Dems seek supermajority on Commissioners Court

LGBT ally Theresa Daniel among those vying for Dickey’s seat

Going-after-Gay-vote1

GOING AFTER THE GAY VOTE | Cecile Fernandez, left, speaks to Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Texas Land & Cattle in Uptown. Fernandez is one of two Republicans who’ve filed to replace retiring GOP Commissioner Maurine Dickey. On the Democratic side, longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel, above right, and Daniel Clayton are two of the three candidates running for Dickey’s District 1 seat.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thinks Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up a fourth seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court since newly drawn lines extend a district into Oak Lawn.

District 1 Republican incumbent Maureen Dickey — who voted against transgender nondiscrimination protections for county employees last year — isn’t seeking re-election. Two Republicans and three Democrats have filed to run for the seat Dickey has held since 2004.

Narvaez said two of the three Democratic candidates are members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Theresa Daniel and Gloria Levario.

The redrawn district, he said, will be harder for a Republican to retain. Cedar Springs Road is the dividing line. The northeast side of the street will be part of the new District 1. The southwest side of the street will be represented by District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price, also up for re-election, lost the Oak Lawn portion of his district but picked up more of Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. Parts of South Dallas between Interstate 30 and US Highway 175 also shifted from Price to the new District 1.

Usually the filing period ends on Jan. 1 for the November race. Because of legal challenges to redistricting maps, Narvaez said the filing period will be reopened. Candidates whose districts have changed may decide to change races or may pull out of the running and receive a refund.

“And that’s extremely unusual,” Narvaez said.

So he said that the field of candidates — even for the Commissioners Court races where boundary lines haven’t been challenged — isn’t necessarily set. Although the primary is still tentatively scheduled for April 3, a firm date cannot be set until new maps are approved.

“I wonder how long this marathon is going to be,” said Daniel, one of the Democratic candidates for the District 1 seat.

Daniel was a staff member for Democratic Congressman Martin Frost. She has served on the State Democratic Executive Committee since 1996 and as chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party Advisory Committee for four years. Currently, she works with the Dallas Independent School District in program evaluation and accountability and is an adjunct professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Daniel said she’s been a member of Stonewall Democrats for 10 to 15 years. As a member of the SDEC she helped add two seats to the state body for Stonewall Denocrats leaders.

“With their activity level, both locally and at a state level, they were a model,” she said.

In 2004, Daniel received Stonewall’s Democrat of the Year award.

Daniel said she’s glad sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy last year and called health benefits for the domestic partners of county employees a “civil right.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins has said he supports DP benefits but didn’t bring the proposal forward last year due to budget constraints.

On healthcare issues, Daniel said she needs to take a look at how agencies are funded but said, “I’d work to keep funding on track.”

She called the new Parkland hospital “absolutely wonderful.”

“When you have an 80-year-old building we’re going to have problems,” she said, adding that the new hospital shows Dallas County’s commitment to public health.

Daniel Clayton is the third Democrat running for the District 1 seat. He has worked for state Sen. Royce West for five years and currently serves as his political director.
Before joining West’s office, he worked on a number of campaigns. In 2001, he campaigned for Jim McGreevey, who became New

Jersey’s “gay-American” governor. Clayton served as deputy field director for former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s Senate campaign.
Since 2007, Clayton has served as president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

In 2004, he was executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. That year, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and other Democrats swept into office, which began a run of Democrats who were elected to county-wide office.

“How do we make county government more efficient?” Clayton said when asked about his top concern.

He said continued funding for AIDS programs was a priority.

“Dallas County’s rate of HIV is so high,” he said. “It’s affecting the minority community terribly.”

On partnership benefits, he said the idea sounds fair and he needs to study the economic impact.

On the Republican side, Dickey has endorsed Cecile Fernandez, a former Dickey’s Barbecue executive vice president who helped create the franchise program and take the company national. District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell has endorsed Fernandez’s opponent, attorney Larry Miller.

Fernandez attended the kick-off event this week for the new Dallas Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” she said of the meeting, adding that she attended because several of the founders “are longtime personal friends.”

She said that although the new boundaries of District 1 give Democrats a slight edge, her connections in the Hispanic community and position as vice chair of the Dallas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly will make the difference.

“I think I’m the Republican who can win that seat,” she said.

She expressed support for LGBT issues. She backs partnership benefits for county employees, but worried that in the new budget year everyone’s benefits will have to be cut.

