Community split over District 14 race

Angela Hunt, left, and James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Of the 14 races for Dallas City Council in the May 14 election, District 14 has been the most hotly contested race.

When incumbent Angela Hunt delayed her decision to run for re-election while considering a bid for mayor, several other candidates jumped into the race. Two withdrew after Hunt announced her intentions.

Of the remaining three challengers, James Nowlin has raised the most money. His campaign has included newspaper and billboard advertising.

Vernon Franko has also advertised consistently. Brian Oley, a fourth candidate, has done little campaigning.

The race has split the LGBT community mostly between Hunt and Nowlin, and campaign rhetoric has gotten nasty.

Patti Fink said she has no signs in her yard this election. Fink is the president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which endorsed Hunt. Fink’s partner, Erin Moore, is immediate past president of Stonewall Democrats, which endorsed Nowlin.

Current Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said, “I think that the LGBT community is energized by this race no matter which side you’re on. You have strong opinion on both sides.”

Steven Graves ran an ad, independent of any candidate’s campaign, taking Hunt to task. The ad quotes from council minutes and claims Hunt has been late or absent for 80 percent of council meetings missing 189 votes.

DGLA PAC chairman Damien Duckett took issue with the ad. He said the missed votes include the consent agenda twice, which average 70 items. The total number of missed votes referred to in the ad could be little more than a couple of consent agenda votes, he said.

“Those items have already been discussed and there’s already consensus,” Duckett said.

But Graves has other issues with the incumbent.

“A few people have stated that she is a big supporter of our community, but they can’t tell me one example that she has accomplished for us,” Graves said of Hunt. “Claiming that you’re a big supporter is far different than actions that produce beneficial results for the community she serves.”

Nowlin said that the city is at a crossroad.

“We will have a new mayor soon and we are going through the worst economy since the Great Depression,” he said. “This is no time for politics as usual or for the grandstanding of a single, ineffective incumbent politician. As a new member on the Council, I will work well with the mayor and the rest of the council to move Dallas forward.”

Hunt said she appreciated DGLA’s endorsement and valued the work of Stonewall. Despite losing that endorsement, she said she attended the Stonewall meeting after the vote.

“Dallas is fortunate to have such a passionate, informed and engaged LGBT community,” Hunt said. “I’ve worked hard to address LGBT issues on the council and I’m proud to represent this community.”

With four candidates in that race, if no one receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face a run-off on June 18.

“I’ve never seen the community get so energized in a municipal race before,” Narvaez said.

District 3

While DGLA and Stonewall disagreed on a number of races when it came to endorsements, they agreed on the District 3 race. Both endorsed challenger Scott Griggs over incumbent Dave Neumann.

Griggs challenger in any council race endorsed by the Dallas Morning News.

District 3 includes a large LGBT population in the Kessler Park, Stevens Park and Kiest Park neighborhoods of Oak Cliff.

“We’re disappointed in Neumann as a councilman,” said Duckett, explaining DGLA’s endorsement decision.

“Scott is the right person for the district and the council,” Narvaez said. “He will move things forward and won’t let the district fall apart as the incumbent has.”

Bob Watchorn, president of the Summit Lawn neighborhood association near Kiest Park, has served on the board of DGLA and is a Neumann supporter.

“He’s been instrumental in helping our neighborhood association,” Watchorn said. “He’s helped with code compliance and crime in the neighborhood and coordinated our work with the police.”

District 2

Both DGLA and Stonewall endorsed incumbent Pauline Medrano in her bid for a fourth term representing District 2, which includes part of Oak Lawn.

“I don’t think anyone works harder or more hours,” Narvaez said.

He cited the number of burned out streetlights in her district Medrano has reported.

“That’s safety,” Narvaez said, also mentioning her support for Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn project.

Challenger Billy MacLeod said he thinks the election has gone well and thanked his supporters in the LGBT community, mentioning Monica Greene.

“I’ve been successful in exposing my opponent’s lack of concern for voter fraud problems,” he said.

MacLeod said he was disappointed at not having received the endorsements of LGBT groups, but added he would continue to be an advocate for the community.

He acknowledged the difficulty of unseating an incumbent but said he had “a shot at going over the top.”

“Only one sitting council member has been defeated in the last 30 years,” he said.

District 7

The two LGBT groups also both endorsed Casie Pierce in District 7.

The Morning News failed to endorse in that race because Pierce had a misdemeanor theft and a DWI on her record.

“I think people can learn from their mistakes,” Duckett said. “She has been a great advocate for her neighborhood and her district and I think she’ll serve them well.”

He cited a basic lack of constituent services in the area and called the incumbent, Carolyn Davis, a complete failure.

Narvaez also said Pierce’s past shouldn’t be held against her.

“Some of these things were when she was 19,” Narvaez said. “She made a mistake and she learned. I think she has a great chance of winning that district.”

