Top 10: City elections proved groundbreaking for LGBT community

Rawlings

VOTERS LIKED MIKE  | Mike Rawlings defeated David Kunkle in a runoff for Dallas mayor in June. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 2

With former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert announcing that he was stepping down early to run for the U.S. Senate, and longtime Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief announcing he would not be running for re-election, candidates were lining up early this year for both offices. And the LGBT community on both sides of the Trinity River played a more visible and more vocal role than ever before in city elections.

In Dallas, businessman Mike Rawlings, former Dallas Chief of Police David Kunkle and City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who had reached his term limit representing District 12, quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the mayoral election. All three candidates came courting the LGBT community, participating in the North Texas

GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral debate and asking for endorsements from individuals in the community, as well as from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Kunkle’s involvement with the community during his days as police chief helped him win the Stonewall Democrats endorsement in the general election, while Natinsky withdrew his name from contention for the Stonewall endorsement after questions came up over whether his Republican voting record disqualified him.

DGLA threw its weight behind Natinsky, then went a step further to issue a warning against Rawlings, saying that based on his answer to a question during the confidential interview, they feared the candidate’s commitment to business interests might override his commitment to civil rights.

In the general election, Kunkle won in precincts considered to be heavily LGBT and came away with 32 percent of the vote overall to claim a place in the runoff against top-vote-getter Rawlings, who had 41 percent.

The two candidates continued to court the LGBT vote in the runoff, both participating in a second debate on LGBT issues, this one sponsored by Dallas Voice and partner organizations. Although DGLA had shifted its endorsement to Kunkle, Rawlings’ performance in the second debate seemed to win over some LGBT voters, and he won the runoff and the mayor’s seat, with 56 percent of the vote. Kunkle, however, again captured the most heavily LGBT precincts.

DGLA and Stonewall also split their endorsements in the District 14 City Council race, where longtime LGBT ally Angela Hunt faced three opponents, including one-time supporter James Nowlin, a gay man who filed in the race early when Hunt was still considering a run for the mayor’s seat. The race split the community, with Stonewall

Democrats endorsing Nowlin, who was a member of the organization, and DGLA backing Hunt. Hunt went on to win another term of the council without a runoff, taking 65 percent of the vote in the general election. Nowlin was second with 30 percent.

In Fort Worth, former City Councilman Jim Lane, who was on the council when the city became one of the first in the state to include protections for lesbians and gays in its nondiscrimination ordinance, and former Tarrant

County Tax Appraiser/Collector Betsy Price were the top two vote-getters in the general election, and during the runoff campaigns, the two met for the first-ever Fort Worth mayoral debate focusing on LGBT issues.

While Price had raised suspicion among some with a vague answer regarding her position on the city’s recent decision to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression in the nondiscrimination ordinance, both she and Lane pledged at the debate sponsored by the GLBT chamber and Fairness Fort Worth to support LGBT equality and to maintain an open door to the community.

Price went on to win the runoff, 56 percent to 44 percent, and in October became the first Fort Worth mayor to not only ride in, but also serve as grand marshal of, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade.

Also in Fort Worth, the city’s first and only openly gay councilmember, Joel Burns, still riding a wave of national popularity following his “It Gets Better” speech during a council meeting the previous October, didn’t even draw an opponent in his bid for a second full term on the council.

Down the road in Arlington, Chris Hightower became the first openly gay candidate to run for city council, tossing his hat into the ring along with three others challenging District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff. Hightower, who easily outpaced all the candidates in fundraising, came out on top of the heap in the general election. But he lost the runoff to Wolff by less than 100 votes, an outcome many of his supporters blamed on anti-gay robocalls describing him as a “weirdo,” a “convicted sex pervert” and a “sex creep” — even though Hightower has no criminal record.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Annise Parker officially files for re-election

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city, officially filed re-election papers with the city clerk on Thursday. Parker is seeking a second two-year term in city elections this November. In a speech to supporters at Houston watering hole Howl at the Moon, Parker spoke of her great love for Houston and her job as mayor.

“I’m more in love with this city than I was when I started in this office on Jan. 2, 2010, and I do love this city.  I’m more excited about the job than I was when I first started,” said Parker. “There’s an old saying that if you have a job you love then you never have to work a day in your life. It’s true. I love what I do, I’m excited every day to have the honor of representing the citizens of Houston and helping shape the future of this truly wonderful city.”

Two other candidates have officially filed in the mayor’s race: Kevin Simms and Amanda Ulman. Simms is a former staffer for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and currently serves as the night supervisor at the University of Houston Recreation and Wellness Center. Ulman is the perennial Socialist Party candidate. Neither is considered a serious challenger. Other candidates have declared their intent to run, but have not officially filed, including Fernando Herrera, who ran as the Republican challenger to State Rep. Jessica Farrar, the House Democratic leader.

