Vote for competence and integrity, not just party

Natinsky, Hawk, Lee, DeWitt deserve your vote.

 

Rob SchleinFor too many elections, Dallas Voice readers voted based on the question “Are they ‘with me’ or ‘against me’ as it pertains to gay rights. The main criteria have always been the questions of same-sex marriage and non-discrimination in employment. And therefore, readers aligned with the Democrat Party.

Now that the courts are nearly unanimous in deciding the marriage question, and since major cities and corporations have addressed non-discrimination policies protecting gay people, perhaps it is time to move beyond this traditional paradigm.

I believe it’s time to ask: “How qualified, competent and honest is the candidate?”

The answer to this question does not fall neatly within political party lines.

There are a number of candidates on the Republican side that clearly excel, and I will ask you to avoid your tendency to pull the “D” lever at the polls and to vote for them.

They are Ron Natinsky for Dallas County judge, Susan Hawk for Dallas County district attorney, Mike Lee for judge and Lisa DeWitt for judge.

Ron Natinsky won the endorsement of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance when he ran for mayor, and he has a proven record of public and private accomplishments.

I have had far too many Democrats contact me to ask about Ron because they are unimpressed with Clay Jenkins’ Ebola preparedness, the quality of his communication skills during broadcast interviews and his desire to bring thousands of illegal immigrant children to Dallas.

But aside from Ebola, Clay just isn’t working well for Dallas County. The New Parkland Hospital is already a budget mess, and the hiring of a $1 million-a-year salaried director is questionable. If you are concerned with income inequality, that should “rankle your feathers.”

More importantly, Dallas area growth hasn’t come to Dallas County because Clay Jenkins doesn’t know how to attract businesses to our county, and how to avoid the northern county migration.

Susan Hawk has an impeccable reputation and the experience of a prosecuting attorney.  She can restore morale and proficiency in the office of the district attorney.

Craig Watkins, on the other hand, has lost all integrity. Are you really okay with the idea that he uses forfeiture funds for personal purposes?

Forget whether he is “pro-gay” or not,, he has a reputation for being a bully. He fired one well-regarded attorney in his office just for attending a GOP political function. This is the kind of bullying gays should abhor.

Mike Lee is running against Sally Montgomery. It’s one thing to have different views on politics. But it’s quite another to make rulings from the bench that have no basis in law.

The Dallas Observer rated Sally “The Worst Judge in Texas,” and wrote that the 5th Court of Appeals is very busy undoing her decisions. The Dallas Morning News editorial board, once referred to her as “arrogant and capricious.”

And, let’s not forget Lisa DeWitt, who is on the leadership team of the local Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

Are there Democrats worthy of Republican consideration?

Yes. I’m likely voting Democrat in these races:

• Mike Collier for comptroller. As a former employee of a Big 8 accounting firm from my early professional years, I appreciate the competence of a CPA in that position. The Republican candidate has no such background. It takes more skills than espousing one’s religious faith to run a comptroller’s office effectively.

• Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor. I’m not convinced that Republican Dan Patrick is a good choice for lieutenant governor. GOP friends in the Senate have had less than kind words for him during his primary campaign. Dan is not well liked or trusted among his Austin peers, and I worry that he would become the Republican Harry Reid of our state Senate, creating the gridlock most of us hate in Washington.

• Sam Houston for attorney general. Republican Ken Paxton has some legal troubles ahead as was pointed out by his GOP Primary opponent, Dan Branch, that are very serious. Enough said.

So, I ask all the readers this election season: Don’t just vote for a Party. Vote for competence. Vote for integrity. I am,

Rob Schlein is president of Metroplex Republicans, an LGBT Republican organization.

