Know your rights; make your vote count

U.S. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Special Contributor

 

Unlike any other time in American history, it is important for all eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 4.

Recently, there has been significant dialogue regarding which party will control the House and the Senate in Washington. These conversations highlight a very real point: This election is critical to the future of minorities and middle-class Americans.

Voter engagement is crucial.

In minority communities, there is a common misconception that voter turnout is only important during presidential elections. But adhering to this school of thought could result in more than a decade of financial and political oppression.

It is not enough to see massive voter turnout in 2016; the same level of voter turnout must occur on Nov. 4.

Since the election of President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, the Republican Party has become the “Obstructionist” Party. During the current Congress, the GOP has done everything in its power to ensure the ineffective operation of our federal government. For example, in 2013 the Republican Party caused a government shutdown.

Now, with the help of the U.S.  Supreme Court, the Obstructionist Party has shifted its efforts to implementing new voter ID laws and unconstitutional “poll taxes” that block the votes of approximately 600,000 eligible voters in Texas.

The new Texas voter ID law lists state driver’s licenses, voter identification certificates, state ID cards, concealed gun permits, military IDs, citizenship certificates and passports as the only forms of permissible voter identification.

Student ID cards, issued by the state’s colleges and universities, and other forms of government identification, including a voter registration card, are not acceptable forms of ID under the law.

The ability to utilize concealed gun licenses as a form of acceptable voter identification highlights the reality that these new laws were created to favor a specific demographic, while disenfranchising others. Why would a state deliberately violate the civil rights of millions of its residents?

Research shows that if African-Americans and Latinos successfully turned out to vote, many so-called red states would become blue.

A Congress controlled by Democrats would guarantee a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. This would occur during the first 100 days of a new Congress.

Additionally, increased access to early childhood education would become a reality, and the Equal Pay Act, which ensures that women earn the same wages as their male counterparts, would go into effect.

But none of these vital changes will occur without proper voter education and participation.

To be prepared for the Nov. 4 election, I encourage all voters to prepare themselves by visiting www.sos.state.tx.us to confirm their registration status. Voters can also visit www.votetexasgov to learn their correct polling places, and know their rights.

Do not allow yourself to be denied your right to vote based on technicalities. Educate yourself and vote on Nov. 4 to strengthen our democracy.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson represents Texas’ 30th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She is a longtime ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

LULAC looking for volunteers to escort children

Dallas’ LULAC Council #102 is looking for volunteers to escort refugee children being brought to DFW from the Texas/Mexico border.County Judge Clay Jenkins

“We need Guardian Angels for these children in case they are confronted by the hatemongers and bigots we saw this weekend,” noted a LULAC email sent out this afternoon that issued the “call to action”. Anyone interested in volunteering should email their contact info to mgarza@dgley.com to get signed up for training and to be provided with legal and community logistics info.

“Religious community leaders of all faiths are strongly encouraged to volunteer,” according to the email, which quoted Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the lest of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told Stonewall Democrats last week that the flood of unaccompanied children from violence-torn Central American countries is a humanitarian crisis, and urged the LGBT community to get involved to help. Jenkins made national headlines when he stepped forward to offer a place for the children to go until their situations can be resolved.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., activists with the youth-led immigration reform group United We Dream staged a mock funeral for the Republican Party today in the halls of the Dirksen and Hart senate buildings. The protesters, carrying a mock coffin, said the GOP is dead to them because of the party’s stance on immigration reform.

Many of the protesters carried rainbow flags to symbolize their belief that immigration reform is inextricably tied to LGBT rights issues.

—  Tammye Nash

Carson City ends opposition in challenge to Nev. same-sex marriage ban

Clark-County-GOPThe Clark County, Nev., Republican Party edited its official platform statement over the weekend to remove a section defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, cut out a statement opposing abortion and added a section affirming people of all sexual orientations The Associated Press reported.

The pivot came over the weekend after some debate and a vote at the group’s central committee meeting in Las Vegas. Strong statements on social issues don’t align with the group’s belief in individual freedom, according to Nick Phillips, the organization’s political director.

“A big part of it has to do with personal liberty and smaller government,” he said Tuesday, “and other people not infringing on our rights and beliefs.”

The Clark County GOP is among the first in the country to make such changes to their platform statement. It comes amid overall shifts in public opinion on same-sex marriage, changes in the county party leadership and efforts to appeal to a broader base.

“Younger people believe they’re getting screwed by the Democrats on fiscal issues, and screwed by Republicans on social issues,” Phillips said. “Take that away and you’ve got a party you can get behind.”

