LGBT candidates fare well across electoral spectrum

Houston’s lesbian Mayor Annise Parker leads the list of openly LGBT candidates, 75 percent of whom won in elections this week

Parker.-Annise

BIG WIN | Houston’s incumbent Mayor Annise Parker, who became the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major city when she won in 2009, addresses the crowd in Lee Park following Dallas’ 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, for which she was honorary grand marshal. Parker took 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, avoiding a runoff and winning re-election to a second term.

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

Tuesday was a very good day for openly LGBT candidates around the country, with three in four of more than 60 winning their races, including Annise Parker, who secured a second term as mayor of Houston.

But the real excitement in the Nov. 8 results came in some of the low-profile races of the day, many in notoriously conservative places.

Four out of five openly gay candidates won in conservative North Carolina, including LaWana Mayfield, the first openly LGBT member of the Charlotte City Council.

Another lesbian, Caitlin Copple, became the first openly LGBT person elected to city council in Missoula, Mont. Attorney Mike Laster became the first gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council, and businessman Zach Adamson became the first openly LGBT member of the Indianapolis City Council.

Alex Morse, 22, won an upset victory over a long-time public official to become mayor of Holyoke, Mass. Steve Pougnet glided to a second-term as mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., and attorney Chris Seelbach, who helped overturn Cincinnati’s anti-gay charter amendment seven years ago, won a seat on the City Council there Tuesday.

Data collected independently by Keen News Service and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund indicates there were at least 63 openly LGBT candidates on the ballot Tuesday: 47 of them won, 14 lost, and two outcomes remain uncertain.

Eight of nine openly gay candidates for mayor won Tuesday.

Parker in Houston

Parker in Houston secured 50 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates, though none of her five opponents had anywhere near the funding or organization that she did.

Still, going into the race, Parker had reason to worry. In mid-October, a local television news poll found that voters were split on her effectiveness. Fifty percent rated her job performance in her first two-year term as either “Fair” or “Poor,” while 47 percent rated it “Good” or “Excellent.”

In an interview with KHOU-TV, Parker attributed her poll split to people’s anxiety around the economy.

“We have the worst economy here in Houston that we’ve had in decades, and we have the worst economy that we’ve had nationally since the Great Depression,” Parker told KHOU.  “I understand completely why people are anxious, unhappy.  It is what it is.”

KHOU noted the bulk of the low job performance scores came from Houston’s unemployed and that mayors in other big cities around the country were polling similarly.

Right-wing groups that opposed Parker in 2009 tried again to portray her as a lesbian activist, creating a video they posted on YouTube that showed a slow-motion clip of her giving her partner-in-life a peck on the cheek after being sworn in.

It also showed a news clip of Parker appointing a transgender person, Phyllis Frye, to a local judgeship, and a news clip of an executive order Parker issued to ban discrimination in public restrooms on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.The video also showed a letter in which Parker referred to her partner, Kathy Hubbard, as “First Lady.”

Other mayoral races

In Holyoke, recent college graduate but longtime local youth and community activist Alex Morse won an upset victory against an incumbent who had been a top town official for many years.

The key issue had been over casinos — with Morse being against and incumbent Elaine Pluta being for.

Morse had served on the one-time governor’s LGBT commission and started a non-profit LGBT group. While attending Brown University in nearly Providence, R.I., Morse worked for openly gay Mayor David Cicilline, who is now in Congress.

In Palm Springs, incumbent Mayor Steve Pougnet, who is openly gay, won re-election over a field of six other candidates, taking 70 percent of the vote.

The only losing mayoral candidate Tuesday was Bevan Dufty in San Francisco, where, as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, Dufty had earned less than 4 percent of the vote in a field with more than a dozen candidates.

The apparent winner, acting Mayor Ed Lee, will become the first American of Chinese descent to be elected mayor of San Francisco. Lee became acting mayor by appointment of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, after Newsom was elected lieutenant governor.

Lee was only the third choice of San Francisco’s LGBT newspaper, Bay Area Reporter. (San Francisco voters were able to rank their choices — first, second, and third — among the 16 on the ballot.)

The paper endorsed Dufty first and the current City Attorney Dennis Herrara second.
One of the city’s LGBT Democratic Clubs endorsed Herrera first, Dufty as second choice, and Lee as third. The other LGBT Democratic Club endorsed Supervisor John Avalos, followed by Herrera and state Sen. Leland Yee.

More election news

In other interesting news from election day:

• An openly lesbian candidate, Caitlin Copple, has won a seat to the city council of Missoula, Mont. — a state with a very sparse LGBT population.

While Copple’s connections to the gay community were not consistently highlighted during the campaign, they weren’t hidden either. The local daily newspaper, the Missoulian, ran an article about her involvement “with the Pride Foundation, which works to connect and strengthen Montana’s gay rights movement.”

• Four of the 63 races Tuesday were for seats in state legislatures. One of the most important of those candidates was Adam Ebbin, who moved from the State House to the State Senate in Virginia, becoming the first openly LGBT person in that chamber.
Unfortunately, the Virginia Senate lost a number of Democrats Tuesday and is switching from majority Democrat to majority Republican, giving the state a Republican majority now in both chambers and the governor’s office.

