Top 10: Dallas Dems narrowly survived GOP tidal wave

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While Texas turned redder, Dallas County remained an island of blue. On Election Day, Texas followed national trends turning Democratic incumbents out of office and replacing them with conservative Republicans.

For the first time in Texas history, more than 100 Republicans will sit in the 150-member Texas House of Representatives. As recently as 1983, Democrats held more than 100 House seats.

Several gay-friendly Democratic House incumbents lost their seats in North Texas.

However, Democrats swept countywide races for the third consecutive election cycle.

Among the winners were Tonya Parker, who will become the first known openly gay African-American elected official in Texas. Parker is also the first openly LGBT judge elected in Dallas County. Openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons won re-election, as did Judge Tena Callahan, a straight ally who in 2009 declared Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, for the first time in a generation, Democrats will control the Dallas County Commissioners Court, possibly paving the way for LGBT employment protections and domestic partner benefits.

Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia unseated anti-gay Republican Commissioner Ken Mayfield, with strong support in heavily LGBT neighborhoods in Oak Cliff.

Clay Jenkins, who defeated openly gay County Judge Jim Foster in the Democratic primary, knocked off Republican Wade Emmert in the general election and will serve as chair of the court.

But Republicans retained all statewide offices in Texas, including governor. Anti-gay incumbent Rick Perry was elected to a third full term, easily defeating Democrat Bill White, who’d received a rare endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign.

Nationwide, a record 106 openly LGBT candidates won election, including David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who’ll become the fourth openly gay member of Congress.

In California, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who first decided his city would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was elected that state’s lieutenant governor.

But mostly the news around the country was good for conservatives.

Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where the leadership will include two conservative North Texas congressman, Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions.

In the Senate, the Democratic lead was cut to 51 seats plus two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.

While tea party-affiliated candidates won a number of Texas seats, Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s tea party opponent received only 25 percent of the vote.

With the Republican majority in the House, most agree there’s little chance the 112th Congress will pass any pro-LGBT legislation. Incoming House members have already threatened to work on a repeal of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Count on the Senate, however, to stop any anti-gay bills from making their way to the White House.

Other troubling signs for the LGBT community included an election in Iowa, where three judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage were defeated after a multimmillion campaign by the religous right. Anti-gay activists have begun a movement to impeach the remaining four.

Because of Republican gains, the LGBT community is not looking for additional advances in equality legislation in 2011 on the federal level. However, some state legislatures and the courts may provide some bright spots.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas County ballots include 3 gay candidates

Log Cabin president says election offers LGBT voters several viable Republican candidates to back

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The ballot for this year’s election is long — nine pages in some parts of Dallas County. Voters will decide races for district attorney, county clerk and county judge in addition to a number of family, district and criminal court judges.

Those are in addition, of course, to all statewide positions and members of the Texas and U.S. House of Representatives.

Four propositions also appear on the ballot. Two countywide questions would legalize beer and wine sales throughout Dallas County. Two are city questions about selling two parks.

Three openly gay candidates appear on the ballot. Gary Fitzsimmons is seeking re-election as county clerk. Tonya Parker is running for 116th Civil District Court judge. And Peter Schulte appears on the ballot in parts of the city. He is challenging Dan Branch for the Texas House in a district that includes parts of Oak Lawn.

All three are Democrats.

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein touted a number of Republican candidates, especially some running for judicial positions.

“Jonathan Neerman is an attorney and lined up quite a few competent people who know what it takes,” Schlein said.

Neerman is chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

This is not a complete list but highlights some races of interest in the LGBT community.

District Clerk
Former City Councilman Craig Holcomb is treasurer of Fitzsimmons’ re-election campaign.

“As Dallas County district clerk, he has moved that office into the 21st century,” Holcomb said of Fitzsimmons.

For the first time, all documents are now transmitted electronically.

Fitzsimmons has saved almost $1 million for his office since he was first elected in 2006 when compared with his predecessor during the previous four years. He also removed a one-year backlog of family court filings.

“And I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has in the last four years,” Holcomb said.

Fitzsimmons worked for Holcomb for 15 years.

Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore said, “He’s one of the more competent elected officials in Dallas County.”

Fitzsimmons’ opponent in the race is Tammy Barnes, 47. She has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and is a candidate for a masters’ in criminal justice from the University of North Texas.

