Watch Instant Tea for election coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

—  John Wright

Bill White to address Stonewall Dems tonight, when group also votes on 2010 endorsements

Hank Gilbert, who's running for agriculture commissioner, supports full equality for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage.

Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner, says he supports full equality for LGBT people. Gilbert, who faces Kinky Friedman in the March 2 primary, received a unanimous recommendation from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ endorsement committee over the weekend.

As we mentioned last week, former Houston mayor Bill White, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, will speak tonight at Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ regular monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s, 4617 Maple Ave.

Also tonight, Stonewall’s general membership will vote on whether to ratify a long list of endorsement recommendations for the March 2 primary. Political Director Omar Narvaez told me yesterday that Stonewall’s endorsement committee screened a total of 92 candidates during about 20 hours of interviews over the weekend at Resource Center Dallas. Narvaez said a full list of endorsement recommendations won’t be availalbe until tonight, but they include White for governor, Ronnie Earle for lieutenant governor and Hank Gilbert for agriculture commissioner. In local races, the committee is recommending that the group get behind Larry Duncan for county judge and Dr. Elba Garcia for District 4 county commissioner, among many others. After the jump, more images from this weekend’s candidate screenings.

—  John Wright

Stonewall Democrats endorsement committee votes to back Larry Duncan for county judge

Larry Duncan works the crowd during Saturday's endorsement screening at Resource Center Dallas.
Larry Duncan was one of three candidates for county judge who spoke Saturday during a Stonewall Democrats endorsement screening at Resource Center Dallas.

In a surprisingly lopsided vote, a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsement committee recommended Saturday afternoon that the group throw its weight behind Larry Duncan in the March 2 primary for county judge.

Meeting for a third straight day at Resource Center Dallas, the committee voted 29-3-2 to recommend endorsing Duncan, a longtime straight ally of the LGBT community who currently serves as president of Dallas County Schools. Highland Park attorney Clay Jenkins received three votes, while incumbent Jim Foster, who’s openly gay and was endorsed by Stonewall in 2006, received only two.

All three Democratic candidates for county judge interviewed in front of the endorsement committee prior to Saturday’s vote, and the recommendation to endorse Duncan is expected to be ratified by Stonewall’s general membership Tuesday.

“The Stonewall Democrats are known for the rigorousness of their screening process and the effort they put into campaigns,” Duncan said after the vote. “I’m extremely honored by the resounding numerical support.”

The endorsement committee also made recommendations in dozens of other local, state and federal races, with 20 hours worth of scheduled candidate interviews continuing into the evening Saturday.

“More than 100 candidates requested our endorsement this year, which is not just a record, but an out-of-the-water record for this organization,” said Omar Narvaez, political director for Stonewall.

About 40-50 people crowded into RCD’s Rainbow Room at any given time during the three-day meeting.

Also Saturday, the committee recommended endorsing former Houston Mayor Bill White in the Democratic primary for governor. Openly gay Houston City Councilwoman Sue Lovell interviewed as a surrogate for White, who’s scheduled to be keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Stonewall meeting.

“Bill has an absolute commitment to our rights,” Lovell told the committee. “We could not have a better person at the top of our ticket.”

Other statewide candidates who received endorsement recommendations included Hank Gilbert, who’s running for agriculture commissioner and interviewed on Friday night. Ronnie Earle, who’s running for lieutenant governor, was scheduled to interview Saturday night.

In other races, the committee unanimously recommended endorsing incumbent State Rep. Terri Hodge, who faces a strong challenge from Eric Johnson in the District 100 primary. Narvaez said Johnson initially indicated he would compete for the endorsement but called to cancel his interview shortly before the meetings began.