She said that funding for HIV and AIDS treatment must remain in place and added she sees no room for discrimination.

“It’s not the ’80s,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who’s died of AIDS.”

She said she supports Parkland Hospital and has had people in her family use the facility.

“The people at Parkland are so caring,” she said. Despite being overworked in a rundown facility, “they must really love their jobs.”

Miller and Levario did not return messages before press time.

Levario, the sister of Dallas County’s 204th District Court Judge Lena Levario, works for Baylor’s physician network to manage their medical practices. She’s also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Narvaez said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

David Kunkle wins the gay vote — or at least the 10 precincts with the most same-sex couples

David Kunkle finished second overall to Mike Rawlings, but data shows Kunkle won the gay vote.

Former Police Chief David Kunkle won the gay vote for Dallas mayor on Saturday, according to an analysis of election results by Dallas Voice.

Kunkle captured 44 percent of the vote in what are considered Dallas’ 10 most heavily LGBT precincts. Former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings finished second in the LGBT precincts with 37 percent, followed by City Councilman Ron Natinsky with 17 percent.

Kunkle, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, finished second overall in the four-way mayor’s race, with 32 percent of the vote. He advances to a June 18 runoff against Rawlings, who captured 42 percent of the overall vote. Natinsky, who was endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, received 25 percent overall.

The city’s 10 most heavily LGBT precincts have been identified by Stonewall Democrats based on the highest concentration of same-sex couples according to the 2009 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Turnout in the 10 LGBT precincts was about 18 percent, compared to about 14 percent citywide, according to the Voice’s analysis.

—  John Wright

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Podcast

This week we talked about the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s upcoming vote on transgender protections; Commissioner Maurine Dickey and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit; the Texas A&M Student Senate’s anti-gay vote this week; the controversial decision to charge admission for the Festival in Lee Park; Ricky Martin’s show in Dallas last night; and more.

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—  John Wright

Decision in Dallas

2011 mayoral hopefuls reach out to LGBT voters like never before

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

All three major candidates for Dallas mayor are actively courting the LGBT vote in 2011.

City Councilman Ron Natinsky, former Parks Board Chairman Mike Rawlings and former Police Chief David Kunkle each pledged their support for the community in recent interviews with Dallas Voice.

And all three sought endorsements from both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, although Natinsky pulled out of Stonewall’s candidate screening over questions about his eligibility for the group’s backing.

Openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley, who was defeated in a runoff for mayor by Tom Leppert in 2007, called the 2011 mayor’s race “a watershed moment for the community.”

“It’s unprecedented,” Oakley said. “I’m very proud of Dallas that we have matured to this point. The mayor down the road who doesn’t seek our support will rue the day that they snubbed this community.”

Four years ago, Leppert failed to respond to DGLA’s endorsement questionnaire, which Oakley says should have been a red flag. Leppert also refused to answer when asked whether he was “gay-friendly,” saying he didn’t know what the term meant.

But Leppert vowed during his runoff campaign against Oakley to be the mayor for all of Dallas, and for his first two years in office, he appeared to live up to the promise.

Then, when Leppert began weighing a run for U.S. Senate, he joined the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church. And later, after stepping down as mayor to run for Senate, he came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Leppert’s shift to the right on LGBT issues left many in the community feeling angry and betrayed.

All three major candidates in this year’s race insisted they’d never throw the LGBT community under the bus. But while they’re all going after the gay vote, their records and positions on LGBT issues vary.

Oakley said it’s impossible to guarantee that something like Leppert’s betrayal of the community never happens again, but he agreed that the episode underscores the importance of the mayor’s race.

“We need to be supporting candidates that truly have a history in this community, not just when they’re running,” he said.

 

Ron Natinsky

Oakley is one of three openly gay former Dallas city councilmen who’ve endorsed Natinsky for mayor.

And Natinsky touted the support of Oakley and former Councilmen Chris Luna and Craig Holcomb when asked why the LGBT community should vote for him.

“It’s a proven track record,” said Natinsky, a regular at meetings of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans. “I’ve taken part in LGBT events, and I’ve been in the parade and I’ve gone to Black Tie. It’s a proven element.

“It’s really easy for people to say, ‘Well, if you elect me, I’ll go do these things.’ It’s another when you’ve been doing it for a number of years.”

