ELECTIONS: Rawlings, Price cruise to victory; Hightower narrowly defeated in Arlington

Dallas Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings celebrates his victory at the Meddlesome Moth on Saturday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Anti-gay robocalls may have been difference in Arlington race, as gay candidate loses by just 74 votes

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Mike Rawlings and Betsy Price cruised to victories in runoffs for mayor in Dallas and Fort Worth, respectively, on Saturday night, while Chris Hightower was narrowly defeated in his bid to become Arlington’s first openly gay council member.

Hightower was one of three openly gay candidates who lost city council races in Texas on Saturday, along with Randi Shade in Austin and Elena Guajardo in San Antonio.

According to unofficial results, with all precincts reporting, Hightower was defeated by just 74 votes. District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff captured 997 votes to Hightower’s 923, or 52 percent to 48 percent, and it may have been some rabidly anti-gay last-minute robocalls that made
the difference.

Chris Hightower delivers his concession speech Saturday night at Arlington’s Atomic Cafe. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Hightower himself declined to comment on the calls, saying “I’m not going to even give that any credibility.”

One of the calls, recorded by a Hightower supporter, was made by a man identifying himself as Joe Barnett, who called Hightower “a convicted sex pervert,” a “sex creep,” and “this weirdo.”

The caller also warned voters that they needed to “protect our children and our grandchildren from sex perverts running around our neighborhoods.”

The call ended with Barnett encouraging residents to “vote for a Wolff, not a pervert.”

The caller also said Hightower had been arrested and jailed for “sex crimes,” and that he’d pleaded guilty and been given probation,
allegations that Hightower’s mother, former state Rep. Paula Hightower Pierson, said Saturday night were patently false.

The incident to which the caller was apparently referring occurred in the 1990s when Hightower owned a gift and video store on Jennings Street in Fort Worth. When someone complained to police that Hightower was selling gay pornography, police raided the shop, confiscating the videos and arresting Hightower on a misdemeanor charge.

The charges were later determined to be unfounded and were dismissed, and Hightower has no criminal record.

Hightower led by 31 votes after the early ballots were counted, giving his supporters who had gathered at Arlington’s Atomic Café high hopes for the outcome. But after ballots were tallied from the first two ballot boxes — in precincts where Hightower had been expected to do well —
his lead had dropped to only two votes, and his supporters’ hopes begin to dim.

When vote counts had been counted from four of five boxes, leaving only those precincts that were strongest for Wolff yet to be tallied, the incumbent led by 35 votes, and Hightower conceded the race.

He thanked his supporters, friends and family, including his partner of 10 years, D.J. Johanesson who, Hightower said, had been “standing behind me, every step of the way. He also offered special thanks to his mother, and to the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which had endorsed him.

“We had a lot of stuff thrown our way that wasn’t expected,”

Hightower said in an oblique reference to the anti-gay tactics, “and they [the Victory Fund] helped us learn how to handle that.”

Hightower said he and his supporters had run “a good, hard, positive campaign,” adding that he believes this campaign had “laid the
groundwork” for the future.

“We’re not going to stop here,” he declared, drawings cheers from the crowd.

“I am proud of Arlington,” Hightower said. “Look how far we’ve come: We almost did it! It makes me have hope for the future.”

District 5 has 21,391 registered voters, and turnout for the runoff was 9.05 percent. Turnout in the May 14 general election was 9.78 percent.

In the Dallas’ mayoral runoff, Rawlings captured 56 percent of the vote to David Kunkle’s 44 percent, or 31,077 to 24,617. The outcome of the race was apparent shortly after 7 p.m., when early voting numbers were released and put Rawlings well ahead.

Hundreds of people crowded into the Meddlesome Moth in the Design District, just across Stemmons Freeway from the gayborhood, for Rawlings’ watch party. They included openly gay former city councilmen Ed Oakley and John Loza, as well as former city plan commissioner Neil Emmons.

“If you look around this group, you can see there’s a lot of diversity here,” Rawlings said during his victory speech at about 9:30 p.m.. “That’s important. There are people here with different views, believe it or not, but instead of focusing on where we differ, we chose to focus on what brings us together.”

Kunkle, the city’s former police chief, was endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, the only two LGBT groups that make endorsements in city elections. However, Rawlings had the backing of several gay former council members including Oakley, Loza, Chris Luna and Craig Holcomb.

“Stonewall Democrats and DGLA were very important endorsements for me that I’m very proud of,” Kunkle said Saturday night during his watch party at the San Francisco Rose on Greenville Avenue. “They worked very hard in the campaign.”

Former Police Chief David Kunkle shares a moment with his wife and campaign manager Sarah Dodd during his watch party at the San Francisco Rose on Greenville Avenue. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“I want to thank everyone here tonight and all those who supported me in the campaign,” Kunkle said later during his concession speech. “I called Mike Rawlings and told him I think he’ll be a great mayor for Dallas and offered him all the support I can give him.”

DGLA issued a rare warning about Rawlings before the May 14 election, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely outweights his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.” Rawlings adamantly denied the allegation, which was based on a statement he made in an interview with the group, and DGLA chose not to re-issue its warning in the runoff.