About 570 people attended the committee meeting, and about 100 to 120 people opposed overhauling the platform statement in a vote Saturday, Phillips said. Critics raised concerns that abandoning the marriage definition would lead to the government forcing churches to perform weddings for gay couples.

Removing the anti-abortion provision drew even more strident opposition, Phillips said.

The platform now includes seven tenets outlining the Republican stance on jobs, public education, health care, immigration reform, taxation, fiscal responsibility and personal rights.

Clark County is home to three-fourths of Nevada’s residents, but it’s unclear whether the state Republican Party will follow suit and eliminate abortion and gay marriage language in its platform statement.

The state party is scheduled to hold its convention in Las Vegas April 11 and 12.

—  Steve Ramos

Republican official says gays should be purged from GOP, blames homosexuality on Satan

n-MARYSEARS-large

Mary Helen Sears

A new candidate for a Michigan seat on the Republican National Committee wants gays “purged” from the GOP and claims homosexuality is a “perversion” created by Satan himself, The Huffington Post reported.

Mary Helen Sears of Houghton County in the state’s Upper Peninsula, elected vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party’s 1st District last year, posted a rant in Aprilon the Schoolcraft County GOP website — preceded by a warning asking readers to “please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.”

In the post, Sears claimed that homosexuals prey on children, argued that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and advocated that Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.”

Michigan’s representatives on the Republican National Committee have lately stirred other controversy, mostly due to Dave Agema, a former state lawmaker who has regularly made anti-gay comments and has been condemned by fellow Republicans, including Gov. Rick Snyder.

Last month, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak issued a joint statement asking Agema to step down from the RNC “for the good of the party.” Instead, Agema’s Michigan co-chair on the RNC, U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land (who had condemned Agema’s anti-gay comments), resigned her seat, saying she wanted to focus on her campaign. Under party rules, the state GOP must pick a woman to take Land’s place, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Enter Sears, who is running for Land’s vacated RNC seat. She’s, “if anything, to the right of RNC Committeeman Dave Agema on the political spectrum,” wrote Macomb Daily columnist Chad Selweski.

Sears, in her post on the Schoolcraft County GOP website, wrote that Communist college professors were indoctrinating young people and claimed that Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.”

“If the GOP continues down this trend and stand for perversions and the daily social fad … The GOP will be truly dead and Satan will have had his day,” Sears wrote.

Darren Littel, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, told The Huffington Post the GOP supports a traditional definition of marriage, “but we also believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect and these comments clearly don’t reflect those principles.”

The prospect of Agema and Sears heading the Michigan delegation on the RNC is apparently striking fear in the hearts of some Republicans, according to the Macomb Daily:

Apparently some Republican insiders are so shaken by the prospect of having Agema and Sears as Michigan’s two representatives on the RNC that they’re growing concerned about two mainstream Republicans in the three-person field splitting their votes, thereby allowing Sears to claim victory. When the GOP State Committee meets to select Land’s replacement, Sears’ competitors are expected to consist of Ronna Romney McDaniel, daughter of Ronna Romney, and Sandra Kahn who, I’m told, is the aunt of state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and the ex-wife of Sen. Roger Kahn of Saginaw Township.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, incidentally, is the niece of Michigan native and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The RNC will choose a new national committeewoman on Feb. 15.

Although some Michigan Republicans may agree that Sears’ views are extreme, at least one GOP group has taken to social media to express fear that a pro-gay agenda is taking over the Michigan Republican Party.

The Delta County Republican Party recently published a list proclaiming that influential GOP pols like Priebus, Schostak and Senate candidate Land had surrendered to a “homosexual and stealth jihad agenda.”

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: Tom Leppert’s GOP Senate rivals again attack him for appearing at gay Pride in Dallas

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert walks alongside the city float at gay Pride in 2009.

Republican Senate hopeful Tom Leppert again came under fire today for his decision to appear in two gay Pride parades while mayor of Dallas.

Leppert was attacked by fellow candidates Ted Cruz, Craig James and Lela Pittenger during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club.

The exchange featured some strong anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to an orgy. It began when the debate moderator, John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride during a recent candidate forum in Fort Worth.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

—  John Wright

Tea party group makes surprising endorsement

The tea party is certainly not one unified political organization. And as a group the tea party has not backed any one particular GOP presidential candidate. While many supported Michele Bachmann, there’s been no consensus. But most tea party support has gone to Republicans and most tea party candidates have run as Republicans.

President Barack Obama

But one Tea Party endorsement is surprising. A group has formed called Tea Party for Obama.

