N. Texas candidates prep for runoffs

Angela Hunt and James Nowlin

Dallas, Fort Worth mayors’ races head to runoff; Hunt sails to re-election; Griggs upsets incumbent; Hightower also in runoff

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Mike Rawlings will face David Kunkle in a runoff for Dallas mayor on June 18. The two will meet in a debate sponsored by Dallas Voice on May 24 at Cathedral of Hope at 6 p.m.

Rawlings, who outspent all three of his opponents combined, drew 41 percent of the vote. Kunkle, who was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, received 32 percent of the vote.

DGLA endorsed Ron Natinsky, who got 25 percent of the vote.

Both Kunkle and Rawlings have supports from the LGBT community, but in heavily gay Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff precincts, Kunkle drew more votes.

Dallas City Council

In City Council races, Angela Hunt sailed to a re-election victory with 65 percent of the vote against three challengers. Gay candidate James Nowlin received 30 percent and Vernon Franko and Brian Oley split the remaining 5 percent.

“I was humbled by the support, especially in the Oak Lawn precincts,” Hunt said. “It meant a great deal to me.”

Because of term limits, this will be Hunt’s last two years on the council. But she said she hasn’t thought about future plans.

“We have some serious challenges we need to address over the next two years,” Hunt said.

In a rare upset, challenger Scott Griggs defeated two-term incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3.

“It’s a new day for District 3,” Griggs said. “Our message resonated with voters.”

His message included wise use of tax dollars for small economic development projects in his district and stopping gas drilling within the city limits.

Pauline Medrano who represents parts of Oak Lawn was re-elected with 75 percent of the vote.

Delia Jasso, who represents a large section of North Oak Cliff, ran unopposed.

Casie Pierce, a lesbian who was challenging Carolyn Davis for District 7 in South Dallas and Pleasant Grove, lost her race.

In District 6, Stonewall-backed Monica Alonzo defeated DGLA-backed Luis Sepulveda in the race with the lowest voter turnout.

Tarrant County

In Fort Worth, former Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Betsy Price will face former Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lane.

Of the five mayoral candidates, Price’s answers to a right-wing religious voter guide were the least LGBT-friendly, but Price said this week her answers were inaccurately represented (see story, Page 4).

In the non-partisan race, Price is running with the most Republican support, including that of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, who is a former Fort Worth mayor.

The candidates will meet in a debate on June 1 at Four-Day Weekend Theater, 312 Houston St., Fort Worth at 5:30 p.m. Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the event that will be moderated by Dallas Voice Senior Editor Tammye Nash and Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Bud Kennedy.

Chris Hightower, District 5 City Council candidate in Arlington, also made it into a runoff. He will face incumbent Lana Wolff and if elected would become that city’s first openly gay elected official.

Hightower was the top vote-getter with 39 percent in a five-way race.

“We feel good about where we are,” he said. “We have a broad base of support in the district, and we are going to just keep at it, keep delivering that positive message to the voters. We are ready to go. We came into this prepared for a runoff. We will still be doing some fundraising, but we are in good shape. We just have to put our heads down and keep going.”

—  John Wright

Rawlings, Kunkle headed to runoff; Griggs knocks off Neumann; Hunt cruises past Nowlin

District 3 Dallas City Councilman-elect Scott Griggs poses with his mother during a watch party at his campaign headquarters in Oak Cliff on Saturday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Gay candidate Chris Hightower advances to runoff in Arlington

From Staff Reports

Former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings and former Police Chief David Kunkle are headed to a June 18 runoff for Dallas mayor.

Meanwhile, challenger Scott Griggs knocked off incumbent Dave Neumann for the District 3 Dallas City Council seat, and District 14 incumbent Angela Hunt easily staved off a challenge from openly gay candidate James Nowlin in a race that has sharply divided the LGBT community.

The only other openly gay candidate on the ballot in Dallas, Casie Pierce, lost to incumbent Carolyn Davis in District 7. However, openly gay candidate Chris Hightower advanced to a runoff for the District 5 council seat in Arlington.

Rawlings and Kunkle were the top two vote-getters in the Dallas mayor’s race, beating out City Councilman Ron Natinsky. Rawlings converted his huge fund-raising advantage into a strong showing at the polls, capturing 41 percent of the vote with 551 of 555 precincts reporting. Kunkle, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, had 32 percent. Natinsky, endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, had 25 percent.

