Openly gay candidate runs for chair of Denton County Democratic Party

John McClelland serves on water board, founded chapters of Drinking Liberally and Stonewall Democrats

mcclelland.john

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED | John McClelland lost races for Dallas City Council and Texas House before winning a seat on the local water board. Now he’s running for Denton County Democratic Party chair.

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — When he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010, John McClelland says he became the first openly gay elected official in the county’s history.

This year he’s running for chair of the county’s Democratic Party with the hopes of finally turning Denton — and possibly the whole Lone Star State — blue.

And it all started with a drink.

When President George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004, McClelland consoled himself with the thought that things in the U.S. couldn’t really get much worse. Then in 2005, they did.

The state’s voters passed Proposition 2, an amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Texas Constitution.

McClelland had identified as a Republican during his college days, but gradually came to feel like he couldn’t be gay in the GOP.

He spent time making phone calls, marching on the Capitol and organizing voters against Prop 2. But in the end it still passed with 76 percent of the vote. And by the time it was all over, all McClelland wanted was a drink.

He’d read about Drinking Liberally, a group of New York progressives dedicated to discussing politics over drinks, so he decided to start his own

Addison chapter. He placed an ad on Craigslist and seven people showed up, mostly wondering why he’d even bothered organizing a progressive meeting in such a conservative state.

“Most of the people just wanted a place to sit down, talk and air their grievances, kinda like

Festivus [the made-up holiday celebrated on TV’s Seinfeld], just without the pole and the wrestling match,” he said.

But as the meet-ups continued, McClelland felt he couldn’t just sit around without doing something to make the world a better place. So in 2007, he decided to run against Ron Natinsky for the Dallas City Council District 12 seat.

Natinsky got 4,452 votes. McClelland got 979.

Undeterred, he decided to run against Republican incumbent Myra Crownover in the 2008 race for Texas House District 64.

Crownover received 40,758 votes and McClelland only received 28,195. But considering that Crownover had raised $216,471 for her campaign and McClelland had only raised $28,134, McClelland considered it a worthwhile achievement.

“Being an openly gay, Democrat in a red district in Denton County, that’s pretty good.”

Though he admits that having Barack Obama at the top of the ticket certainly helped, McClelland feels that voters didn’t care that he was a Democrat or gay; they just wanted new leadership and knew that McClelland was qualified.

Though he kept hanging out with the Drinking Liberally crowd, after Obama got elected in 2008, their national outlook became more optimistic.

Instead of complaining about Bush all the time, they complained about the Republicans controlling the state Legislature.

Likewise, McClelland himself had changed. Not only had he run two local races, he had also founded the Stonewall Democrats of Denton County, the national gay political organization’s fifth chapter in North Texas.

“It’s important for LGBT people to have that sort of thing, to be around one another and educate the people that you’re dealing with in the grand scheme of the big tent,” McClelland says. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know what Stonewall means. A lot of people think it refers to Stonewall Jackson, the war general, instead of Stonewall bar.”

He continued acting as his Stonewall chapter’s president after he got elected to the district board of the Denton County Fresh Water Supply in March 2010. But after three years in the office, he has stepped down and refocused his efforts on becoming Denton County Democratic Party chair.

Typically, a county Democratic Party chair supports Democratic campaigns by working closely with candidates, conducting primary elections and helping precinct chairs get out the vote.

But McClelland thinks that the Denton County Democratic Party can do a lot more to help make this happen. As chair, he would train precinct chairs on how to use voter databases to contact voters and host events, fundraise through local donors who normally give to the Democratic

National Committee but not to their local party (“the money doesn’t trickle down,” he says) and prepare future candidates and party organizers through a county program called “Project Farm Team.”

Right now he has 2,000 hangers sitting on his floor just waiting to grace the doors of potential voters.

“I want to get Democrats elected, that’s the main reason I’m doing this, that’s the goal,” McClelland said. “Without Denton or Collin county, it’s gonna be a pretty tough spot getting a Democrat elected, like a governor or a U.S. Senator. Getting Denton County to turn blue is one of the keys to getting the entire state to turn blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

LSR Journal: Because I learned what’s important

Eddie Munoz  Team Dallas Voice

Eddie Munoz
Eddie Munoz

This year marks the first year I’m officially involved with the Lone Star Ride.

I’ll be honest: Initially, I wanted a reason to be obliged to stay fit during the dog days of summer, not to mention getting to wear the shiny, sexy 88 percent polyester/12 percent spandex cycling gear. I mean seriously, who doesn’t look good in that?

Although my reason for participating began as a selfish ploy to achieve somewhat of an Adonis status, the reality of the event’s purpose has undoubtedly taken over — and I’m glad it has.

I first heard of Lone Star Ride while working for the Dallas Voice in Web development during my college days. As part of my duty, I would upload the weekly newspaper to the website, reading the stories as it pertained to our community’s struggle in the area, state, country and world. One of the things I remember was preparing for the Lone Star Ride articles and thought, “Oh here’s just another fundraiser.”

Back then I was a different person than I am today. As a younger person, I didn’t see the need to get involved, nor did I feel that I, as an individual, could make a difference.

It wasn’t until I graduated from college and met someone whose whole life pertained to getting involved in our community and I was inspired. He was making a difference, “saving the gays” as he sometimes would say. He definitely made a difference in me whether he knows it or not.

I’m happy to say that now I wake up next to him everyday.

In March, Robert Moore and I talked about the Lone Star Ride, and for some reason, I had a strong urge to know more about the ride and to get involved.

So a couple of months ago I picked up a bike from the Lone Star locker and began to train. Let me tell you though, it has not been easy to train for the 75 miles I hope to accomplish in September.

My very first training ride consisted of 23 miles and I said to myself, “Oh Lord! What did you get yourself into?” No amount of Gatorade could’ve quenched my thirst that day.

For someone who grew up with asthma and who, shamefully but admittedly, barely learned how to ride a bike five years ago, it has been a challenge. I’ve had a couple falls here and there, bruises, injuries, blood, sweat and tears. But with every fall I have, I commit myself to riding even more.

Cycling has become my therapy, a healthy escape from the weekly workload, the bars and the drama that it sometimes entails.

It’s also a game of mind versus body — “just one more mile … one more … one more,” I tell myself.

When I ride I focus on the people that the event benefits, and I can also focus on myself and my life. Whether I’m riding with my team, my partner or by myself, it is always an enjoyable experience for me.

I may not know the people that the event benefits, but I know that it will make a difference, that I will finally make a difference. I’ve learned to participate in life and help those in need, those who want another day in this world, who want to know they’re still appreciated and not forgotten.

AIDS may be incurable, but our apathy and inability to help has a cure. It only takes a minute, the click of a mouse, to donate online and change someone’s life.

So as I prepare to hit the pavement in September in my 88 percent polyester/12 percent spandex cycling shorts, I look forward to hearing from the organizations and the people that your contributions go towards.

And I hope to return next year and do it all over again with a bigger fundraising goal and more support.

To donate to Eddie Munoz or any other Lone Star Ride rider, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens