Tom Leppert is running for Senate, but Chris Heinbaugh will remain in the mayor’s office

In case you missed it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate today.

Not long after Leppert’s video announcement (above) was posted to his campaign website, we spoke with his openly gay chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Chris Heinbaugh.

Leppert, who announced his resignation Wednesday, will remain mayor until 11:59 p.m. today, at which point Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will take over.

Heinbaugh declined to publicly comment on the Twitter message sent out by Leppert on Wednesday, in which he slammed President Barack Obama for ordering the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Heinbaugh, who is no longer handling media calls for Leppert, advised Instant Tea to contact the mayor’s Senate campaign office about the tweet. We left a message with campaign spokeman Shawn McCoy but haven’t heard back.

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Heinbaugh did tell us that he plans to remain in the mayor’s office to help Caraway, who will serve out the remainder of Leppert’s term — until a new mayor is elected in May and sworn in in June. In other words, Heinbaugh will not be going to work on Leppert’s campaign.

“I’m gonna be here for a while,” Heinbaugh said from City Hall. “I’m just going to continue on in the office and do whatever I can to help Mr. Caraway. If I can make it a good, stable, smooth transition, then great.”

Heinbaugh said he won’t serve as Caraway’s chief of staff, and it’s still unclear what exactly his role will be. However, he said both Caraway and City Manager Mary Suhm have expressed a desire for him to stay on.

“We’ve got a lot of things going, and they don’t just stop if the mayor walks our the door,” Heinbaugh said.

We asked Heinbaugh about the challenge of working for Caraway, whose recent missteps have prompted concerns from other council members about him serving as mayor — even temporarily.

“Mr. Caraway is a good guy,” Heinbaugh responded. “I’ve known him for a long, long time. Ever since I moved to Dallas, I’ve known him. His heart is in the right place, and he will work very hard for the next four months.

“Over and over again he’s said, ‘I’m not going to start some new initiative — dig up Main Street and stick a river down it,’” Heinbaugh said. “We’re just going to continue the things that are already moving forward. I’m here to help him do that as long as he wants me here.”

—  John Wright

A week before the Super Bowl, gay candidate kicks off City Council bid in host city Arlington

Hightower in his fourth-grade Hill Highlander uniform.

A week before Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, openly gay Realtor Chris Hightower is set to kick off his campaign for the District 5 seat on the City Council.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Hightower, he would be the first openly gay city councilmember in Arlington’s history.

Chris Hightower

Hightower is an Arlington native who is the son of former Democratic State Rep. Paula Pierson. He lives with his partner in the historic “azalea house” at Park Row and Davis, according to his campaign website:

I am running for City Council because I love Arlington,” Hightower writes. “From the classrooms of my childhood to the elected offices of today, I have witnessed firsthand what good can come from the hard work of those who care about our hometown. They have made this city into the place that I love. Now, it is time for my generation to step forward and provide leadership for our city’s future just as the generations before us have. It is my hope that children living in Arlington today choose to stay here and raise their families — not because they see the great things I saw in our city while I was growing up, but because they saw something even better.”

Hightower is trying to unseat District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff, who is seeking a fifth term on the council. Other candidates expected to run in District 5 include attorney Terry Meza and UTA student Christopher McCain.

According to his Facebook page, Hightower will host a kickoff party at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2316 Woodsong Trail in Arlington.

He becomes the second candidate from Texas endorsed by the Victory Fund this year, joining Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s seeking re-election to his District 9 seat.

The other known openly gay candidate in North Texas is James Nowlin, who plans to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council if incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

—  John Wright

Nowlin throws hat in ring to replace Hunt in District 14

James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Angela Hunt decides to run for mayor, the gayest council district in Dallas will be open, and at least one gay man has already announced he is throwing his hat into the District 14 ring.

James Nowlin, 30, has lived in Dallas since 2006. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and Duke University School of Law.

In 2007, he and a business partner he started Excel Global Partners, a corporate financial consulting and professional services staffing company. He said he maintains his law license.

If elected, Nowlin would become the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council. Hunt now holds that title; she was first elected at age 33.

Hunt appointed Nowlin to the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board, from which he recently resigned after deciding to run for office.

He has also serves on the board of AIDS Services Dallas and attends of Cathedral of Hope and Unity Church of Christianity.

Nowlin has already put up a campaign website and named Bill Prather as his treasurer.

While this is the first time he’s running for office, it is not Nowlin’s first campaign. In 2010, he served on the steering committee for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s campaign.

“I’ve been talking to Angela for more than a year about succeeding her,” Nowlin said Thursday, Jan. 13.

If she decides to run for re-election rather than for mayor, he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Among the issues Nowlin said his campaign would address are the budget, public safety, economic development, infrastructure and other issues of importance to the LGBT community and the community at large.

District 14 includes parts of East Dallas and Oak Lawn. If elected, Nowlin would be the first gay representative from the district since Craig McDaniel was elected to that seat in 1993 as the city’s first openly gay council member.

For more information, visit JamesNowlin.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Fla. governor says it’s OK to discriminate based on sexual orientation, age, handicap, religion

Rick Scott

New Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and teabagger, has issued a non-discrimination order for state employees that not only fails to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but also leaves out some categories that are already protected under state law.

The South Florida Gay News reports that Scott’s nondiscrimination order includes only “race, gender, creed, color and national origin.” The Florida Civil Rights Act – which is state law and trumps Scott’s order — includes “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status.”

Gay-rights advocates had lobbied Scott to include sexual orientation and gender identity in his nondiscrimination order. Needless to say, they are disappointed:

“Governor Scott’s limited view of diversity is very discouraging,” said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Governor Scott did not even include all of the classifications listed in the Florida Civil Rights Act — let alone sexual orientation and gender identity.”

More on Scott from the Wonk Room:

Scott positioned himself as a social conservative during his election campaign, although he rarely addressed equality issues on the stump. He reiterating his support for the state’s now defunct anti-gay adoption law, saying he opposed to “single sex adoption” and insisting that “Children should be raised in a home with a married man and a woman.” His campaign website also says that marriage should be between one man and one woman. During his well publicized brawl with primary challenger and former Attorney General Bill McCollum, Scott attacked McCollum for endorsing the “pro-homosexual rights candidate Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008.″

—  John Wright

Bill White’s big gay breakfast in Austin

Looks like the gays in Austin hosted a breakfast for Bill White, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, on Wednesday morning. Above is a screen shot of the invitation from White’s campaign website.

If you weren’t invited, don’t feel bad, because neither was Instant Tea. But we’ll post pics or video if any turn up. And just because you missed the breakfast doesn’t mean you can’t help out, according to Equality Texas on Twitter. Make a contribution to White’s campaign on the site.

It’s nice to see White reaching out to the gays, and maybe he’ll duplicate this breakfast in other cities around the state. We understand the concerns about anti-gay Republican Gov. Rick Perry using this stuff against him, but White is trailing in the race by 7 points, according to the latest poll. What does he really have to lose?

UPDATE: We found some pics and they are here.

—  John Wright