As previously reported by Instant Tea, Herrera attacked Parker in July for the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau’s ‘My Gay Houston” Campaign, which seeks to attract LGBT tourists. Herrera specifically objected to an article on the My Gay Houston website titled “The Gay Boys Weekend in H-town” and questioned whether the campaign should be funded with tax dollars. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is funded by a hotel occupancy tax.

When asked if he expects further anti-gay attacks as part of the campaign, Victor Castillo, co-chair of the steering committee for Parker’s re-election campaign, conceded that, as an out lesbian elected official, she faces opposition based solely on her sexual orientation. “That has always been the case,” said Castillo,  “but that is not a distraction for the campaign. The campaign is moving forward in terms of providing more jobs for the city of Houston, building a stronger local economy for the city of Houston — that is what Houstonians want.”

The most recent campaign finance report filed by Parker indicates she has a a war chest of more than $2 million dollar for the campaign. In contrast Herrera reports less than $4,000 in the bank and has raised a total of just over $12,000 in the election.

—  admin

Natinsky gets endorsement nod from DGLA

REACHING OUT | Dallas mayoral candidates, from left, Mike Rawlings, Ron Natinsky and David Kunkle listen to a speaker during the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance PAC endorsements screenings. All three of the major candidates sought the DGLA endorsement, which eventually went to Natinsky. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Organization’s list of endorsed candidates includes some significant difference compared to Stonewall Democrats’ list

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee has released the list of candidates the PAC is backing in the upcoming Dallas city elections. Endorsed candidates include Ron Natinsky for mayor and Angela Hunt for City Council District 14.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas had issued its endorsements earlier, and for the first time, the two lists differ considerably. DGLA is nonpartisan, whereas Stonewall’s bylaws allows that organization to only endorse Democrats.

Stonewall backed former police chief David Kunkle for mayor and James Nowlin against incumbent Hunt.

All three major candidates for mayor sought the backing of both groups. Natinsky withdrew his request from Stonewall when his eligibility was questioned because he is Republican.

At the time, Stonewall President Omar Narvaez pointed out that some of his group’s members supported Natinsky and he thanked the candidate for addressing their meeting.
DGLA has endorsed Natinsky previously in two of his council elections.

Mike Rawlings sought the endorsement of both groups, spoke at a Stonewall meeting and appeared at the DLGA candidate forum. Hoever, DGLA issued a warning along with its mayoral endorsement.

“Mr. Rawlings’ passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people,” DGLA President Patti Fink wrote in her endorsement email.

The statement was crafted by the PAC, debated and approved, according to DLGA PAC Chair Damien Duckett. He said that the majority of time spent in deciding whom to endorse was spent on the mayor’s race.

“Our interviews are confidential,” Duckett said, “So we can’t divulge details of the conversation.”

But he said that after speaking to Rawlings, the whole group was left with a sense of frustration. Still, he called the endorsement in the mayor’s race a hard decision.

Neil Emmons is a Rawlings supporter who said he was surprised by the warning against his favored candidate.

“When he [Rawlings] came in on the homeless issue, he didn’t know anything about it. He studied, learned best practices and became the best advocate for The Bridge. That speaks volumes about who he is,” Emmons said. “And he did the same thing on the park board.”

Duckett disagreed.

“His work with the homeless didn’t have a lot to do with civil rights and GLBT equality as it relates to business,” he said.

Duckett said there was a painstaking process that took weeks before coming up with the endorsements. That included reviewing candidate questionnaires, interviews and a candidate forum.

“The three candidates represented different things to us,” he said.

Duckett said that Kunkle was an extraordinary man who’s had an impact on the city and identifies with neighborhoods. He called Rawlings the CEO-type who would be great for economic development.

But Natinsky “seemed like the perfect marriage of both of those,” Duckett said. “He has the experience to hit the ground running. He already has a presence in the community. So many of the qualities we were looking for.”

Both Stonewall and DLGA did agree on some council races. Both are backing Pauline Medrano in District 2 and Scott Griggs in District 3. In the last election, DGLA supported District 3 incumbent Dave Neumann.

Duckett said that DGLA addressed charges that Medrano opponent Billy MacLeod has leveled, claiming yard signs have been stolen and contributors intimidated with city inspections.

Duckett called Griggs “a genuine guy who has the experience to understand the complexities of the district and ideas on how to develop the southern sector.”

DGLA endorsed Luis Sepulveda in District 6 while Stonewall threw its support to Monica Alonzo.

