While Todd Staples worries about gay divorce, cotton, hay, sweet potatoes, peanuts decline

Todd Staples
Todd Staples

Hank Gilbert, the Democrat who’s challenging Republican incumbent Todd Staples in the race for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, is publicly questioning Staples’ involvement in a same-sex divorce case in Dallas. In a statement posted on his campaign Web site yesterday, Gilbert said:

“I can’t for the life of me figure out what this has to do with agriculture. The last time I checked, marriage and divorce played absolutely no role whatsoever in the price of cotton, sorghum, or corn. One would think Todd Staples would focus his energies on actually improving agriculture in Texas, but instead, he’s focused on yet again bashing the LGBT community and their families in an effort to shore up his erosion in his right wing base. I’m sick and tired of politicians masking their terrible job performance by using our citizens as a punching bag.”

Gilbert, who’s from Whitehouse, issued a comprehensive policy statement on LGBT issues, called “Equality for All,” when he planned to run for governor. He switched to the agriculture commissioner race after Bill White declared for governor. Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman in the primary. While “Equality for All” stops short of explicitly endorsing same-sex marriage, it comes pretty darn close. It proposes repealing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage and allowing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same privileges and protections as heterosexual couples. Gilbert’s policy statement, which was later adopted by gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami, also proposed legislation banning anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, insurance and public education.

Staples’ office hasn’t returned phone calls seeking comment about his involvement in the same-sex divorce case. Staples, from Palestine, and State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, filed a brief opposing the divorce with the help of the right-wing, Plano-based Liberty Institute. Staples’ involvement in the case presumably stems from the fact that he co-sponsored Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage when he served as a state senator.

Yesterday I suggested that right-wing politicians in Texas are showing signs of backing away from gay-bashing, because they’re afraid it may come back to haunt them. I also called for pro-LGBT politicians to go on the offensive. Perhaps Gilbert was listening:

“I’m not sure what benefit Todd Staples will get aligning himself with a right-wing think tank that sued the state of Alaska to stop an investigation into former Governor Sarah Palin’s abuse of power, but one thing is clear: Texas agriculture doesn’t benefit from this at all. While Todd Staples worries about gay marriage, Texas food security is at stake. When Texas produces less crops, that means we have to import them from other states or even other countries. Staples needs to be doing something about shrinking agricultural production and what that means for food safety, not filing briefs in a bunch of lawsuits that don’t involve him or his department. Finally, there’s the basic issue of human decency. It’s time Todd Staples stop bashing LGBT Texans. Todd’s already been a critical player in denying equality to LGBT Texans, why continue to demonize them?”

—  John Wright

Superman’s editor running for gov; creationist and pastrami-maker lose

Perry White
Perry White

John Wright did our print edition election coverage this week. Since I was at the Democratic Party’s watch party on Tuesday, I decided to add my own keen observations. Maybe this is why editor Tammye Nash asked John to do our election coverage in the paper this week.

Rick Perry is running against Bill White for governor making it a Perry-White race. Say what you want about either Perry or White, Daily Planet editor Perry White was the greatest editor of all times. Although Tammye is more observant. She notices every time I change into tights and jump out of our window.

White and Linda Chavez-Thompson might make a stronger ticket on the Democratic side, but Shami-Katz would have been far more interesting. A Palestinian and a Jew running together would have been historic. And say what you will about Texans, I thought we were ready to embrace a Muslim governor. And talk about qualifications. Shami is a hairdresser and Katz … well, he simply makes the best pastrami sandwich in the state. I always make at least one stop at his 6th Street deli whenever I’m in Austin. Much more interesting than a race between two attorneys.

And I’m really upset about the District 9 State Board of Education race. Long-time board member Don McLeroy was defeated. McLeroy is a “young-earth creationist.” He believes the dinosaurs lived on earth about 5770 years ago, the same time as Adam and Steve. Because of the size of Texas schoolbook orders, decrees from the Texas Board of Edumacation affect books used around the country. Now, how are those heathens in New York City going to learn real creation science? Their books will be full of facts. The history they learn will be un-rewritten. Well, we’ll still have a couple of home-skoolers on the board.

And am I the only one who wanted the election to come out differently or is everyone in my office simply delighted that I won’t be walking around doing my Debra Medina imitations anymore.