The DWI occurred in 1995.

—  John Wright

The past comes back to haunt

Political candidates have to be ready to have their pasts scrutinized, as Casie Pierce has discovered

DAVID WEBB | The Rare Reporter

At just about this point during every election cycle, I start to wonder why anyone would ever even want to run for elected office.

Any candidate announcing a political campaign opens themselves up to the most invasive intrusion possible into their personal and professional lives.

The truth is that practically everyone has something in their lives that they would just as soon not become public knowledge, and that might well happen when you run for office.

No matter how long ago something happened and regardless of whether it went unnoticed at the time, someone will either remember it or discover it when the spotlight focuses on a political candidate. And misdemeanor convictions suddenly become a very big deal.

Lesbian District 7 City Council candidate Casie Pierce recently learned that when she went before The Dallas Morning News editorial board and found herself under fire over her misdemeanor criminal record.

The editorial board had obviously done its homework by researching Pierce’s criminal record. It’s really easy to do because the Dallas County District Clerk’s website offers free public access to all criminal and civil records.

On her own, Pierce said she owned up to pleading guilty in 2007 to misdemeanor theft in connection with her former job as executive director of Vickery Meadow Management Corp. The candidate said an audit of expense reimbursements turned up irregularities. The reimbursements were for cash payments she made for contract labor and supplies for maintenance jobs such as painting and minor repairs in connection with public improvements, she noted.

The audit reportedly revealed an absence of substantiating receipts.

Originally, she wanted to go to trial and fight the charge, said Pierce, who was fired from her job in 2005 over the discrepancy. But after two years she was broke and unable to proceed.

It didn’t seem like such a big deal to plead guilty to misdemeanor theft to end the case, she said. Her penalty was a $1,000 fine and a probated 180-day sentence.

What Pierce apparently didn’t realize was that the editorial board would also uncover a DWI conviction in 1997 for a two-year-old offense and a bad check for $20 she wrote in 2008 at a grocery store.

The candidate said she didn’t mention the DWI because it had occurred so long ago, and she didn’t even think about the bad check that she made good for in 2009 when she learned about it from the District Attorney’s collection division.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board, however, did think it was a big deal, and they declined to endorse Pierce over it, even while noting she seemed capable and had some good ideas.

At the same time, The DMN editorial board also declined to endorse the District 7 incumbent, Carolyn Davis, and a third candidate, Helene McKinney.

Having known Pierce as a strong neighborhood leader for more than a decade, I tend to believe her explanation about the theft charge. As regards the DWI and the bad check charges, they’re as common as fire ants in this part of the country.

Sharon Boyd — who is the publisher of Dallasarena.com and can be one of the harshest critics of political candidates and officeholders in Dallas — tells me that she would trust Pierce with her checkbook any day. Pierce will continue to enjoy her support, Boyd said.

Boyd and I often don’t agree on political matters, but in this case we are on the same page. If I still lived in District 7, I would vote for Pierce. And I’ve asked my former neighbors in Parkdale to vote for her on May 14.

Of course the message here is for anyone considering a run for political office to make sure and check their criminal record before they step into the spotlight. There’s no telling what might be waiting to jump on stage with you.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Pierce HQ cleaned up, ready for volunteers

Casie Pierce

Casie Pierce says her campaign headquarters at 3312 N. Buckner Blvd. #205 is cleaned up and open for business after a break-in over the weekend.

Pierce is running for the District 7 seat on the Dallas City Council, against incumbent Carolyn Davis.

In addition to the broken glass, a laptop that belonged to her campaign manager was stolen. She said that police looked for the computer in pawn shops but it hasn’t turned up.

On Saturday, Pierce will hold an open house for volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. She said she will also attend a candidate forum that day at 2 p.m. sponsored by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

The forum will be at Kiest Park Recreation Center. Kiest Park is at the corner of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road. The building is at the southern end of Kiest Park Circle within the park. There is a parking lot in front of the building.

Most of the candidates who screened for the DGLA endorsement are expected to attend the forum, which is open to the public. DGLA will vote on endorsements after the forum and announce them early next week.

—  David Taffet

Council candidate Pierce’s office broken into

Casie Pierce

The newly opened campaign office of Dallas City Council District 7 candidate Casie Pierce was broken into during the weekend.

The office, at 3312 North Buckner Blvd. #205, opened Friday. The break-in occurred Sunday, and the Pierce campaign was notified by the building supervisor on Monday morning.

“Our office had only been open for three days and something like this happens. We only had a desk and a couple of chairs inside, but my campaign manager’s laptop was taken,” Pierce said.

Pierce, a lesbian who’s challenging incumbent Carolyn Davis, was profiled in a March story in Dallas Voice.

Police were called at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and the report is pending.

“We are going to clean up, get the window repaired and get back to work on the campaign,” Pierce said.

The campaign will hold an open house on April 9.

—  David Taffet