Duckett said Sepulveda has been involved in important quality-of-life issues in the district for decades. He also cited Sepulveda’s previous public service as a justice of the peace and involvement in social justice issues as reasons the group threw their support to him.

Both organizations endorsed Casie Pierce in District 7. Pierce, who is lesbian, is challenging incumbent Carolyn Davis, who did not seek either group’s backing.

For District 10, DGLA backed Jerry Allen, whom they have supported in the past. Stonewall endorsed Cynthia Durbin. Duckett said they would have liked to talk to Durbin more, but she arrived late for her candidate’s screening on a day that was booked and she did not attend the public candidates’ forum.

For District 12, DGLA made no endorsement because William Tsao did not come to his interview. He attended the DGLA candidate’s forum and had already received Stonewall’s nod.

Duckett said the endorsement for District 14 was easy and handled quickly. He called Angela Hunt someone who has worked hard to represent the LGBT community.

In that race, Stonewall endorsed Nowlin in a close vote.

Three other candidates received endorsements from DGLA in races where Stonewall did not endorse. DLGA is backing Sheffie Kadane in District 9, Linda Koop in District 11 and Ann Margolin in District 13. All three are incumbents and all have appeared in Dallas’ gay Pride parade.

Duckett mentioned that Margolin has attended Log Cabin Republican of Dallas events. Log Cabin does not make endorsements in non-partisan races.

—  John Wright

Carrollton Project hosts candidate forum tonight

Bob McCranie

Bob McCranie sends along word that the Carrollton Project, a local LGBT group, will host a candidate forum tonight for Carrollton City Council and the Carrollton/Farmers Branch Independent School District.

The forum begins at 7 p.m. at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, 1840 Hutton Drive, #100, Carrollton.

McCranie formed the Carrollton Project in 2006 with the help of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and the Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“I’m really proud of the community we’ve built in five years,” McCranie said. “This meeting isn’t about the past or about our previous interactions with any one candidate. Everyone is walking in with a clean slate to learn about our concerns and to earn our votes. Most city elections are won or lost by 400 votes. Using the 10 percent rule, there would be 12,000 LGBT votes available in Carrollton. I’m happy that the MCC of Greater Dallas and The Carrollton Project can provide this opportunity for both groups to learn from each other.”

 

—  John Wright

Burns, Hicks unopposed in FW council races

Fort Worth City Councilmembers Joel Burns and Kathleen Hicks are unopposed in their 2011 re-election bids.

Yesterday (Monday, March 14) was the filing deadline for area municipal elections, and it’s official: Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, Joel Burns, is unopposed in his second re-election bid since first winning the District 9 seat on the council in 2007 when he ran to replace Wendy Davis. Davis resigned to run for — and win — the District 10 seat in the Texas Senate.

In addition, the deadline passed without anyone filing to challenge Fort Worth’s District 8 incumbent, Kathleen Hicks, either. Hicks, who represents the district in which the Rainbow Lounge is located, has been a steadfast ally of the LGBT community, especially in the months since the June 29, 2009 raid on Rainbow Lounge.

W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, the District 3 incumbent, also has no opponent. Zimmerman, along with Burns, Hicks, District 2 incumbent Sal Espino, District 5 incumbent Frank Moss and Mayor Mike Moncrief voted in October 2009 to add protections based on gender expression and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Espino has one opponent, Paul L. Rudisill, in the May 14 election, and Moss has two opponents: Charles Hibbler and Rickie Clark.

Moncrief is not seeking re-election, and a crowded field of five candidates have filed to replace him. They are Jim Lane, Betsy Price, Cathy Hirt, Dan Barrett and Nicholas Zebrun.

The three councilmembers who voted against the transgender protections all face opponents in this election. Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Scarth is being challenged by Lupe Arriola in District 2. And in District 6, incumbent Jungus Jordan is being challenged by Tolli Thomas. District 7 incumbent Carter Burdette is not running for re-election, and five candidates are running to replace him. They are Dennis Shingleton, Jonathan Horton, Jack Ernest, Jon Perry and Lee Henderson.

For more information on candidates in the Fort Worth city elections, check out the Fort Worth City Secretary’s Elections Page.

And look for an in-depth story on the mayor’s race in an upcoming issue of Dallas Voice.

—  admin

Stonewall Democrats to endorse in city elections

JESSE GARCIA  |  Stonewall Democrats of Dallas

Expired members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and LGBT community members interested in joining the organization need to renew or join by Thursday, Feb. 17, in order to participate in this year’s endorsement screening for municipal elections.

