Rawlings, Kunkle headed to Oak Cliff for debate

Dallas mayoral candidates David Kunkle, left, and Mike Rawlings

Any of you didn’t get answers to all your questions at Dallas Voice’s LGBT mayoral runoff forum — and those of you who might have stayed home due to the weather — have another chance to hear Dallas mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle speak on the issues.

The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce is hosting a mayoral debate forum at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hitt Auditorium at Methodist Hospital, 1441 N. Beckley Ave.

KERA‘s Shelley Kofler will moderate, and questions for the candidates can be submitted by email to memberservices@oakcliffchamber.org.

—  admin

Low turnout could amplify gay vote

Dallas mayoral candidates make final pitch to LGBTs

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE:
COMMUNITY SPLIT OVER DISTRICT 14 RACE
FORT WORTH ELECTION ROUNDUP

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With turnout expected to be dismal for Saturday’s municipal elections, LGBT voters could play a pivotal role in determining which two candidates advance to an all-but-certain runoff for Dallas mayor.

It’s arguably the gay-friendliest field in the city’s history, with all three major candidates seeking the endorsement of both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. And all three — David Kunkle, Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings — have their share of high-profile supporters in a community that’s still smarting from the betrayal of former Mayor Tom Leppert.

Overall turnout in municipal elections is expected to hover around 10 percent, or just 50,000 of the city’s half-million registered voters. But with hotly contested council races in Districts 3 and 14, as well as a gay candidate in District 7, turnout among LGBT voters could be much higher.

“With a turnout as small as it’s predicted to be, for everyone who goes to the polls, their turnout almost counts multiple times,” Natinsky said this week. “Every vote becomes more important. We’re just trying to get voters out.”

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Natinsky again touted his record of support for the LGBT community during six years on the council, as well as the backing of three openly gay former councilmembers. Natinsky was also endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“I have not hesitated from day one, or previous to that, over the years to participate and support the GBLT community,” Natinsky said. “I think I’ve got a lot of strong supporters and friends within the community, who are seriously out there working hard to help me get elected, and they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t believe in me. And the difference is that I’m a proven quantity.”

Even in a nonpartisan race, Natinsky’s Republican Party affiliation could hurt him among some LGBT voters. But gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, a Democrat who lost a runoff for mayor to Leppert four years ago, said he doesn’t think it should.

“I’m supporting him because he’s the right person at the right time for Dallas, and I don’t care if he’s a Republican,” Oakley said recently. “I wish everybody would just put their partisan issues aside and look at the candidates, and support who you think is the best person.”

Natinsky initially sought the backing of Stonewall Democrats but withdrew from the screening process at the last minute over questions about whether his party affiliation would make him ineligible for the group’s endorsement.

Stonewall Democrats voted to endorse to Kunkle, the former Dallas police chief who this week predicted he will win the overall LGBT vote.

“I believe that I will be the one who will work the hardest to make their [LGBT residents’] lives better and also to help grow the economy in a way [in which] they will personally prosper,” Kunkle said. “I think I will do better [than the other candidates] within the LGBT community. I think the Stonewall Democrats’ support carries a lot of weight. … I’m not going to change who I am and what I believe. My core, basic way of thinking and reacting is not going to change, and that will be supportive of the GLBT community.”

Both Natinsky and Rawlings said recently during a forum that they opposed Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. But Kunkle said only that he didn’t vote on the amendment.

This week Kunkle clarified that if he did vote, he would have voted against the amendment.

“It seems to me that if two people love each other and want to commit to each other … that’s not a bad thing to happen in society,” Kunkle said.

Jesse Garcia, a past president of Stonewall who’s backing Kunkle, pointed to things like the former chief’s support for a full-time LGBT liaison officer at DPD.

“I’ve had the honor of meeting all four candidates for mayor. I respect their decisions to seek office and truly believe they want what’s best for Dallas,” Garcia said. “But when it comes to the LGBT community, Kunkle stands out as someone that was tested on LGBT issues and made the right call.”

Rawlings, who’s raised by far the most money and is perhaps an odds-on favorite to at least make the runoff, said his plan for economic development and philosophy of inclusion makes him the best candidate for the LGBT community.

“When this city is grown in the correct way, we all win, and most of the LGBT community I know are very pro-growth, are great professionals, and want to have a fabulous business environment,” Rawlings said. “We have the ninth-largest city in this country, and the more we include all the diversity throughout the city, I think the stronger we are.”

In endorsing Natinsky, DGLA issued a rare “warning” about Rawlings, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.”

But Rawlings has vehemently denied DGLA’s accusation, saying he demonstrated his willingness to stand up for people’s civil rights as the city’s homeless czar.

“I don’t think any CEO that I know has spent five years dealing and working with the homeless,” Rawlings said. “If I’m able to do that, I would think I could do it for groups that are much more powerful than them, and I think the LGBT community is one of them.”

Lesbian activist Pam Gerber, a member of both DGLA and Stonewall, has called DGLA’s warning about Rawlings “irresponsible” and immature.”

Gerber, also a member of a city task force on LGBT issues, said this week she’s supporting Rawlings because he has “the right combination of skills.”

“Whether it was him running a successful company or running a successful nonprofit endeavor, he’s proven that he can do it all, and I think that’s a valuable pallet of skills,” Gerber said. “I just think Mike has more to offer.”

But Gerber added that she doesn’t think any of the three major candidates would do harm to the LGBT community as mayor.

“I think they all have our best interests in mind,” Gerber said. “I think we’re really lucky to have the candidates we have. The only thing we’re not lucky about is the apathy of our community to get out and vote.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. For a full list of locations, go to www.dalcoelections.org.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Dallas police release names of murdered gay couple found in burned apartment

Dallas mayoral candidates Edward Okpa, from left, Mike Rawlings, Ron Natinsky and David Kunkle participate in a forum sponsored by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce on Monday night at Cityplace. (Photo courtesy of Avi S, Adelman)

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Last week Dallas police asked the media to hold off on publishing or broadcasting the names of a gay couple found murdered inside a burned Lake Highlands apartment, as they tried to locate the victims’ families. Laura Martin, DPD’s LGBT liaison officer, gave Instant Tea the go-ahead late Monday to publish the victims’ names. They are 59-year-old Michael Humphrey and 61-year-old Clayton Capshaw. We’ll have an update on the case later, but for now, anyone know these guys?

2. It’s still not too late to contact your state representative and ask them to support HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill from Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, that’s viewed as the last, best chance for the Legislature to address the issue in this year’s session. Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the House didn’t get to the bill as expected Monday but may take it up today when it re-convenes at 10 a.m. today. To read Equality Texas’ action alert on the bill and email your state rep, go here.

3. Above was the scene last night at Cityplace, where the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce hosted a sparsely attended forum featuring all four candidates for Dallas mayor. We’ll have more on the forum later, but for now here’s a teaser: Two of the three major candidates, Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings, said they were against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. Rawlings said he voted against the amendment, and Natinsky said he opposed it but couldn’t remember whether he actually voted. The third major candidate, David Kunkle, said he didn’t vote in the November 2005 election when the amendment was on the ballot.

—  John Wright

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