• Two gay men won Assembly seats in New Jersey: Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora.

• The only loss on the state level was Patrick Forrest, who fell short in his bid for a Senate seat in Virginia.

• Two out of three candidates for judgeships won yesterday. The winners were Anthony Cannataro in New York and Hugh McGough in Pittsburgh. Daniel Clifford, a Republican, lost his bid for a judgeship in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

• All five candidates for local school boards won Tuesday, including Daniel Hernandez, with 60 percent of the vote, in Tucson. Hernandez was the openly gay aide to U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., credited with saving her life after a gunman shot and killed a number of people attending a meet-and-greet the congresswoman was hosting at a local grocery store.

• Of the 41 candidates running for city council or its equivalent in their cities, 28 won. Two others are still pending. Brad Bender’s bid for a Town Council seat in Southampton, N.Y., is too close to call. Lance Rhodes has been thrown into a run-off for a seat on the East Point City City Council in Georgia.    •

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dave Wilson robo-calls Houstonians, warns of Annise Parker’s ‘alternative lifestyle’

Houston mayoral candidate Dave Wilson has stepped up his homophobic attacks against incumbent Mayor Annise Parker with a recent robo-call targeting Houston voters:

“Hello Houstonians, this is Dave Wilson, candidate for mayor. In 2009 I warned voters that Annise Parker would use her position to promote her alternative lifestyle, and she’s done that. Her very first executive order was to allow men dressed as women to use the women’s restroom. Her appointments have been based on sexual orientation, rather than ability. She appointed George Greanias, head of Metro, who was caught viewing porn sites such as rentaboy.com. Dave Wilson would have fired him on the spot. Join me in taking our city back, vote Dave Wilson, paid for by the Dave Wilson for Mayor.”

Wilson’s call contains several misleading, or outright false, claims, such as saying that Parker’s first executive order was to allow “men dressed as women to use the women’s restroom.” The first executive order Parker signed after being sworn in (E.O. #1-50), clarified the process for filing sexual harassment claims for city employees. The second (E.O #1-25) dealt with city operations during a natural disaster, the third (E.O. #1-42) with city credit cards, and the fourth (E.O. 1-14) with the city’s procurement procedure. The fifth and sixth executive orders signed by Parker (E.O. 1-8 and E.O. 1-20) dealt with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and the use of hate language by City of Houston employees while on the job. Both order were signed on March 25, 2011, 2 months and 23 days after Parker took office. These are is the ones that chafe Wilson. Under order 1-20 access to public accommodations in city buildings, including restrooms, cannot be denied to any member of the public because they are LGBT. While Wilson fears “men in dresses” discretely handling their business in the stall next to his wife, he seems to miss that it also allows burly, bearded men who happened to have been assigned a female identity at birth to use the men’s room. One wonders if he’s ever thought about that.

Executive Order 1-20 is about basic courtesy and access to public facilities that most of us take for granted. No one should be put in the position of risking arrest for using a public restroom (which happened shortly after E.O. 1-20 went into effect), and it is humiliating to expect trans Houstonians to have to ask “which bathroom do you expect me to use” every time they’re in a city building.

The situation with George Greanias, CEO of Houston’s public transit system Metro, is far more complicated than Wilson describes it. To hear the robo-call you’d think Greanias was simply caught looking at pornography, a constitutionally protected right. The issue is that Greanias was caught looking at porn on Metro’s internet wi-fi, all be it accidentally. According to the Metro investigation Greanias accessed sites containing gay oriented adult material on 14 separate days between February 9, 2011 to July 1, 2011. The access was from Greanias’ personal computer and he believed through his personal internet access. In a letter to Metro employees he explained that “the violation was unintentional. I thought I was using my own computer, but was in fact in Metro’s system — but it was a violation all the same. The sites I accessed were of a sexual nature — to say the least, highly inappropriate, and embarrassing.”

Typically a violation of this nature by a Metro employee would have resulted in a verbal warning. Because of the high profile nature of Greanias’ job he received a much harsher punishment. According to Metro’s official statement “Chairman Gilbert Garcia has concluded that, as president and CEO, Mr. Greanias must be held to a higher standard, and decided instead of a warning Mr. Greanias would receive a more stringent punishment of one week suspension, without pay.”

None of that matters to Wilson. He “would have fired [Greanias] on the spot,” bypassing the review process guaranteed to all Metro employees and likely subjecting the city to a very expensive lawsuit. More than his overt homophobia, it’s Wilson’s blind ignorance of the procedural facts of running a city that should frighten Houstonians.

Early voting in Houston municipal elections (including mayor) continues through Nov. 3 at all early voting locations. Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting turnout continues to lag; votes cast during the first four days of voting have trailed the 2009 municipal election turnout by 21%.

—  admin

Record 106 gay candidates elected in 2010

Construction company executive Jim Gray was elected mayor of Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington.