Barnes is a member of the Lancaster Zoning Board of Adjustment,  a Big Sister volunteer and president and casework volunteer for Family Outreach of Southern Dallas.

County Judge
Clay Jenkins defeated County Judge Jim Foster in the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Wade Emmert in the general election.

“We need to have someone who sees the county as needing tending and not as their own personal playground,” Moore said of the county judge’s office. “Clay has a good perspective on that.”

She said he has the personality and wherewithal to be a good county judge.

Jenkins served as an intern to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost and was Oscar Mauzy’s law clerk when he served on the Texas Supreme Court.

Jenkins is president of the law practice Jenkins & Jenkins, with offices in Dallas and Waxahachie. This is his first run for public office.

Emmert is also an attorney and serves on the Cedar Hill City Council.

“On the City Council, he develops budgets and does the things that are needed as county judge,” said Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein.

Emmert often attends Log Cabin meetings and Schlein believes that if elected he’d be open and accessible to the LGBT community.

County Commissioner District 4
Former Dallas City Council member Elba Garcia is challenging 16-year incumbent Ken Mayfield for County Commissioner District 4.

Mayfield is known for his combative style in Commissioners Court. Fitzsimmons called him “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

In 1995, Mayfield signed a letter with two other commissioners regarding condom distribution.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” Mayfield and the others wrote.

Garcia, on the other hand, is seen as a strong ally of the LGBT community. She served four terms on the Dallas City Council representing North Oak Cliff.

Moore called the county commissioner seat critical when it comes to funding HIV services at Parkland hospital.

“She was not only there for us, she was first in line leading the effort,” Moore said of Garcia’s tenure on the council. “She was instrumental in passing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.”

But Mayfield, Moore said, is one of the LGBT community’s worst enemies.

In the last days leading up to the election, Mayfield has been accusing Garcia of voter fraud. Mayfield’s supporters said that absentee ballots were sent when none were requested and they charge that Garcia encouraged people to vote twice.

No charges have been filed.

District Attorney

Danny Clancy is challenging incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney.  Although Watkins sought LGBT support in his first campaign, Moore said that as district attorney he has been a divisive figure, accused of being a celebrity D.A. and not doing his job here.

Neerman believes that more than any other race, this is the one for the LGBT community to consider voting Republican.

Clancy has been an assistant district attorney, criminal court judge and private attorney. He has prosecuted more than 250 cases and, as judge, presided over more than 450 cases.

“Clancy will protect all of Dallas County,” said campaign spokesman Brian Mayes.

He said that this race is between a D.A. caught in a number of ethical controversies who refuses to pursue a number of cases and a prosecutor who is tough on crime.

Mayes said sexual orientation would play no role in how tough Clancy would prosecute. He said that he’s looking for support from Log Cabin Republicans and the rest of the LGBT community.

“He’s a good guy,” said Mayes. “His heart’s in the right place. He has no political agenda in fighting crime.

“It’s about competence vs. incompetence,” said Schlein. “Not about left and right.”

County Criminal Court No. 2
Dan Montalvo is challenging incumbent King Fifer for County Criminal Court No. 2.

Schlein said Montalvo spoke to Log Cabin at the recent Grand Ol’ Party. He told the group he’s challenged about being Hispanic and Republican just as Log Cabin is questioned about being gay and Republican. Schlein believes he’d be a fair judge.

Montalvo is challenging Democratic incumbent Jeff Rosenfield.

116th Civil District Court
Tonya Parker faces Mike Lee for 116th Civil District Court.

“She’s one of the most eminently qualified people running to be judge and we support her 100 percent,” Moore said.

Among her honors, Parker was listed as a rising star by Texas Monthly three times and in 2006 was named Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Outstanding Young Lawyer.

Mike Lee is an attorney whose practice focused on civil litigation. He has significant experience representing minors in cases before Dallas County juvenile courts.

“Mike Lee’s a good guy,” said Schlein. “He’s someone gay people should be comfortable with,” he said.

193rd District Court
Carl Ginsberg is an active member of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. He took the lead in educating his colleagues about gender-marker changes and said that there’s statutory authority to make those changes.

“Believe it or not, there’s actually the legal authority in Texas to do it,” Ginsberg told Dallas Voice earlier this year.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats President Pennington Ingley said, “He’s an avid supporter of ours. He’s very approachable and has been a strong supporter of LGBT issues.”