During his six years on the council, Natinsky never appointed an openly LGBT person to a city board or commission, but he said it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Natinsky said he approached members of the LGBT community who live in his district, but they declined to serve due to business and personal obligations. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to appoint openly LGBT people to boards and commissions as mayor.

In 2008, Natinsky voted against a budget amendment that would have restored $250,000 in funding for HIV/AIDS services. He said he opposed the amendment, which failed 9-6, because he didn’t believe the proposed funding source was reliable.

Natinsky, like the other two candidates for mayor, vowed to defend existing Dallas ordinances offering domestic partner benefits to city employees, and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

He also said he would support the expansion of LGBT diversity training, currently conducted by the Dallas Police Department, to Dallas Fire-Rescue.

Natinsky also said he supports the concept of requiring city contractors to offer domestic partner benefits, but would first want to research the legality.

“If there’s not any negative repercussions, or some reason that we can’t do it from a legal perspective, it’s certainly something that we need to try to move forward on,” he said.

Natinsky said he supports an ongoing review by two council members — Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano — of the city’s handling of complaints under the nondiscrimination ordinance.

But he said he would be reluctant to create a council-appointed LGBT human relations commission due to its price tag.

Natinsky said while he’s “open” to the idea, the annual cost in staff time for a commission can be up to $250,000. He suggested that the same goals could be accomplished through regular meetings between the mayor and LGBT leaders.

“We have to be careful that we don’t put another layer of institutional bureaucracy in place,” Natinsky said. “If it comes down to whether we’re going to lay off a police officer or have another board, that’s kind of a tough decision to make.”

Natinsky pulled out of the Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement process at the last minute because it appeared he was ineligible for the group’s backing due to his Republican primary voting record.

He said he was somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t able to seek Stonewall’s endorsement, which he called a natural extension of his campaign. But he said he doesn’t believe his party affiliation will hurt him among LGBT voters, and he dismissed any comparisons to Leppert.

For one, he said he doesn’t have any political aspirations beyond the mayor’s office.

“He’s Tom and I’m Ron,” Natinsky said. “I’m the guy that’s running for mayor, and he’s not, so I think you need to go on my track record and my reputation.”

Natinsky is Jewish but said he is not affiliated with any congregation. Asked whether he supports same-sex marriage, Natinsky said: “This is not a city issue; it is handled at the state and federal level. I do have several longtime close friends, including Craig Holcomb and Hector Garcia, who are happily married. However, the mayor has no jurisdiction over these matters.”

 

David Kunkle

Like Natinsky, Kunkle pointed to his record of working with the community as one reason why LGBT voters should cast their ballots for him.

“I’m a known quantity,” Kunkle said. “I have a proven track record. I’m very comfortable in the LGBT community.

“I believe that one of the things that makes Dallas a special place is the fact that our LGBT community is so large and accommodating. And it helps bring people to this city probably from throughout the United States, but certainly from throughout the Southwest part of the United States, to be able to come to a community where there’s support and there are interesting, cool, things to do,” he said. “I’m the known candidate. We want to work hard to make sure there’s full inclusion.”

Kunkle, who received the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said as police chief, he always took seriously the concerns of the LGBT community.

Kunkle said he rode in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade each year because he felt it was “an important thing to do symbolically.”

“I probably got more criticism for riding than anybody, maybe even the mayor, because of what I represented as the police chief,” Kunkle said.

During his tenure as chief, Kunkle was faced with requests from the community to convert the Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer assignment from part time to full time.

Kunkle was initially reluctant to make the change because he said he didn’t believe there was enough work for the officer to do, but he eventually agreed to the full-time assignment.

“I’ve always felt that … having a full time police officer in the community was important as long as there was enough work to keep the person busy,” he said.

Kunkle also frequently dealt with questions as chief about violent crime in an area near the Cedar Springs strip, which at one point ranked as high as No. 3 among the city’s worst hotspots.

But Kunkle said it’s been the very identification of those hotspots that helped lead to a 36 percent reduction in violent crime citywide over the last seven years. The Cedar Spring area has since fallen to No. 7 on the list.

“One reason crime reduction occurred is that we as a department got much better about targeting the highest crime areas,” he said.

Kunkle said he would appoint openly LGBT people to boards and commissions, and supports the expansion of diversity training.

Kunkle also said he would defend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and DP benefits program if they came under attack from the Legislature, council members or some other outside force.

He expressed support for the review by Hunt and Medrano of the city’s handling of nondiscrimination complaints, but he said he’s unsure about requiring DP benefits for contractors.