Hotly contested races for Dallas mayor and heavily LGBT city council districts 3 and 14 have drawn multiple candidates. Each race will be screened from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 19 in the Rainbow Room at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St. Participants voting on recommendations for endorsements must be current with Stonewall membership dues as of Thursday, Feb. 17, per the group’s bylaws.

New or returning members can visit StonewallDemocratsofDallas.org/membership before Friday and sign up for a $35 annual membership. Or you can mail your $35 membership check made out to “Stonewall Democrats of Dallas,” along with your name, address and telephone number, to Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, PO Box 192305, Dallas, TX 75219 — but it must be postmarked by Feb. 17.

Unlike even-year elections when Stonewall endorses county, state and federal candidates in the spring and members campaign for them throughout the summer and fall, odd-year city elections have an abbreviated campaign schedule (lasting less than four months). The Stonewall board of directors saw a need for recommendations to be made within days of the filing deadline and approved quickly by the general membership in order to maximize LGBT support for a candidate.

“We realize that the LGBT vote is critical in city elections that have historically attracted less than 30 percent of registered voters,” said Stonewall President Omar Narvaez. “Every vote will matter. Candidates know that our gayborhood precincts always turnout higher than the county average. If we turn out our LGBT voters like we did in 2008 and 2010, progressive candidates who are pro-equality will get elected.”

—  admin

Hunt, Kunkle to visit LGBT groups next week

Former DPD Chief David Kunkle

The Dallas LGBT community will have a chance to get up close and personal with one announced candidate for mayor — and another possible candidate for mayor — next week.

Local activist Jesse Garcia sends along word that former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, who says he’s running, will visit Stonewall Democrats of Dallas on Tuesday — a day after filing begins for city elections.

And City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who’s considering a run for mayor but hasn’t announced a decision, will visit LULAC #4871-The Dallas Rainbow Council on Thursday.

Here’s Garcia’s note:

The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meets Tuesday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m., at Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Ave. Dallas, TX 75219. Guest speaker is Dallas Mayoral Candidate David Kunkle, former Dallas Police Chief. For more information, visit www.stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org. Meeting is open to the public. Voter registration will be available at the meeting.

LULAC 4871 Dallas Rainbow Council meets Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m., at Havana’s, 4006 Cedar Springs Rd., Dallas, TX 75219. Guest speaker is Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. For more information, visit www.lulac4871.org. Meeting is open to the public. Voter registration will be available at the meeting.

—  John Wright

Scott Griggs is running for Dallas City Council

Scott Griggs

Scott Griggs will announce his candidacy for the District 3 seat on the Dallas City Council on Monday, according to a press release we received this morning.

We don’t know much about Griggs, but his publicist is former Dallas Voice staffer Kris Martin, and his campaign coordinator is openly gay former DISD trustee Jose Plata. District 3, of course, is the seat once held by Ed Oakley for three terms until he stepped down to run for mayor in 2007. Since then, the seat has been held by Dave Neumann, who narrowly defeated gay candidate Joseph Hernandez in 2007. From the press release:

What: Oak Cliff resident and community leader, Scott Griggs, announces bid for Dallas City Council, District 3 post.

When: Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 @ 12:30pm

Where: Intersection Fort Worth Avenue and Jacqueline Drive (Northeast corner) near ALDI construction site and Cliff Manor Apartments.

Who: Scott Griggs is a proven business and neighborhood development leader in the City of Dallas. He has served in elected and appointed roles with Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, City of Dallas Board of Adjustment, Oak Cliff Transit Authority, Stevens Park Estates Neighborhood Association and helped create the Fort Worth Avenue Tax Increment Finance District. The young attorney and his wife, Mariana Tenorio Griggs, are passionate community volunteers who advocate for a livable, safe, sustainable and healthy District 3 and the City of Dallas.

Why: As a Dallas City Council representative, Scott Griggs will provide the strong, responsible, decisive, and trusted leadership that District 3 needs.

It goes on to say that Griggs’ campaign website, www.ScottGriggs.com and Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/ScottGriggs, will go live on Monday. City elections are in May.

—  John Wright

Joel Burns’ speech heard around the world

Joel Burns, left, and partner J.D. Angle

Mayor Annise Parker of Houston once joked, upon becoming the first openly gay person elected mayor of a major U.S. city, that municipal elections in Texas aren’t normally featured on the front page of the Times of India. Now openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is gaining international notoriety as well.

Since we posted Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech yesterday, it has been featured by outlets including the Huffington Post, Gawker and the UK Guardian. According to YouTube, the video of the speech has as many as 67,554 views.

The Guardian describes Burns’ moving speech and then says, “But written words do not do it justice; watch the video.”

We agree, and we’re glad Burns’ message is getting heard.

—  David Taffet