—  Tammye Nash

‘Gay Republican from Dallas’ featured in the HuffPo says he’s not really a gay Republican

President Barack Obama

Last Friday the Huffington Post published this piece about the question of whether President Barack Obama’s decision to come out for same-sex marriage will have any impact on gay Republican voters this November. Although this is a no-brainer when it comes to die-hards like Rob Schlein, it turns out some gay GOPers were indeed swayed by the president’s historic decision. And one of them, according to the HuffPo, was Bill Jones, “a 45-year-old gay Republican from Dallas” who’s considering voting for a Democrat for president for the first time in his life.

“It stopped me dead in my tracks because it removed the one rationalization I always had,” Jones told the HuffPo of Obama’s announcement. “… I used to be very good at compartmentalizing. But it does make a difference now that Obama has said what he’s said. I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.”

On Monday we caught up with Jones to learn more. He said it all began when was listening to Michalangelo Signorile’s Sirius OutQ radio show about the topic last Thursday, and he called in on a whim from his car. (Signorile is an editor for HuffPo.) Jones never made it on the air as he had to hang up to go to an appointment. But the producer passed on his name and number to the HuffPo’s reporter, who called him the next day.

Jones said his only issue with the HuffPo piece is that it makes it sound like he’s still a Republican. Although there is no such thing as an official party affiliation in Texas, Jones said his personal shift away from the GOP began several years ago. While Obama’s announcement may have been “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” his switch was “a long time coming,” Jones said.

“I wouldn’t consider myself Republican anymore,” Jones said. “The funny thing is that most of my friends don’t even know that I used to be conservative. A lot of my current friends, I don’t necessarily want to know that. It made it seem like I was still that way, and I’m really not. … I just don’t want to look like a crazy fool to friends.”

Jones asked us not to repost the photo of him and Dan Quayle that’s featured alongside the Huff Po story — or any photo of him for that matter — in part because some of the comments below the article were “really hateful.” But despite his concerns about being outed as an ex-gay-Republican to friends, Jones said he think’s the HuffPo story addresses an important topic. In addition to Obama’s announcement, he pointed to a gay soldier being booed during a Republican Primary debate last year — and none of the candidates on stage intervening — as a key step in his evolution.

“As I’ve gotten older, and more established with my partner, you kind of start to resent the fact that you can’t be like the other couples that you’re associating with,” Jones said. “I think it’s important for the conversation to happen, because I think other conservatives or people who lean that way, need to start putting this [gay rights] as a higher priority. I think it’s important to put it out there for discussion.”

 

—  John Wright

GOProud taps Coulter for advisory board

Is THIS the Queen of Fabulous?

I firmly believe that for the LGBT equality to make true and lasting progress, we need activists and allies in both the major political parties. Though I don’t always agree with the political viewpoints of the LGBT Republicans I know, I do think their presence and their efforts are vital to our community’s progress.

But hooking up with and/or supporting anti-gay politicians and pundits, I think, takes more than one giant step in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, that’s just what the LGBT Republican group GOProud has done by naming wing-nut Ann Coulter as honorary chair of the organization’s advisory board. Her “official title,” according to this GOProud press release, is “honorary chair and gay icon.”

GOProud board chair Christopher Barron said in the press release: ““Ann Coulter is a brilliant and fearless leader of the conservative movement. We are honored to have her as part of GOProud’s leadership. Ann helped put our organization on the map. Politics is full of the meek, the compromising and the apologists – Ann, like GOProud, is the exact opposite of all of those things. We need more Ann Coulters.”

Coulter said: “I am honored to serve in this capacity on GOProud’s Advisory Council, and look forward to being the Queen of fabulous.”

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Dan Ramos hospitalized; Log Cabin convention under way at the Anatole

Dan Ramos

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos has been hospitalized just days before his likely removal from office for, among other things, comparing gay Democrats to “termites” and the “fuckin’ Nazi Party.” But no, it’s not for a brain tumor.

2. Don’t be surprised if you run into some well-known gay Republicans around town (or on Grindr) this weekend. The Log Cabin Republicans are holding their National Convention at the Hilton Anatole.