In District 3, Griggs captured 57 percent of the vote to Neumann’s 43 percent. Griggs, endorsed by both DGLA and Stonewall, will take over the Oak Cliff seat once held by gay Councilman Ed Oakley.

In District 14, Hunt captured 67 percent of the vote, to Nowlin’s 28 percent. Brian Oley was third with 4 percent, and Vernon Franko was fourth with 2 percent. Hunt was endorsed by DGLA, while Nowlin was endorsed by Stonewall.

In District 7, Pierce was backed by both DGLA and Stonewall as she vied to become the first out lesbian elected to the Dallas City Council. But Davis cruised to re-election with 61 percent, while Helene McKinney finished second with 21 percent and Pierce finished third with 18 percent.

In the Fort Worth mayor’s race, former Tarrant County Tax-Assessor Collector Betsy Price advanced to a runoff against former Councilman Jim Lane. Price received 43 percent of the vote to Lane’s 26 percent. Of the five Fort Worth mayoral candidates, Price was the one whose answers to a recent right-wing religious voters guide were the least LGBT-friendly. Fort Worth attorney and LGBT activist Jon Nelson, however, said he believes Price “has a good heart” but “just isn’t educated on gay issues.”

In the Arlington District 5 race, Hightower was the top-vote getter and advances to a runoff against incumbent Lana Wolff. Hightower captured 39 percent of the vote to Wolff’s 35 percent.

“Our supporters have really rallied behind us and behind our positive message,” Hightower said. “We have a positive message that goes back to the basics, and the voters have gotten behind that message. We feel the voters are saying they are ready for new leadership from a new generation.”

Hightower, who is endorsed by the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said he’s looking forward to the runoff against Wolff.

“We feel good about where we are,” he said. “We have a broad base of support in the district, and we are going to just keep at it, keep delivering that positive message to the voters. We are ready to go. We came into this prepared for a runoff. We will still be doing some fundraising, but we are in good shape. We just have to put our heads down and keep going.”

In other Dallas races, District 2 incumbent Pauline Medrano handily defeated challenger Billy MacLeod, 75 percent to 25 percent.

In District 6, Monica Alonzo defeated Luis Sepulveda for the seat being vacated by Councilman Steve Salazar. Alonzo, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, captured 61 percent to Sepulveda’s 39 percent. Sepulveda was endorsed by DGLA.

In the race to replace Natinsky in District 12, Sandy Greyson and Donna Starnes are headed to the only other Dallas runoff aside from the mayor’s race.

Incumbents Delia Jasso, Dwaine Caraway, Vonciel Jones Hill, Tennell Atkins, Linda Koop, Sheffie Kadane, Jerry Allen and Ann Margolin were all re-elected to the council.


—  John Wright

Griggs knocks off Neumann in District 3

With 52 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs leads incumbent Dave Neumann in the District 3 Dallas City Council race.

Griggs, endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, appears well on his way to pulling off a rare upset of an incumbent.

With only four precincts left to be counted, Griggs has 57 percent of the vote to Neumann’s 43 percent. This one’s over.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Rawlings continues to lead Dallas mayor’s race; Kunkle pulling away from Natinsky

With 202 of 555 precincts reporting, former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings continues to lead in the race for Dallas mayor. And it’s looking more and more like Rawlings will face former Police Chief David Kunkle in a runoff.

Rawlings has 43 percent of the vote, Kunkle has 30 percent, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky has 25 percent. Edward Okpa has 2 percent. Kunkle now leads Natinsky for second place by almost 2,000 votes, but there’s still a ways to go. Remember, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June runoff assuming Rawlings doesn’t eclipse 50 percent.

In other Dallas races, with 20 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs has expanded his lead over incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3. Griggs now has 59 percent to Neumann’s 41 percent, and appears well on his way to a rare upset of an incumbent. Griggs is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

In District 14, with 11 of 59 precincts reporting, incumbent Angela Hunt maintains a hefty lead over gay candidate James Nowlin. Hunt has 63 percent to Nowlin’s 20 percent.

—  John Wright

Rawlings, Hunt, Griggs lead after early voting

Mike Rawlings

Former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings has a big lead in the race for Dallas mayor after early voting.

Rawlings, the city’s former parks board chairman, captured 43 percent of the early vote. Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, is second with 29 percent, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky, endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, is third with 27 percent. Edward Okpa received 2 percent of the early vote.

Because early voting is expected to account for roughly half of the overall turnout, it’s looking like Rawlings will be in a June runoff with either Kunkle or Natinsky.

But we won’t know for sure until later tonight, when Election Day results are counted.

If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote tonight, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff. Only about 650 votes separate Kunkle and Natinsky. Rawlings received 12,693 early votes, Kunkle received 8,553 and Natinsky received 7,900. Okpa received 542.

In the District 14 Dallas City Council race, incumbent Angela Hunt has a commanding lead after early voting, with 64 percent. Openly gay challenger James Nowlin, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, is second with 30 percent. Brian Oley is third with 4 percent, and Vernon Franko is fourth with 2 percent. Based on early voting, Hunt is likely to avoid a runoff. Again, though, it’s too soon to say for sure. Hunt received 2,042 early votes and Nowlin received 968.

In District 3, challenger Scott Griggs has the lead after early voting over incumbent Dave Neumann. Griggs received 56 percent of the early vote to Neumann’s 44 percent. This race is still too close to call, as fewer than 300 votes separate the two candidates. Griggs received 1,287 early votes, while Neumann received 1,022.

In District 7, incumbent Carolyn Davis has a commanding lead with 64 percent of the vote. Openly gay candidate Casie Pierce is third with 16 percent, while Helene McKinney is second with 20 percent. Davis received 910 early votes to McKinney’s 284 and Pierce’s 234.

In District 2, incumbent Pauline Medrano has a commanding lead over challenger Billy MacLoed. Medrano got 74 percent of the early vote to MacLoed’s 26 percent.

In District 6, Monica Alonzo leads Luis Sepulveda by 61 percent to 39 percent in the race for the seat being vacated by Councilman Steve Salazar.

In District 10, incumbent Sheffie Kadane has a commanding lead over two challengers. And in District 10, incumbent Jerry Allen has 73 percent to challenger Cynthia Durbin’s 27 percent.

In the race to replace Natinsky in District 12, Sandy Greyson leads with 48 percent after early voting. Donna Stames is second with 41 percent, and William Tsao is third with 12 percent.

In District 13, incumbent Ann Margolin received 90 percent of the early vote, while challenger Richard Sheridan received 10 percent.

Incumbents Delia Jasso in District 1, Dwaine Caraway in District 4, Vonciel Jones Hill in District 5, Tennell Atkins in District 8 and Linda Koop in District 11 are unopposed.

Detailed results from all Dallas County races can be found here.

We expect Election Day results to start coming in shortly after 9 p.m. Stay tuned.

—  John Wright

Live-blogging tonight’s election results

UPDATE: Early voting results from Dallas are here.

I’m here at the Instant Tea Brewery, David Taffet is doing his best watch party pub crawl, and Tammye Nash is keeping an eye on things over in Tarrant County. Together we’ll be bringing you coverage of tonight’s municipal election results, so keep it right here.

The polls close at 7 p.m., and early voting results should be posted shortly therafter. In Dallas, about 26,000 people voted early, which amounts to about half of the expected overall turnout. This means the early voting results should give us a good idea where some races are headed. However, it could be 10 p.m. or later before Election Day results are posted and we know the final outcomes.

Races we’ll be watching most closely include:

Dallas mayor: David Kunkle, Ron Natinsky, Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings are in a four-way battle to become the city’s next top elected official. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote tonight, we’ll have a June runoff between the top two vote-getters. Kunkle is endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, while Natinsky has the backing of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

District 14 Dallas City Council: Three-term incumbent Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT ally, is being challenged by openly gay candidate James Nowlin, who’s endorsed by Stonewall Democrats and has raised the most money in the race. Hunt is endorsed by DGLA. The other two candidates in the District 14 race are Vernon Franko and Brian Oley. Again, if no one gets 50 percent tonight, we’ll have a runoff between the top two.

District 7 Dallas City Council: Casie Pierce is vying to become the first out lesbian elected to the council in the city’s history, but she faces an uphill battle against incumbent Carolyn Davis for this South Dallas seat. Also challenging Davis is Helene McKinney. Pierce is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and DGLA.

District 3 Dallas City Council: Incumbent Dave Neumann faces a stiff challenge from Scott Griggs for this Oak Cliff seat previously held by openly gay Councilman Ed Oakley. Griggs is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and DGLA.