The committee also voted to recommend endorsing incumbent State Reps. Allen Vaught and Carol Kent in Districts 107 and 102, respectively. In District 108, which includes much of Oak Lawn, Peter Schulte received the endorsement committee’s recommendation. Schulte, the plaintiff’s attorney in Dallas’ high-profile same-sex divorce case, is unopposed in the primary and will face Republican incumbent Dan Branch in November. Tena Callahan, the judge who issued a historic ruling in the same-sex divorce case in October, also received an endorsement recommendation Saturday, as well as a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Others getting a warm reception included former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia, who’s running for the District 4 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Garcia beat out Rose Renfroe for the endorsement recommendation as they vie to challenge incumbent Republican Kenneth Mayfield in November.

Openly gay candidates who received endorsement recommendations were incumbent Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons and judicial candidate Tonya Parker. Another openly gay judicial candidate, John Loza, awaited a vote on the endorsement in his race Saturday night.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for a full list of the committee’s endorsement recommendations.

About 50 people packed RCD's Rainbow Room at any given time during the three-day meeting.
Stonewall members voted by a show of hands in each race during the three-day meeting, as more than 100 candidates sought the group’s endorsement this year.

—  John Wright

Plenty of politics on tap tonight

It’s doubtful the Republican gubernatorial hopefuls will talk much about LGBT issues during tonight’s showdown in Denton, unless Rick Perry decides he wants to brag about how anti-gay he is. And while Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein is hosting a watch party for the debate at his home, there will also be some alternatives for those on the other side of the aisle.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will kick off its 2010 endorsement screening process from 6 to 9 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas. With an unprecedented number of candidates seeking the group’s backing, the screenings will continue from 6-9 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Political director Omar Narvaez said Stonewall isn’t releasing a schedule of when specific candidates will appear before the group.

Also tonight, Democratic candidates for county judge and district clerk will square off at a forum hosted by Preston Hollow Democrats, which is led by Stonewall member Roger Grape. Openly gay County Judge Jim Foster is facing challengers Larry Duncan and Clay Jenkins in the March 2 primary, while openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons faces challenger Johnny Gomez. The forum is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at PoPoLos, 5959 Royal Lane.

—  John Wright

How a Parker win fits into tapestry of LGBT elected officials

Annise Parker
Annise Parker

On Dec. 12, voters will decide if Houston will be the largest U.S. city with an openly gay or lesbian mayor. Annise Parker is running ahead in the polls and has won six previous citywide elections.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

New York’s mayor Ed Koch (1978-1989) is sometimes cited as gay, but he has never come out. Although L.A. has never had an openly gay mayor, West Hollywood does have one.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund lists 13 LGBT elected officials currently serving in Texas. That number includes three Dallas County officials — Jim Foster, county judge; Lupe Valdez, sheriff; and Gary Fitzsimmons, county clerk.

LGBT council members across the state include Joel Burns in Fort Worth and Sue Lovell in Houston. Lovell is in a runoff that will also be decided Saturday. Other cities with an LGBT council member are Austin, Pearland and Kemp.

Kemp, a city on Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas, not only claims a gay councilmember, but also a gay mayor.

Travis County ties Dallas County with the most open LGBT elected officials at three each. In addition to Austin’s lesbian city council member, the county has a lesbian district attorney and justice of the peace. (And Kemp ties Houston for second place).

The other elected LGBT officials in Texas are a civil district judge and Parker, who is currently Houston’s controller.

Victory Fund lists 32 open LGBT mayors around the world. That list includes Jerry Birdwell who is Mayor Pro Tem in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Birdwell, a former Dallas resident, was a district judge in Dallas in the 1990s.

Currently, the largest U.S. cities with gay mayors are Portland, Ore., and  Providence, R.I. Large European cities with gay or lesbian mayors are Berlin, Paris and Zurich.

Earlier this year, J.W. Lown, the gay mayor of San Angelo, resigned after being elected to a fourth term. His partner, a Mexican national, could not get a visa to remain in the United States so Lown moved to Mexico.

There are 85 openly LGBT state legislators in the U.S., but none in Texas. Three members of Congress are gay or lesbian.

—  David Taffet