—  David Taffet

Watch Instant Tea for election coverage

Vote 2010 Logo.colorWe’ll be live-blogging tonight’s primary election results right here on Instant Tea, so don’t forget to check back when polls close at 7 p.m. Here are some of the races we’ll be watching closely:

1. Openly gay Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, faces an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination. Foster is being challenged by Highland Park attorney Clay Jenkins and Dallas Schools President Larry Duncan. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held April 6. Foster is the first openly gay incumbent previously endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas to not receive the group’s backing in a bid for re-election. Stonewall, which endorsed Foster in 2006, is backing Duncan this year. Jenkins also has his share of LGBT supporters, including openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons.

2. Foster and Fitzsimmons are two of four openly LGBT candidates on the ballot in Dallas County. Fitzsimmons should easily fend off a challenge from perennial candidate Johnny Gomez. Meanwhile, former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem John Loza is one of four Democrats in the primary for County Criminal Court No. 5, where a runoff is also likely. Loza and Tony Parker are vying to become the first openly LGBT candidates elected to the judiciary in Dallas County. Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, doesn’t have an opponent in the primary.

3. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is the heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. White’s most formidable challenger is hair care products tycoon Farouk Shami. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has endorsed White. In the GOP primary, the question is whether incumbent Gov. Rick Perry will avoid a runoff against either U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

4. Rob Schlein, the openly gay president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, is running for precinct chair in his Far North Dallas neighborhood against Homer Adams, the husband of Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Cathie Adams. Cathie Adams, former president of the Texas Eagle Forum, has been one of the leading anti-gay voices in North Texas over the last few decades.

5. State Rep. Terri Hodge, a longtime LGBT ally in the House, pleaded guilty to a felony charge in February in connection with the Dallas City Hall corruption case, and is no longer eligible to hold public office. However, Hodge’s name still appears on the ballot, and if she receives more votes than the other candidate in District 100, Eric Johnson, the Democratic nominee will be decided by precinct chairs in the district. Another embattled Democrat, Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, faces three primary challengers amid an ongoing criminal investigation of his office.

—  John Wright

Shami at Stonewall on eve of shake-up

Shami.Farouk

Farouk Shami’s campaign may be falling apart, and he may be pulling only 11 percent in one recent poll, but that hasn’t stopped him from stumping, passionately, for votes. Shami delivered a fiery speech on Tuesday night at Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ regular meeting at Ojeda’s on Maple Avenue. In his third appearance before an LGBT group in Dallas, Shami told Stonewall he would support gays and lesbians “all the way to the altar.”

“You want to get married? I’ll be the judge,” Shami said at the outset of his speech.

He then recounted his rags to riches journey from Palestinian immigrant to hairdresser to hair care products magnate. At one point he stopped and asked, “Are there any hairdressers here today?” When no one raised their hand, he said, “Most hairdressers are gay. How come they’re not here?”

Shami told Stonewall he played an important role in getting Annise Parker elected mayor of Houston. “We have a black president. We have a gay mayor. It’s time for a brown governor,” he said.

Asked by Stonewall President Erin Moore about his policy statement on LGBT issues, Shami acknowledged that he basically took the statement directly from Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner. But Shami said he goes a step further than the policy statement — which calls only for civil unions.

“I’ll be the justice of the peace,” he said.

—  John Wright

Farouk to visit gay LULAC Council tonight

Farouk Shami
Farouk Shami

Houston hair care magnate Farouk Shami, the only Texas gubernatorial candidate who’s released a comprehensive policy statement on LGBT issues, will appear tonight at a meeting of Dallas’ gay LULAC Council, according to Council President Jesse Garcia. The meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at Hungdinger, 4000 Cedar Springs Road, will also feature appearances by State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, Texas LULAC Director Joey Cardenas III and representatives from the Human Rights Initiative.

As I noted last week, Shami has adopted the policy statement on LGBT issues that was previously published by Hank Gilbert, who dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary to run for agriculture commissioner. The policy statement proposes repealing Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage and allowing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same privileges and protections as heterosexual couples. It also proposes legislation banning discrimination in employment, insurance and public education based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Former Houston Mayor Bill White, who’s considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has yet to release a policy statement on LGBT issues. White was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas last week.

—  John Wright