Huh?

Well, they explain.

“We manned up and realized that the problem is that the recession began during the previous administration,” they wrote.

They wrote that they’re tired of being called nut jobs and racists and looked at all the candidates and found no one to support on the Republican side. So they looked at Barack Obama’s record.

Reducing the size of government and the amount people pay in taxes are two main tea party demands.

Just a few weeks ago, the president proposed combining agencies to reduce the size of government and make it easier to do business with the government.

And taxes?

“Last time we checked, Obama forced GOP in Congress to approve tax cuts for payroll,” they wrote.

Here’s Tea Party for Obama’s list of the president’s accomplishments:

• Reduced government size
• Largest tax cut ever
• Provided health care for everyone
• Protected Medicare
• Saved country from the worst recession ever
• Saved the U.S. auto industry
• Took out Osama bin Laden

So is this an actual tea party group or is this a group of Democrats co-opting the tea party name for attention? The website doesn’t give a clue because no names or other information is included.

—  David Taffet

A look back at Rick Perry’s anti-gay presidential campaign, which will end this morning

Perry.Rick

Gov. Rick Perry

The Associated Press is reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to drop out of the Republican presidential race this morning and endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

That’s according to Republican officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the Republican presidential candidate’s announcement.

Perry plans a news conference at 11 a.m. in South Carolina, where he will announce his decision.

He has faced calls to drop out of the race in recent days as polls show him languishing while Gingrich gains steam.

Perry, who is arguably the most anti-gay governor in Texas history, ran a decidedly homophobic campaign.

Even before announcing his presidential bid, he organized a day of prayer in Houston funded by the American Family Association, which is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The event, called The Response, drew a huge response from, among others, the LGBT community, with activists staging counterdemonstrations in H-Town during a sweltering first weekend of August. Perry insisted The Response wasn’t political, but a week later he announced his campaign for president.

Republicans were smitten, and Perry skyrocketed to the top of GOP presidential polls — positioning himself as a highly-sought-after, more conservative alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Just before he formally launched his presidential bid, Perry stated at an event in Colorado that he believed marriage is a state’s rights issue and New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was “fine with me.” Under intense pressure from social conservatives, he quickly retracted the statement and came out firmly in support of a federal marriage amendment.

But that didn’t stop Rob Schlein, then president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, from writing a controversial column in which he said he would vote for Perry over President Barack Obama, despite the governor’s anti-gay record. The column was one of several factors that led National Log Cabin to de-charter the Dallas chapter, which is now known as Metroplex Republicans.

Perry would go on to sign a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and come out against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But in the end, it appears his right-wing credentials weren’t enough to overcome major, repeated gaffes during nationally televised debates this fall. In the most memorable one, Perry forgot the third federal department he would eliminate as president in what has become known as his “oops” moment.

Desperate to recover from the gaffes, Perry’s campaign lurched even further to the right — releasing a campaign ad called “Strong” in which he declared: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

“Strong” spawned many parodies, with some harping on the fact that Perry’s jacket in the ad resembled the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. “Strong” also garnered the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube. Above all, though, where it really counts among Republican voters, the ad didn’t work.

Perry finished fifth in Iowa and last in New Hampshire. He was polling last in South Carolina, which holds its primary Saturday, prior to his decision to drop out.

—  John Wright

GOP hopefuls pledge to investigate gays if elected

Is this what a gay Republican looks like?

We all know that good traditional GOP values include family and limited government. So of course it makes sense to demand of GOP presidential candidates that they insist on pursuing a divisive family issue by creating needless bureaucracy. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here.)

I think that’s what frustrates me the most about Republicans: Not that we have disagreements over policy (I hardly walk lock-step with Dems on all issues, for that matter), but that the astounding hypocrisy of their positions goes unnoticed by their followers.

The height of hypocrisy this week is a demand by those bigoted hatemongers at the National Organization for Marriage that GOP presidential candidates sign a pledge to investigate the gay community for making their malicious members feel bad for being homophobes. Well, sorry, but I think you should feel bad for being a racist or a hater, though you certainly have a right to do it. That’s what America is about.

What’s remarkable is, three frontrunners — gay closet-bride Michele Bachmann, gay-sex by-product namesake Rick Santorum and politically desperate flip-flopper Mitt Romney — have signed the pledge.

You can read more about it here, but really, that’s all you need to know.

