mary cruise ship, complete with art moderne accents and classic cocktails. Across the hall, McCormick’s prepares mouthwatering fresh-off-the-boat seafood. The clam chowder here is among the best I’ve tasted, and the crab and mango tower was heavenly.

In general, Denver is a great city to enjoy exquisite food, including seafood (unexpected for a landlocked state). I arrived during Restaurant Week, a nationwide event held in many cities throughout the year; but I have never encountered a town where diners take it so seriously.

ChoLon may be the hottest place in town, a spacious, Asian-inspired bistro from chef Lon Symensma that recalls New York’s Buddakan or Las Vegas’ Tao, both in décor and in clever twists on Vietnamese and other Asian dishes. A sesame rice cake the size of an hibiscus bloom, served with tomato chile jam, replaced the traditional bread basket, while the peanut and tamarind glaze on the lamb shank perfectly balanced its savory and sweetness.

Not far from LoDo is Larimer Square, a fashionable pocket of fine dining and high end shopping a la Highland Park (stop in at Goorin Brothers Hat Shop not just for the novelty of a hat shop, but for exquisite toppers). Local celebrichefs predominate here, including Jennifer Jasinski, chef/co-owner of Rioja, a Mediterranean restaurant of intimate charm and intense, flavorful dishes, like sturgeon with grilled artichoke and tomato tart mousse and sea scallops with a tower of potato and carrot medallions. For a quick drink, Corridor 44 is unique: A champagne bar serving flights of sparkling wine.

You can get drinks and more at the Corner Office Martini Bar and Restaurant inside the distinctly boutique-y Curtis Hotel. The food is a hodgepodge that includes yummy shishito peppers, excellent mac and cheese and delicious fish tacos, plus on Sundays a disco brunch that gives life to the campy retro character of place.

History buffs will enjoy exploring the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which currently has a massive exhibit called Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah, a slave ship that became a privateer. (The collection includes an authentic reproduction of the gally — complete with creaky floorboards and a rocking motion — as well as countless artifacts from gold coins to iron cannons to the ship’s bell, unearthed from a sandy grave after 300 years underwater.) Closer in town the Denver Art Museum houses an impressive collection of Western art as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

You can buy some of your own art from local artisans at the First Friday art walks in cultural neighborhoods across the city. The Santa Fe District boasts an eclectic array of galleries displaying everything from abstract paintings to handmade jewelry and sculpture to Warhol-esque, ultra modern art. North Denver’s Tennyson neighborhood features a different style of galleries, including bookstores, glass blowers and antique dealers. The Pattern Shop, a beautiful home and gallery in the RiNo (River North) area, is worth the trip.

Like most cities in North America, Denver celebrates its Gay Pride Week in June (PrideFest 2011 is June 18 and 19). The community in this region is sizeable, with the gayborhood in Denver concentrated on the opposite end of the mall from LoDo. It’s a refreshing walk off the shuttle to the Denver Wrangler, a neighborhood leather-and-Levis bar with pool tables and videos. On Sundays, the patio turns into brunch central, resembling a corral of beefy gay men penned for branding. Close by are JR’s Denver and Hamburger Mary’s, which are hubs of gay life here. You’ll have to take a car to get to one of the rougher clubs, Compound, but like most things in Denver, it’s worth the hike.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

A platform of ideas — bad ideas

Even conservative LGBTs shouldn’t drink the Texas GOP Kool-Aid

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

The Texas Republican Party just had their state convention here in Dallas, and it is worth noting that they passed a new platform as well. For LGBT citizens it is a very important document.

The GOP of Texas passed a platform that is more parody that politics. The vehement rhetoric contained in this document should send a clear message to the folks claiming to be LGBT Republicans that they are not listened to and not wanted in the GOP.

I am speaking of the Log Cabin crowd and the even stranger GOProud group. I ask point blank: How can you support a party who writes this into their platform?

“Homosexuality — Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual ‘couples.’

“We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

“Texas Sodomy Statutes — We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.”

For all the talk of changing the GOP from the inside that the Log Cabin Republicans use as their excuse for supporting that party, I fail to see how they have had any effect. This latest platform seems even worse than before. A giant step backwards — but I guess that is no surprise for the GOP.

As far as ENDA, well the Texas GOP made it pretty clear they don’t want any of them new-fangled equal rights laws: “ENDA — We oppose this act through which the federal government would coerce religious business owners and employees to violate their own beliefs and principles by affirming what they consider to be sinful and sexually immoral behavior.”

How about hate crimes? Well, the Texas Republicans have something to say about that as well and they wrap it in a paragraph cynically entitled “Equality of All Citizens”: “We urge immediate repeal of the Hate Crimes Law. Until the Hate Crimes Law is totally repealed, we urge the Legislature to immediately remove the education curriculum mandate and the sexual orientation category in said Law.”

Now lest you think this platform is damaging only to LGBT Texans, take heart. Anyone who works for a living is fair game as well. These two single-sentence planks made me shiver: “Workers’ Compensation — We urge the Legislature to resist making Workers’ Compensation mandatory for all Texas employers.”

And: “Minimum Wage — We believe the Minimum Wage Law should be repealed.”

Needless to say there are extensive planks about immigration and border security, and they include this little nugget, “The repeal of the birthright citizenship”: “Birthright Citizenship — We call on the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of these United States to clarify Section 1 of the 14th amendment to limit citizenship by birth to those born to a citizen of the United States: with no exceptions.”

This platform has something for everyone, or should I say against everyone. The politically astute will note that most of these changes seem to be a bow to the “tea baggers” and are simply appeasements that were never intended to be written into law. I suppose those professing to be LGBT Republicans would take this approach to reading this hate-filled document, but I think it is far more serious than that.

Writing off the party platform as inconsequential might work if you live with the cognitive dissonance that some people do. But the platform is the basis of decisions that will be made by legislators who are elected and it will be held up as a litmus test for any GOP candidate during an election.

So what is this all about? Well it’s about waking up and looking at the reality of the GOP in Texas.

The party has swung so far right it looks more like a fringe group than the mainstream. It’s time LGBT voters stopped deceiving themselves and realize the Republican Party has anything but your best interests at heart.

You can be fiscally conservative and still not drink this Kool Aid.

In fairness, I am a Democrat, and though the Democratic leadership has been disappointing in its movement forward on all LGBT issues, at least there has been some movement. Yes it’s not as fast as I would like, and yes, I criticize both my party and my president. But at least they do not believe I am somehow tearing at the moral fabric of the country by my mere existence.

So to my LGBT Republican brothers and sisters, I have to paraphrase a question from everyone’s favorite moose hunter, Sarah Palin: “How’s that whole change from the inside thing going for you?”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice