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

Bill White at Reverchon Park: ‘We need a governor who will treat everybody with respect’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White addresses the media in the gym inside the Reverchon Park Recreation Center in Dallas on Tuesday.

During an Election Day campaign stop at one of Dallas’ most heavily gay precincts, Democrat Bill White made a final plea Tuesday for voters in North Texas to get out to the polls.

Flanked by Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and a dozen volunteers who lined the bleachers behind him, White addressed a handful of TV news crews in the gymnasium at the Reverchon Park Recreation Center.

“We need a governor who will treat everybody with respect and who will cultivate a culture of respect,” White said in response to a question from Dallas Voice about his message to LGBT voters. “The fact is, Rick Perry helps his friends, his friends help Rick Perry. He appeals to a portion of Texans, and there are places within this community, there are places within this state, where Rick Perry has never visited. Yet there are people who are working hard every day, paying taxes, and they’re entitled to be at the table where decisions are made as well. That’s why we’re going to win this election and make some history tonight.”

Earlier, Congresswoman Johnson addressed frustration in the community over a perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in Washington.

“Staying home doesn’t help at all,” said Johnson, a staunch LGBT ally. “I think instead of staying home, we need to vote harder.”

Asked whether she’s confident about the outcome of her race against Republican Stephen Broden, Johnson said: “If I get a majority, I’ll be so grateful. If I don’t, I’ll retire.”

Neil Emmons, an openly gay former Dallas city plan commissioner who helped organized White’s appearance, said the precinct was a “natural choice” for the event, in part due to its high concentrations of Hispanic and LGBT voters.

“This precinct represents the future of Texas,” Emmons said.

—  John Wright

Getting out the vote

Stonewall VP Jay Narey, above, and Political Director Omar Narvaez, below, are hoping for a monumental upset in the governor’s race.

In what’s become an Election Day ritual, more than a dozen members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas gathered around the Legacy of Love Monument during the Tuesday morning rush hour for a last minute get-out-the-vote effort.

Asked about her predictions for today, Stonewall President Erin Moore said, “Like any election, we’ll win some and we’ll lose some.”

She added that she thinks Democrats will continue their dominance in Dallas County, but she said she’s worried about some of the local state House races.

Asked about Democrat Bill White’s chances of unseating Gov. Rick Perry, Moore just shook her head. “But don’t quote me on that,” she said.

Poll are open until 7 p.m. today. For a list of precinct locations, go here.

—  John Wright

Bill White says LGBT vote ‘absolutely critical’

Democratic challenger says he expects ‘a very close election’ as he works to unseat incumbent Perry

John Wright  | Dallas Voice wright@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE SIDES  |  Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.
OPPOSITE SIDES | Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.

A strong turnout from LGBT voters is “absolutely critical” to his chances of unseating Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat Bill White told Dallas Voice this week.

In an exclusive interview, White said he expects “a very close election” and that gay voters in Texas shouldn’t stay away from the polls because they may be frustrated with a perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in Washington.

White declined a request for a phone interview but agreed to answer questions via e-mail.

“It’s absolutely critical. This will be a very close election,” White said when asked about the importance of the gay vote. “I’m proud of my support in the community and so grateful to all the volunteers who have been raising funds, making phone calls, and knocking on doors to spread the word about the choice we have for the future of our state. This is no time to stay home. Whatever is going on nationally, we have major issues facing our state and need a leader to take them on.”

White, the former Houston mayor, is widely considered a strong LGBT ally, and he appeared in Dallas’ gay Pride parade in September.

White had a gay brother who died several years ago and has said he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was championed by Perry.

However, White hasn’t made LGBT issues a major part of his gubernatorial campaign, presumably in part because they might be used by Perry to energize right-wing voters.

Some Democrats seeking statewide office, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Hank Gilbert, have published policy statements in support of LGBT equality on their websites.

“Actions speak louder than words, and I have a track record of inclusive leadership,” White said in response to a question about why he hasn’t focused on LGBT issues. “That’s why I’ve received a rare endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. Rick Perry wants to divide Texans — it’s what we’ve seen from him for decades. He’d rather divide for his personal political purposes than bring people together to get things done. Major corporations in our state, like Shell Oil for example, know that being inclusive makes them more competitive. But Perry recently made some comment saying that Texas’ job growth was somehow tied to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What? It just shows you how clueless a professional politician is.”

White was referring to Perry’s comment during a campaign stop in Temple in August, when the incumbent said: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas. We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Dallas Voice also asked White whether, as governor, he would support or sign bullying legislation that provides specific protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas public schools.

Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, committed suicide in September after his parents say he was bullied relentlessly at school. Asher’s suicide was one of several across the country in recent months by teens who were gay or perceived to be gay.

“Asher Brown’s suicide is a heartbreaking tragedy,” White responded. “I’ll support policies that prohibit school and workplace discrimination and harassment of any kind, and I’ll work hard to build an atmosphere of respect in Texas.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

The Dallas Morning News straight-washes a story about gay-rights activist Jesse Garcia

Suffice to say, Jesse Garcia has never tried to hide his sexual orientation and won’t be going back into the closet anytime soon.

After all, Garcia is the immediate past president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the current president of the city’s gay LULAC chapter. So we’re pretty sure Garcia mentioned an LGBT issue or two — like maybe the fact that incumbent Rick Perry has a virulently anti-gay record — during his recent interview with The Dallas Morning News about the governor’s race.

But guess what? The DMN didn’t say a word in the story about Garcia’s sexual orientation or his status as a gay-rights activist. Seriously, this is akin to straight-washing Elton John.

Garcia was featured in a piece, shown below, about the Hispanic voting bloc, which is expected to heavily back Democrat Bill White. The focus is Hispanic — fair enough — but we’re sorry, you’ve gotta at least mention that Garcia has made a name for himself as a gay activist, and that the LGBT voting bloc is also expected to heavily back White.

Otherwise, it comes off looking like the newspaper gives less than a shit about gay issues. Either that or they just agree with Perry.

—  John Wright