3. Have you emailed your state representative yet?

—  John Wright

Gov. Rick Perry won’t join anti-gay boycott of CPAC — in fact, he’ll be a keynote speaker

Gov. Rick Perry

As we’ve mentioned before, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has apparently opted not to join the growing anti-gay boycott of this year’s “Republican Woodstock” — the annual Conservative Political Action Conference next week.

In fact, according to the Dallas Morning News, Perry has landed a keynote speaking slot at CPAC, where he may be rubbing elbows with people like Lt. Dan Choi. (Note that the first and only comment below the DMN post is this: “Why no mention of the speakers not coming to CPAC this year because of the presence of Gay Republicans?”)

Lawmakers boycotting CPAC this year over the inclusion of the gay Republican group GOProud include Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. And the boycott is being led by some of Perry’s favorite groups — such as the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

Alas, it appears politics and ego will always trump conviction and loyalty for Perry, who may have his sights set on the White House in 2012. But again, why no backlash from the right-wingers in Texas who’ve been so supportive of Perry?

Anyhow, we’re hoping Perry seeks the Republican presidential nomination next year. If nothing else, a national campaign will undoubtedly mean a much closer look at those pesky gay rumors.

UPDATE: Perry will make it to CPAC, but he won’t make it to the Super Bowl in his own state. Plus, he wasn’t around for Texas’ cold weather emergency this week. He’s in Southern California. What a douche.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Log Cabin responds to Congressman Pete Sessions’ decision not to attend dinner

Pete Sessions: Silver fox or just sly like one?

Roll Call is reporting that Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has backed out of a scheduled appearance Wednesday night at a fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans, saying he needs to attend a House GOP caucus meeting instead.

Well isn’t that a convenient excuse? We’re sure Sessions’ no-show has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, also slated to appear at the Log Cabin dinner, are being villified on right-wing websites for accepting the invitation. As we reported, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins sent Cornyn a letter last week demanding that he skip the dinner. And FRC said on its blog Tuesday that Cornyn shouldn’t have accepted the invitation in part because Log Cabin derives its name from the idea that President Abraham Lincoln was gay, a theory FRC seems hell-bent on dismissing. Meanwhile, American Family Association President Tom Wildmon told CSN News that by attending the fundraiser Cornyn is actively promoting “men having sex with men.”

We called Sessions’ D.C. office to get further explanation about his decision to back out — such as whether the Republican caucus meeting was scheduled before or after the Log Cabin dinner, whether they are in fact at the same time, and if they are, whether he can’t afford to miss a few minutes of the caucus meeting to make a cameo at the LCR dinner. But not surprisingly, Sessions spokeswoman Emily Davis mysteriously became unavailable after we identified ourselves as being from the gay paper, and she hasn’t gotten back to us.

We’re sure some gay Republicans will defend Sessions’ decision, pointing to his appearance at the annual dinner of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin two years ago. But we’d like to point out that the 2008 dinner came immediately AFTER the November elections, not six weeks before them. Let’s face it, folks, Republicans like Sessions are scared shitless of the Tea Party right now. And while tea-baggers like to say they’re concerned primarily with fiscal issues, many of us recognize them as the same right-wing nutjobs who were peddling social issues five years ago.

In case you’re wondering, Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio in November.

UPDATE: Melissa Kennedy, a spokeswoman for National Log Cabin Republicans, contacted Instant Tea to say that our previous headline, which suggested the Sessions had gotten cold feet about the dinner due to pressure from social conservatives, was inaccurate. Kennedy said we should have contacted Log Cabin before posting it. She said Republican House leaders have called a mandatory meeting for tonight and so Sessions’ reason for not attending the dinner is legitimate. She said if Sessions was worried about how the Log Cabin appearance would look, he wouldn’t have accepted their invitation in the first place.

Sessions is sending a senior staff member to pick up his award from Log Cabin, and he’s videotaped a message that will be played during the dinner, Kennedy said.

“We don’t feel like someone left us at the altar,” she said.