His opponent is Republican Wes Johnson.

194th District Court

Judge Ernest White presided over the Jimmy Lee Dean hate crime trial. The jury handed down a sentence even tougher than the one the prosecutor suggested.

Michael Robinson was a witness to the crime. He testified in the case and sat through the entire trial. He said he was impressed with how White handled the case and allowed his testimony to be given.

“The LGBT community needs more judges like Judge Ernest White to allow crimes like these to be heard fairly and without any bias towards the community,” Robinson said.

“Judge White allowed all the evidence to be heard so the jury could make a decision to convict Bobby Singleton [to receive] 75 years and Jonathan Gunter [to receive] 30 years [in prison].”

His opponent is Republican David Lewis.

292nd Judicial District Court

Lisa DeWitt is challenging incumbent Democrat Larry Mitchell.

“She’s a member of Log Cabin,” Schlein said of DeWitt, “an open and active supporter.”

DeWitt uses her Log Cabin endorsement in all of her campaign literature and stood up for the group when questioned about her support and involvement, Schlein said.

Log Cabin honored her recently at their Grand Ol’ Party. She has been a county attorney and a public defender.

The Democrat in the race is Larry Mitchell.

298th Civil District Court
Emily Tobolowsky is a longtime member of Stonewall Democrats but her current claim to fame is from her cousin Stephen. He plays disgraced gay music teacher Sandy Ryerson on Glee.

Before her 2007 election, Tobolowsky was an attorney with experience from commercial, real estate and employment litigation to family law.

Her opponent in the race is Bryce Quine, a trial lawyer and a partner at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.

301st Family District Court

Judge Lynn Cherry, a Democrat, ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change at the request of DART.

That ruling began a push by a number of groups to get DART to change their discriminatory policy against transgender employees and had LGBT groups questioning why the agency would interfere in a family court matter.

Cherry hasn’t commented on the matter or explained why an employer’s opinion would be considered in a family court matter.

Her opponent is George White, a family court attorney with 35 years experience. He has completed more than 8,000 cases. He was member of the Texas Army National Guard. Schlein calls him affable and said he’s been to a couple of Log Cabin meetings.

302nd Family District Court  Judge Tena Callahan declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision related to a gay couple who had married in Massachusetts and filed for divorce in Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the divorce. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned her decision. The divorce is again on appeal. “She would say she made the right decision and was just doing her job,” Moore said.

Her opponent is family law attorney Julie Reedy, who endorsed Callahan before deciding to run for the office herself. Reedy’s campaign website refers to Callahan’s decision by saying, “I promise NOT to legislate from the bench and will serve the court to the letter of the law.”

Propositions
Two countywide propositions appear on the ballot in Dallas. The first would lift the restriction on sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the county. The second would allow restaurants throughout the county to sell beer and wine without being private clubs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Mayfield, who likened gays to prostitutes and drug users, attacks Fitzsimmons for being short

Ken Mayfield

Earlier we quoted openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons as saying that County Commissioner Ken Mayfield is “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

Now Mayfield, a Republican, has responded by attacking Fitzsimmons, a Democrat, for being short.

The Dallas Morning News picked up our report and sought a comment from Mayfield. According to the DMN, Mayfield responded by calling Fitzsimmons “a little man with a little mind.”

Mayfield also insisted he’s not anti-gay and challenged Fitzsimmons to give examples of his allleged homophobia. Well, allow us to share just one:

In 1995, Mayfield and two other commissioners wrote a letter to 43 local doctors urging them to support the county’s ban on distribution of condoms by the Health Department to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Here’s what Mayfield and the two other commissioners wrote, according to an article that appeared in The DMN on Friday, June 16, 1995.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” the three commissioners wrote. “And, we don’t intend to be the vehicle through which others are given this message.”

Mayfield continued to support the condom ban until last year, when he opposed a measure that successfully lifted it.

Mayfield’s Democratic opponent this year, Dr. Elba Garcia, helped push through two major pro-equality measures during her time on the Dallas City Council. The first was a citywide ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The second was benefits for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.