“I don’t know that the city of Dallas should require it, but I think the fact that the city suggests it would be the appropriate thing to do,” Kunkle said. “I’m not opposed to it, either. I just don’t know legally what would be the impact of doing it, the consequences. I think on its face it seems like a good idea.”

Unlike Natinsky or Rawlings, Kunkle said he firmly supports the formation of an LGBT human relations commission.

“I think the funding would be minimal,” he said. “I think the benefits could be great.”

Kunkle said he believes council-appointed commissions could also benefit other “groups that tend to be underrepresented or may be forgotten.”

He said an LGBT commission could help deal with issues like DP benefits for city contractors. A few years ago, the council signed a contract with Omni Hotels to operate the city-owned convention center hotel, but the company wasn’t asked whether it offers DP benefits until after the fact.

“I don’t know that I would have ever thought of it, but that’s one advantage of having a commission, so that those kinds of issues can have a mechanism to be brought up,” Kunkle said.

Kunkle had stepped down as police chief prior to the Police Department’s controversial raid of a gay bathhouse last October. But he said he would not have signed off on the vice unit’s operation at Club Dallas had he still been chief.

“I don’t think that meets the definition of public lewdness in my mind,” Kunkle said, adding that police have “better things to do.”

“If you have consenting adults engaged in activity, there’s nobody who’s going to walk into that environment who should be offended by what they see,” he said. “It’s not a public place.”

Asked about Leppert’s shift to the right, Kunkle said it’s an example of why he’s the best candidate.

“That’s the reason I think you guys should vote for me, because I’m not going to change,” he said. “I always have been consistent in what I believe in. I’m not going to change depending on which audience I’m in. I’m running as a nontraditional candidate, and it gives me some freedom to talk about and say what I really believe, without worrying about which of my financial supporters I’m going to offend.”

Kunkle said he is a member of a Methodist church but has not been active for the last several years. Asked whether he supports same-sex marriage, Kunkle said: “My beliefs and faith are one of tolerance and respect for people and the choices that they make. If I were confronted with and involved with that issue, that’s the side I would come out on.”

 

Mike Rawlings

Rawlings, the former CEO of Pizza Hut, acknowledged that he likely is the least known of the three major candidates to the LGBT community in Dallas. But Rawlings said his record in the private sector, as the city’s homeless czar and as chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau should make LGBT voters comfortable supporting him.

“I was the chairman of [the CVB] when we started our first GLBT marketing campaign, to market Dallas as a truly cosmopolitan city with all the diversity this town has and offers to other people, and I think being part of that dialogue is extremely important,” Rawlings said.

“While a lot of people don’t know me, my three-and-a-half decades here in Dallas and my business relationships, my teams that I’ve worked with over the years, can pretty much speak to how I’ve lived my life.

“I ran the largest advertising agency in the South, and we had a huge community of GLBT associates and team members.”

Rawlings said as homeless czar, he worked tirelessly on behalf of the city’s most marginalized population.

“This is not a man who doesn’t understand what it means to create dignity for individuals, so I would ask somebody to look at that track record, and say, ‘Is it consistent that this guy’s going to take a left-hand turn from the way he’s treated people his whole life?’”

Rawlings was CEO of Pizza Hut from 1997 until 2003. Pizza Hut is owned by Yum Brands, which scored a 65 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2010.

According to HRC, Yum Foods added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy in 2004, and began offering DP benefits in 2006.

Joe Bosch, who was HR director at Pizza Hut when Rawlings was CEO, noted that the company is merely a division of Yum Brands. Bosch said although Yum Brands may not have enacted the two policies until after Rawlings left Pizza Hut, “He was definitely a champion of diversity.”

Rawlings’ assistant, Sandy Nelson, said the company where he currently serves as vice chairman, CIC Partners in Dallas, is too small with only 12 employees to have extensive LGBT-related employment policies.

Rawlings, whose high-profile LGBT supporters include Pam Gerber and Larry Pease, said he would be honored to participate in events such as the gay Pride parade and the Black Tie Dinner.

And he said he would not hesitate to appoint openly LGBT people to city boards and commissions. “I go for talent,” he said. “Diversity is not a politically correct term for me. Diversity is the way we’re going to be more competitive.”

Rawlings also said he would support expanding DPD diversity training to Fire-Rescue. He said he wasn’t familiar with the ongoing review of the city’s handling of discrimination complaints, but he added, “If people are being treated badly, we need to get to the bottom of it.”