Who’da though Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry could look like progressives next to these morons?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Valdez gearing up for re-election bid

Nation’s only lesbian Latina sheriff to seek 3rd term, says she expects to once again be a GOP target

Valdez.Lupe

RIDING HIGH | Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, shown on horseback in this year’s gay Pride parade, is seeking re-election to a third four-year term in 2012. (Chuck Dubel/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Seven years ago, she became the first female, first Hispanic and — of course — the first openly LGBT person elected sheriff of Dallas County.

She remains the only lesbian Latina sheriff in the nation, and she’s one of only two female sheriffs in the state.

But as she prepares to seek a third four-year term in 2012, Lupe Valdez said she no longer gives much thought to her pioneering status.

“I don’t even pay attention to that anymore,” the 64-year-old Valdez said recently. “What I want to hear is, ‘She’s a good sheriff.’ What I want to hear is, ‘She’s making a difference.’ What I want to hear is, ‘Changes are for the better.’ That’s what I want to hear. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Latina or lesbian or whatever I am. The important thing is that we put in place a good, functioning sheriff’s department, which is what we’ve done.”

In 2004, Valdez was one of four Democrats — along with three judges — who broke a Republican lock on countywide elected office. Her victory over Republican Danny Chandler shook the Dallas establishment and served as a harbinger to the countywide Democratic sweep of 2006.

Since then, the county has remained solidly blue, and with President Barack Obama again atop the ballot, the incumbent sheriff is a heavy favorite to win re-election.

But Valdez, long a preferred target for Republicans as they seek to win back the county, said she isn’t taking anything for granted. For one, there are rumors she could again face a challenge in the Democratic Primary — as she did in 2008.

The candidate filing period begins Nov. 28 and runs through Dec. 15.

“I’m worried about both,” Valdez said when asked whether she’s more concerned about the primary or the general election. “I don’t ever assume anything. That’s how you lose, so I never assume anything. I’m really hoping that I don’t have a primary opponent.”

Not having a challenger from within the party would allow her to “focus and save money and go ahead and gather more money so I can hit whatever’s coming on” in November, Valdez said. She confirmed recent reports saying her fundraising is lagging and that she’s failed to amass much of a war chest.

“We all know that I’m going to be the [GOP’s] target for Dallas County,” Valdez said. “Last time I was the target for the state of Texas. I wouldn’t doubt that’s going to be the case again.”

“We know there’s a pendulum switch every so often,” she added. “I’m not going to assume anything, because I may be right on that pendulum.

“And even in 2004, when a lot of Republicans were elected, I was elected. So that says to me, whichever way it goes, I need to work so that I can get elected. I don’t assume anything. The only thing that I’m assuming is that I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can.”

The only Republican who’s publicly declared his intent to run for sheriff, former State Rep. Thomas Latham, said this week he doesn’t believe Dallas County is as blue as some may think.

“I think what this county has is a large number of swing voters,” Latham said. “I think the flow is going the other way.”
Latham said he believes Valdez’s Republican challenger in 2008, Lowell Cannaday, “got caught up in the Obama situation.”

“There was so much enthusiasm for him [Obama], and I don’t think that enthusiasm exists any longer,” Latham said. “I think the enthusiasm is now on the other side.”

Latham, 64, a former commander for the Garland Police Department, called Valdez “a nice lady” but said she doesn’t have the experience to effectively oversee the department.

“I think there’s a lack of leadership in the sheriff’s department,” Latham said. “I think there are some management issues down there that need to be addressed.”

In each of her previous election campaigns, Valdez has come under attack for her sexual orientation, and she said she fully expects that to happen again in 2012.

“What can they attack me on?” she said. “They can’t say I’m not doing my job … so what are they going to attack me on? ‘She’s a lesbian and she’s trying to push the gay agenda.’ Please tell me what the gay agenda is, so I can figure out how not to push it.”

Latham, for his part, said he doesn’t plan to bring up Valdez’s sexual orientation and doesn’t think it’s an issue in the race.

But he added that if someone else brings it up, he’ll respond by saying, “I wasn’t raised that way.”

Asked what he meant by that, Latham said: “I’m Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists don’t believe in that.”

LUPE VALDEZ’S CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8
Conduit Gallery
1626-C Hi Line Drive
www.LupeValdez.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Randy Rainbow drunk dials Rick Perry

Randy Rainbow is reliably clever in his newest video wherein he tries to chat up Gov. Rick Perry after a drunkenly good time at . If only Herman Cain would quit interrupting. In short, it’s brilliant — as usual.

And if you need some heavy dosage of Rainbow, you can always go here for his previous videos. It’s the best advice for winding down your Monday.

—  Rich Lopez