Asked whether Log Cabin has any qualms about hosting Cornyn after he supported Tuesday’s filibuster of the bill containing language to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” Kennedy said absolutely not. Kennedy said Log Cabin supported Senate Republicans’ decision to filibuster the bill based on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow them to propose amendments.

“We’re not saying they’ve been our best buds and we’re going to have sleepovers, but we’re working on it and we appreciate the fact that they said yes,” Kennedy said of Cornyn and Sessions and their decision to accept the group’s invitation to the dinner.

—  John Wright

Mehlman’s out, but will the LGBT community forgive him his past?

Liberal activists still blame Mehlman for some of the GOP’s most anti-gay strategies, but gay Republicans criticize them for failing to ‘walk the talk’ of inclusion


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL | Then-Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman hits the campaign trail with U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, in October 2006. Mehlman came out as a gay man last month, but many in the LGBT community have refused to welcome him into their ranks because of his past support of anti-gay politicians, like Schmidt who has consistently voted against LGBT-friendly legislation. (Nati Harnik/Associated Press)

On the surface, it would seem that having a former chair of the Republican National Committee, someone with close ties to a number of high-level Republican officeholders and party officials, come out as a gay man and a same-sex marriage supporter would be a real coup.

After all, who could be better at helping sway politicians and policymakers away from their anti-gay stances than a man who helped them reach their positions of power in the first place.
But when Ken Mehlman, former RNC chair and 2004 campaign manager for George W. Bush, announced last month that he is gay and intends now to be an advocate for marriage equality, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the LGBT community overall.

It was during Mehlman’s tenure as Bush’s campaign manager that, LGBT activists say, the Republicans used LGBT issues, specifically same-sex marriage, as a tool to whip up fear among right-wing conservatives, driving them to the polls to give Bush a second term in the Oval Office.

Although Republican Karl Rove is widely seen as the architect of that strategy, liberal activists aren’t willing to give Mehlman a pass for the role he played in that election, when right-wingers in 11 states got constitutional amendments banning gay marriage on their ballots — and all 11 passed.

Mehlman has also previously worked as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and as legislative director for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio. Both Texas congressmembers have consistently voted against LGBT-positive legislation, and Smith last month announced his intention to introduce legislation this fall to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Mehlman himself acknowledged, in an interview with Marc Ambinder published Aug. 25 in The Atlantic, that if he had come out earlier he might have been able to fend off some of the GOP’s most anti-gay efforts and rhetoric. And Ambinder said Mehlman had told him previously, in private, off-the-record conversations, about working behind the scenes to “beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.”

Mehlman told Ambiner that he had only begun coming to terms with his sexual orientation earlier this year, and that he “really wished” he had reached this point earlier in his career so that he could have fought against the federal marriage amendment pushed by right-wing Republicans in 2004, and, as RNC chair, “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African-Americans.”

Mehlman, through Ambinder’s interview, asked for, if not support, “at least … understanding” from the LGBT community. But some aren’t willing to give him that, either.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, this week summed up the feelings of many on the left.

“He’s just another closeted gay Republican that came out. But more than that, he was a closeted gay Republican who worked against the community,” Moore said. “That’s my biggest issue. You can’t work against the community, and then come out and say, ‘Just kidding,’ and think that makes everything OK. When you have done a crime, you can’t erase it by doing community service.”

Moore said Mehlman’s new-found LGBT activism is “too little, too late.”

She said, “If there is a rosy side to this, then I’ll be happy to see it. But I don’t think it will happen. If he thought he could change hearts and minds, why didn’t he do it when he had the power to do it? When he was in a seat of power and was gay, he hid it and worked against our community. Now that he is outside that seat of power, I don’t think he will have the influence to make a real difference.”

Michael Mitchell, now president of the National Stonewall Democrats, was working with Equality Utah in 2004. The marriage amendment there, Mitchell said, “literally ripped families apart. It caused suicides. The Republican Party pushed those amendments in as many places as they could. There are people in Utah today who are still not talking to each other because of that, and I am sorry, but I implicate the Republican Party in that. And Ken Mehlman was part of it.”