From Staff and Wire Reports

A record number of openly LGBT candidates have been elected to public office in 2010, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

“There is no sugar-coating the loss of so many of our straight allies in Congress, but we can be proud that our community continues to expand its voice at all levels of government in America,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “Out public officials are having a sizable impact on the local, state and national debates about LGBT equality. Increasing their numbers is a vital part of a long-term strategy to change America’s politics and make our country freer and fairer for everyone. We will continue to focus on training committed, qualified candidates, and we will work hard to get them elected to public office.”

At least 106 of the group’s record-breaking 164 endorsed candidates were winners as of Wednesday morning, the Victory Fund said.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came in Lexington, Kentucky, where openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray won election as mayor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news shortly after the polls closed at 6 p.m. Gray has been serving as the city’s vice mayor and defeated incumbent mayor Jim Newberry.

The paper said the campaign has been one of the most expensive in the city’s history and only the second time a sitting mayor has been defeated. The ballot in Lexington does not indicate party affiliation. According to results published by the Herald-Leader, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, to Mayor Jim Newberry’s 46 percent. The Herald-Leader noted that Gray lost a bid for mayor in 2002, when his sexual orientation was not public. Gray came out before running successfully for an at-large seat on the Urban County Council.

In another southern state, North Carolina, openly gay candidate Marcus Brandon of High Point won his first-time run for state representative and, in doing so, becomes the state’s first openly gay legislator. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Brandon also becomes only the fifth openly gay African-American elected to a state legislature anywhere in the country. As of 10:30 Tuesday night, three hours after polls closed, the state Board of Elections showed Brandon with 70 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Lonnie Wilson. The race was to represent North Carolina’s District 60, which encompasses Guilford County in the middle of the state. Brandon told the News-Record newspaper of Greensboro that his sexual orientation was not a secret but that “This is not something I wanted to take over my campaign.”

“Nobody in a year-and-a-half ever asked me about my sexuality,” Brandon said, in an Oct. 15 blog by an editorial writer in which the paper noted his race was one of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s “Ten Races to Watch” this year.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won re-election to a 16th term as Massachusetts congressman from the 4th District. Frank won against an aggressive Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, who had a surge of out-of-state funding in the final days of the campaign to fuel a flood of campaign literature and robo-calls. While Frank’s re-election was considered predictable, the margin of victory represents a significant drop in support for Frank. Frank garnered only 54 percent of the vote Tuesday, dropping well below his previous lowest re-election take of 68 percent in 2008. The returns almost guarantee an even tougher re-match against Bielat in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) won re-election to a seventh term with 62 percent of the vote, down just a few points from her previous re-election margin. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won a second term with 56 percent of the vote.

Providence, Rhode Island’s openly gay mayor, David Cicilline, won his bid to represent the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House. The win will make him the fourth openly gay member of the Congress. With all precincts counted, Cicilline had secured 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Republican John Loughlin’s 44.5 percent, and 4.9 percent for two other candidates.

In Connecticut, openly gay health care advocate Kevin Lembo appears to have won his race for the state comptroller’s seat, taking 52 percent of the vote to Republican Jack Orchulli’s 44 percent. The win makes Lembo the only openly gay candidates to win a statewide race Tuesday night.

Laurie Jinkins has won her bid to the Washington State House, and becomes its first openly lesbian state lawmaker.

And Victoria Kolakowski appears to have won election as a judge on the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, becoming the first transgender trial court judge in the country.

But there were losses, too.

Two openly gay candidates lost their bids for seats in the U.S. House. Democrat Ed Potosnak, a teacher and businessman, lost his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district. Potosnak had been given very little chance of winning in his first run, but still pulled in 40 percent of the vote. And Steve Poughnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., garnered 40 percent in his first run for Congress against incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack.

Two openly gay candidates for lieutenant governor lost as the head of their tickets fell to defeat. Steve Howard lost as the number two person on the Democratic ticket in Vermont. And Richard Tisei lost as part of the Republican ticket in Massachusetts, where incumbent Democratic governor Deval Patrick won re-election with 49 percent of the race, against Republican Charlie Baker’s 42 percent, and Independent Tim Cahill’s 8.

And openly gay Republican Ken Rosen appears to have lost his bid to represent Michigan’s 26th District in the state house. At 11:23 Tuesday night, early results showed Rosen with 44 percent of the vote, trailing Democrat Jim Townsend who has 53 percent.

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

Kentucky’s 2nd-largest city elects gay mayor

Jim Gray

Our first big gay result from Election Night is in.

Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city, has elected an openly gay mayor:

From GayPolitics.com:

Vice-Mayor Jim Gray was victorious tonight in his second campaign for the city’s top job, beating incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry.

“This is a tremendous victory for Lexington, for Kentucky’s LGBT community and for fairness.  We are proud of Jim Gray and his fantastic campaign staff who fought hard for this win,” said Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund’s president and CEO.

Gray is one of more than 1o0 candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund on the ballot today. To follow Victory-fund endorsed candidates throughout the night, go here.

—  John Wright