Rawlings vowed to defend both the nondiscrimination ordinance and DP benefits if they came under attack. But he said he would not support establishing an LGBT commission, because he prefers human relationships and accountability over bureaucracy.

“When I was on the parks board, I really questioned, what are we doing here as a parks board? It didn’t set budget, it didn’t set policy, so I’m a believer in fewer versus more in that regard,” he said. “I’m a believer in getting the job done, as opposed to acting like the job’s getting done.”

Rawlings also said he would be reluctant to require contractors to offer DP benefits, because such an ordinance would amount to playing “the ethics police.”

“I would not be for it, probably, because we’ve got way too many hurdles everybody’s got to jump over to get money into this town,” he said.

Rawlings said he attends First Presbyterian Church and believes discrimination against LGBT people is “one of the worst parts” of Christianity.

He said he had an employee who was beaten to death in an anti-gay hate crime in the 1980s.

“One of our top creative people was killed over on Cedar Springs one night,” he said. “It changed my perspective on things a lot.”

Asked about same-sex marriage, Rawlings said he believes the issue is “divisive’ and shouldn’t be used as “a litmus test.”

“I think it’s one of the most irrelevant issues for the world,” he said. “I think we should get beyond it and let people do what they want to do. Some of my best friends have been married, and I’m pleased that they have been, and so I’m really happy for them. I’ve supported their marriage, but it’s not the mayor’s job to say, ‘We need to do this.’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Letters • 11.19.10

Fox not a credible news source

I read with interest the column written last week by Matthew Tsien (“Gay vote for GOP shows change in trend,” Dallas Voice, Nov. 12), formerly public affairs director for the Washington, D.C., chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

I find the statements made by Mr. Tsien to be somewhat incredulous, however. He stated that 31 percent or more of self-identified gay voters voted Republican in 2010. Later he suggests that this is probably 5 to 10 percent higher, which would mean that almost half of the GLBT voters in this election cast Republican ballots.

Before we can ascertain whether or not this is an accurate number, we must “consider the source” of the data. My mother taught me a long time ago to always “consider the source” whenever you hear information or are presented with data.

Well when we look into Mr. Tsien’s source of information, we find that it is none other than Fox News, a notoriously biased network that is owned by conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch, who also owns and controls the Wall Street Journal.

This American does not consider Fox News to be a credible news source. Fox News is what I refer to as “infotainment.” They inflame, exaggerate and basically present blatantly false information to their viewers on a regular basis. How can anyone cite this news source as being “credible?”

In all fairness, Mr. Tsien does disclose his source at the beginning of his column —  “According to Fox News….” — which puts his whole article in context to the truly discerning reader.

I recognize that there are gay conservatives, but long-studied electoral statistics have said that the only demographic group that is more loyal to the Democratic Party than the GLBT community is the African-American community.

Those numbers typically run around 85 percent.

So it is much more likely that about 15 percent of GLBT voters — or one out of seven — cast a GOP ballot.

Further, there are legitimate, credible and objective conservative sources of information, like The Economist of London. Fox News, or as we on the Left call it, Faux News is not one of them.

I agree that Democrats aren’t doing enough to advance GLBT civil rights.

But to suggest that the GOP will do so is truly preposterous.

Mom is right: “Consider the Source.”

Jay Narey
Outgoing vice president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas

……………..

‘A little suspect’

Does anyone else find it a little suspect that Matthew Tsien, when claiming that 31 percent or more of self-identified gay voters said in exit poles that they voted for the Republican Party, cited Fox News as his source (“Gay vote for GOP shows change in trend,” Dallas Voice, Nov. 12)?

Just sayin’.

Mikael Andrews
Dallas

……………..

Dems top GOP in money matters

There are many ways to measure the superiority of the Democratic Party over the GOP. Look at one that affects nearly everyone: Money.
During the Bush years, the Dow Jones went from about 11,000 to about 8,000 when he left office.

This decline of more than 27 percent proves the fiscal irresponsibility of the Republican Party. Bush left the nation in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Enter Obama and the Democrats: Dow goes from about 8,000 to over 11,000, an increase of more than 37 percent in less than two years, indicating fiscal responsibility seen by corporations and investors alike. Bush recession ends.

Don’t be fooled by GOP protestations. They have proven inept at governing.

David A. Gershner
Dallas

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

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