Mitchell said that in his work with the GOP and the Bush campaign, Mehlman “spent a lot of time putting a stamp of approval on some really heinous policies, on pushing ways of thinking that have changed the way people treat LGBT people.”

Mitchell also noted, as have other liberal activists, that Mehlman has continued to donate to candidates and officeholders who are stridently anti-gay.

According to the website OpenSecrets.org, which tracks campaign contributions, Mehlman has donated a total of $20,200 to nine different political candidates, plus $5,000 to the Every Republican is Crucial political action committee, for a total of $25,200 over the past 12 months.

All nine candidates are Republicans, and of them, five are described as “hard-core conservatives” who have consistently voted against LGBT issues, by the nonprofit, non-partison website OnTheIssues.org. Granger is one of those five.

Two more of the nine were described as “centrists,” by OnTheIssues.org, and an eighth, Sen. John McCain of Arizon, is described as a “populist conservative.”

The ninth is Kelly Ayotte, candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire. Because Ayotte has not served in the Senate yet, she is not listed on OnTheIssues.org. However, in her former position as New Hampshire attorney general, she opposed efforts there to legalize same-sex marriage, and resigned her office when Gov. John Lynch signed the marriage equality legislation into law.

Mehlman made six of those 10 political contributions since Jan. 1 this year, including contributions  to Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Rep. Michael Castle of Delware, McCain and Ayotte.

His most recent donation to Granger, for $2,400, was made Dec. 10, 2009. Records on OpenSecret.org do not show any donations to Smith.

Mitchell said, “Ken Mehlman continues to give money to conservatives who are working against the best interest of the LGBT community. How quickly can a tiger change his stripes, is my question.

“Yes, he’s come out. I applaud him for that. I am sure he has a bit of influence still in the Republican Party, and if that shifts the debate and takes gay rights off the target list for the Republicans, then that’s great,” Mitchell added. “If Ken Mehlman can help accomplish that, then bully for him. But I think there’s a lot of making up he has to do.”

The gay Republican view

But those on the opposite end of the LGBT political spectrum said this week that those who continue to condemn Mehlman and refuse to accept him into the LGBT activist community are, in effect, cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

“I say, let’s move forward and bring about reconciliation,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the national Log Cabin Republicans. “Yes there are a lot of folks within the broader LGBT community that are not happy [with Mehlman over his previous work with the GOP]. That’s understandable. But I say to them, remember where you were at certain stages of your own coming out process.

“I am not discounting the past. We shouldn’t ignore it. But I would offer a gentle reminder that we preach to people to come out … . Not every person in the LGBT community is a Democrat.”

Cooper said he sees “something cannibalistic” in the way LGBT liberals have been attacking Mehlman since he came out, and suggested that to “continuously vilify Ken could delay those conservative young gay Republicans in coming out themselves. … People are on record now saying stuff about Ken that could be used against our community, and this is coming from bloggers and advocates in the community who have a record of calling for tolerance and reconciliation. That stuff is out there now. You can’t just hit delete.”

Cooper also said LGBT liberals shouldn’t castigate Mehlman now for donations he made at a time when he wasn’t out as a gay man, either publicly or to himself. And, he added, Mehlman’s continuing donations to Republican candidates will help keep open doors of opportunity.

“Look where he’s going now,” Cooper said of Mehlman. “I know he has reached out to Log Cabin and to other entities to say, ‘This is what I want to do moving forward. Tell me where I can be the most helpful.’ We would be foolish to refuse that.”

Cooper compared Mehlman’s situation to his own experience. Cooper worked in the Bush administration, and has also worked for Republican legislators such as Rep. Iliana Ross-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican from Florida. Although he was not closeted during those years, Cooper said, “There were people I worked with who didn’t know I was gay because I didn’t lead with that. But I never hid that part of me.”