District 5 Arlington City Council: Realtor Chris Hightower is vying to become Arlington’s first openly gay city councilman. Hightower, one of four candidates challenging eight-year incumbent Lana Wolff, is endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Fort Worth mayor: Five candidates are vying to replace Mike Moncrief, who is not seeking re-election. They are Jim Lane, Cathy Hirt, Betsy Price, Dan Barrett and Nicholas Zebrun.

—  John Wright

Community split over District 14 race

Angela Hunt, left, and James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

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

What’s Brewing: Navy reverses guidance that would allow same-sex weddings in base chapels

Gay former Councilman Ed Oakley is backing Scott Griggs in the District 3 race.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Navy has apparently caved to pressure from the far right and reversed guidance that would allow its chaplains to perform same-sex weddings in base chapels once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, the Navy’s chief of chaplains, says the decision to reverse the guidance is only temporary “pending additional legal and policy review.” The reversal follows an uproar by anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council and the Center for Military Readiness, which claim that allowing same-sex weddings on military bases would violate the Defense of Marriage Act. Meanwhile, an amendment that would prohibit same-sex weddings on defense department property and bar military chaplains from officiating them is one of several anti-gay measures that are expected to be considered today by the House Armed Services Committee when it calls up the Defense Authorization Act.

2. President Barack Obama delivered an extensive speech on immigration reform Tuesday in El Paso – but he failed to mention the plight of bi-national same-sex couples. Obama did give a shout out to the gays later in Austin, when he listed DADT repeal among his legislative accomplishments of the last few years.

3. Openly gay former District 3 Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley is supporting challenger Scott Griggs over incumbent Dave Neumann in the race for his old seat in Saturday’s election. Rudy Bush at The Dallas Morning News reports that Oakley spent $3,500 on a pro-Griggs mailer sent  to voters in the heavily LGBT Oak Cliff district. “Dave Neumann has not done anything in 4 years to help the residences of District 3, the southern sector, or Dallas,” Oakley said, explaining the mailer in an email to Griggs. “He has not worked with the other council persons to make progress. He is very good at taking credit for everything that was put in place prior to him taking office. He is not the leader that is needed to represent District 3.” Both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance have also endorsed Griggs over Neumann.

—  John Wright

This morning I was Neumann-ed

Scott Griggs

This morning I found a Dave Neumann sign in my front yard. Neumann is the Dallas City Council incumbent in District 3 running for re-election.

Because I cover election races, I put no signs in my yard or bumper stickers on my car and I make no public endorsements.

Over the past few weeks, neighbors told me that they received notices from the Neumann campaign that said that they would place a sign in their yard unless the campaign was told otherwise.

Several weeks ago, Neumann signs popped up all over my neighborhood. Over the next week, Scott Griggs signs replaced many of those Neumann signs. Griggs is challenging Neumann for the seat.

Steven Schenck of the Griggs campaign said that’s happening all over the district. He said the term coined by others in the district is “to have been Neumann-ed.”

He said the Griggs campaign has gotten a number of angry calls from people who discovered Neumann signs in their yards and asked for Griggs signs to replace them.

Some yards, especially on busy streets, have both Neumann and Griggs signs. Schenck said that’s probably because some homeowners might think that the campaign has a right to place the signs on their property near the curb.

Schenck called Neumann’s campaign tactic unfortunate and even wondered if it’s legal.

Griggs was endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in one of the few endorsements the two groups agreed on. He is also the only challenger to an incumbent the Dallas Morning News endorsed.

Have any of our readers in District 3 also been Neumann-ed?

—  David Taffet

DGLA endorses Ron Natinsky, Angela Hunt

Ron Natinsky

In a move that underscores major differences within the LGBT community in this year’s municipal elections, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance on Saturday endorsed City Councilman Ron Natinsky for mayor and incumbent Angela Hunt in District 14.

DGLA also issued a rare warning against Mike Rawlings in the mayor’s race, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.” In response to the DGLA warning, Rawlings denied that he would ever put economic development before civil rights. “Civil rights come first,” he said.

Last month, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed former Police Chief David Kunkle for mayor and openly gay challenger James Nowlin in District 14. Natinsky had pulled out of Stonewall’s candidate screening over questions about his eligibility for the group’s backing because he’s a Republican.

But unlike Stonewall, DGLA is nonpartisan — and so are municipal elections.

—  John Wright