—  John Wright

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, this poster featuring local gay Dems will be a collector’s item

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who happens to be gay, sent over this poster that will reportedly be going up around town in the next few days. It’ll also be part of an ad in this week’s Voice, we think. We can’t seem to get in touch with Fitzsimmons to ask him how it all came about — and how they managed to get all these folks in one room at the same time — but in some ways the poster speaks for itself. Fitzsimmons also mentioned that he can make extra copies, so you’d like one, call his campaign headquarters at 214-948-8700.

UPDATE: We finally spoke with Fitzsimmons, and he said the photo shoot for the poster was put together hastily on Monday afternoon in response to rumors that some in the LGBT community may stay home from the polls this year over disappointment with President Barack Obama and Congress, for failing to fulfill their promises on things like “don’t ask don’t tell.”

“The major thing here is that the Democratic Party in Dallas County has done very well by the gay community,” Fitzsimmons said. “A lot of folks may be disappointed in the pace of progress in Washington, but when you look at the Democratic Party in Dallas County, we’ve kept our promise to the LGBT community.”

Fitzsimmons pointed to people like District Judge Tena Callahan, a straight ally who’s up for re-election after last year declaring Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“If we’ve got Democratic elected officials putting their asses, their careers, on the line for the gay and lesbian community, then the least we can do is stand up for them on Election Day,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said he’s “bullish” about Democrats’ chances in Dallas County on Tuesday and feels they will win most countywide races, including his own. But he said he’s concerned about races like the one for the District 4 seat on the Commissioners Court, which pits Republican incumbent Ken Mayfield against Democratic challenger Dr. Elba Garcia. Fitzsimmons called Mayfield “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County” and “a sworn enemy of the gay community,” whereas Garcia is a proven friend.

“That race may be decided by less than 50 votes,” he said, noting the District 4 includes heavily gay neighborhoods in North Oak Cliff. “You can be dissatisfied with Washington, but this election is about what’s going on in Dallas County.”

—  John Wright

Why is John Wiley Price trying to get rid of gay Parkland hospital board member Chris Luna?

Chris Luna

We’ve been trying to get in touch with openly gay former Dallas City Councilman Chris Luna, who’s reportedly being targeted by Commissioner John Wiley Price for ouster from Parkland hospital’s Board of Managers.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Price called an executive session this past Tuesday to discuss with other commissioners his proposal to oust Luna, who was appointed by openly gay County Judge Jim Foster late last year. Price has not said publicly why he wants Luna off the board:

Luna, a former Dallas City Council member, said Monday that he didn’t understand Price’s action.

“No one on the Commissioners Court has expressed any concern or dissatisfaction to me,” Luna said.

County Judge Jim Foster, who appointed Luna late last year, said Price didn’t talk to him before making a last-minute addition to the agenda of the regularly scheduled commissioners meeting.

“He has not shown me the common courtesy of picking up the phone and calling,” Foster said.

The DMN later reported that commissioners had met in executive session and opted to delay their decision about removing Luna from the board for a week, until next Tuesday.

When Luna was appointed to the board, he told Dallas Voice he was looking forward to the assignment and hoped to revive a proposal for Parkland to offer domestic partner benefits.

In response to our messages, Luna sent us an e-mail late Wednesday saying only that he would be at a professional conference Wednesday and Thursday.

We spoke Thursday morning with openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, a friend of Luna’s. Fitzsimmons noted that because Tuesday’s discussion was in a closed executive session, he doesn’t know what commissioners talked about.

“All I know is there had been some accusations made which are currently being investigated,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s a mystery.”

—  John Wright

Thanks to our gay district clerk, you can now access Dallas County court files online

Gary Fitzsimmons

Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons sends word that public access to court records is now available online.

“Until now, only docket information has been available to the public on the Dallas County website,” said Fitzsimmons. “Now, pending documents in seven District Civil courts, eight Felony courts, all Family court documents from 2003 to present, and one County Court at Law can be viewed. Documents from the remaining courts will be available by the end of the year.”

“We now have now one digital County Court at Law,” said County Clerk John Warren.

Fitzsimmons has made technological innovation a priority in his administration. He began by implementing an e-filing system that delivers original petitions, motions and other court documents electronically.

He said his office ensured that sensitive information, especially documents involving children, remains secure.

“Other types of information may also be limited through the use of a redaction request form consistent with the law we have provided on our website,” Fitzsimmons said.

—  David Taffet

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

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