Now, because of the relationships he built with those lawmakers in the past, Cooper said he has a better chance of making headway toward swaying their positions on LGBT issues. As does Mehlman.

“Both of us has a certain amount of credibility with the conservatives. Since I took this job [with Log Cabin] three months ago, there have been people I have met with that I know the only reason I even got in the door is because I have that ‘R’ next to my name, or because they remember me from past working relationships. And getting in the door is the first step,” Cooper said.

He also said that activists who refuse to work with or support candidates who don’t vote with the LGBT community in every instance are making a mistake.

“There are Republicans who are supportive on [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act] but they are not going to vote with us on marriage. Are we supposed to throw away any chance of making progress on at least one issue because somebody isn’t with us on every issue,” he said. “People like [U.S. Rep.] Pete Sessions and [U.S. Sen.] John Cornyn [both of Texas] who have told us, ‘We’re not going to be 100 percent with Log Cabin. But let’s start talking about where we do concur, and move forward from there.’ That is a vast shift. And [Mehlman] helps push that it even further forward.”

Cooper recalled one visit to a member of the Texas delegation in Congress who asked him, “When did you become a gay?” That prompted, he said, “a serious conversation” about the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice.

“If [Mehlman] can do the same thing with the people he knows, even better. That’s why it is important to come out. That chips away at the argument that sexual orientation is a choice, that it’s deviant and only a small subset of society. The more people who come out, the more it shows how diverse the LGBT community is. And [Mehlman] being out and available to answer those kinds of questions can only help.”

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, was even more adamant.

“I think it’s great that [Mehlman] has figured out who he is and that we now have a high-profile advocate” in the Republican Party, Schlein said. “I am disappointed but not surprised that people in the gay community are giving him so much grief about what happened before. They blame him for things that happened when he was not out, even to himself, and things that he probably had no real say in. Sometimes even the RNC chairman just has to be a good soldier and execute the strategies that other people have laid out.”

And while Cooper offered “a gentle reminder” to those on the left to think about their own coming out process, Schlein was much less gentle.

“They yearn to talk about inclusion. They yearn for acceptance, and they yearn for grace. But when it’s time to show that acceptance and grace to someone else, they don’t walk the talk,” he declared.

“Anyone who would criticize [Mehlman] for what he did before he was out needs to remember what they did before they were out, what it was like for them. If you want acceptance and tolerance and inclusion, then you have to actually practice acceptance and tolerance and inclusion. I say there is a lot of hypocrisy coming from the left.”

Neither Granger nor Smith, nor any of the aides in their offices, returned calls from Dallas Voice seeking comments for this story.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Cornyn to seek ‘common ground’ with Log Cabin — 6 weeks before the Nov. mid-term elections

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who famously compared gays to “box turtles” in the draft of a 2004 speech, now says he wants to find common ground with LGBT Republicans.

Cornyn, who happens to be chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, reportedly plans to visit a Log Cabin Republicans reception before the group’s national dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, about six weeks before the critical mid-term elections. From the Standard-Times of San Angelo:

“Some things we won’t agree on,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “But I think it’s always better to talk and then try find those things we can agree on rather than just assume there’s no common ground whatsoever.”

Cornyn said same-sex marriage is “absolutely” one of those things he and LCR members don’t agree on, but he’s happy to talk to them.

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation,” Cornyn said.

We’re sure some will try to argue this is a sign of progress, but we mustn’t forget Cornyn’s strong support for a federal marriage amendment, his vote against hate crimes last year, his stated opposition to DADT repeal, and his all-but-certain vote against ENDA if it ever reaches the Senate floor. Cornyn has received a zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office.

So, until Cornyn puts his votes where his mouth is — and he very well might get a chance when DADT repeal comes to the Senate floor the same month he’s slated to visit Log Cabin — we see this visit as nothing more than pandering for votes and money from gay Republicans across the country. When the GOP platform in your home state calls for imprisoning gays, where can the common ground possibly be?

—  John Wright