Oakley, who initially endorsed Ron Natinsky then got behind Rawlings in the runoff, said he isn’t worried about the new mayor on LGBT issues.

“The city’s going to be in good hands,” Oakley said at the Rawlings watch party. “We couldn’t have gone wrong with any of the three candidates as far as our issues go.”

Four years ago, Oakley was defeated in a runoff for mayor by a similar margin against Tom Leppert, who recently came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions after stepping down to run for U.S. Senate.

Asked whether he thinks there’s any risk Rawlings would betray the LGBT community in the same manner as Leppert, Oakley responded, “I told him I’d hunt him down if he did.”

Also in Dallas, Sandy Greyson, who has a pro-LGBT voting record in public office, defeated Donna Starnes in a runoff for Natinsky’s old seat. Greyson voted in favor of Dallas’ nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, when she was on the council in 2002. She also voted in favor of adding sexual orientation to DART’s nondiscrimination policy in 1995, when she sat on the transit agency’s board.

In Fort Worth, former Tax Assessor/Collector Price won the mayoral runoff over former City Councilman Jim Lane, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Price took an 18 point lead after early voting, and stayed ahead throughout the night, although Lane did close the gap to 12 percent by the end of the night.

Before the final count was in, Lane declined to concede the race but did tell reporters that Price is “smart” and will “do a good job” as mayor, according to spectators at his campaign’s watch party.

Both Fort Worth mayoral candidates had courted the LGBT vote throughout the runoff.

In other races of interest to the LGBT community:

• In the race for the Carrollton Place 2 council seat, Bonnie Kaplan, who promised to represent all citizens in her district, lost to Anthony Wilder, who used Kaplan’s statement against her. Kaplan said during the campaign that Carrollton is very diverse and she embraces the diversity. Wilder, meanwhile, said gays and Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve on boards and commissions. Kaplan received 806 votes to Wilder’s 926 votes.

• In Austin, lesbian incumbent Randi Shade lost her re-election bid to Kathie Tovo, 56 to 44 percent. Tovo was seen by many voters as the progressive in the race and had quite a bit of support in the LGBT community. Shade was endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

• In San Antonio, lesbian candidate Elena Guajardo was seeking a second term on the San Antonio City Council. She was elected to a term in 2005 but defeated in 2007. Guajardo’s opponent received 76 percent of the vote.

—  John Wright

Price has big lead over Lane in Fort Worth; Hightower ahead by just 31 votes in Arlington

Chris HIghtower

With early votes counted in Tarrant County, former Tax Assessor/Collector Betsy Price has a commanding lead over former Councilman Jim Lane in the Fort Worth mayoral runoff, while the margin in the contest for the District 5 Council seat in Arlington is razor thin, with gay candidate Chris Hightower leading incumbent Lana Wolff by two points.

Early voting turnout in both the Fort Worth mayoral runoff and the Arlington Council runoff exceeded early voting turnout in those races in the May 14 election.

Hightower, who if elected will be Arlington’s first openly gay council member, received 615 of the 1,199 early votes in the Arlington Council runoff. Wolff got 584.

Earlier this week, Hight0wer said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the election, despite anti-gay campaigning by Wolff supporters.

A total of 19,402 early votes were cast in the Fort Worth mayor’s race, and 11,433 went to Price, giving her 59 percent. Jim Lane trails with 7,969 votes, or 41 percent.

 

—  admin

ELECTION: Advocates urge LGBTs to vote in FW runoff

Burns: Future mayor’s support could make the difference in maintaining recent progress in Cowtown

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  —  Spurred on by the national spotlight focused on the city in the wake of the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge and the harsh criticism that followed, Fort Worth has in the last two years made huge strides forward in protecting its LGBT citizens and treating them fairly.

LGBT advocates and city officials alike praised that progress, boasting about how far the city has come in such a short time: The city now offers its gay and lesbian employees benefits for their same-sex partners; the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance now includes protections for transgender people, and all city employees are required to attend diversity training classes that specifically address LGBT issues.

Joel Burns

But those changes haven’t come without protest from some of the city’s more socially conservative quarters. And this year’s municipal elections provided those conservatives with a chance to use the power of their votes to turn back the clock. It seems, though, they missed their chance.

The May 14 general election saw all but two of the City Council incumbents — a majority of whom supported the changes — returned to their offices. The two not re-elected — Mayor Mike Moncrief and District 7 Councilman Carter Burdette — did not run for re-election. Both those races will be decided in the Saturday, June 18, runoff election.

The race to replace Burdette, who voted against the amendment to the nondiscrimination ordinance, comes down to Dennis Shingleton and Jon

Perry, neither of whom has made any significant outreach to the LGBT community in this race.

But the runoff battle between Betsy Price and Jim Lane to replace Moncrief as mayor has been a different story. Both candidates have expressed support for equality and fair treatment, and — for the first time ever — Fort Worth’s mayoral candidates participated in a forum specifically on LGBT issues, held June 1 and sponsored by LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

At that forum, but Lane and Price said they believed the protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender express ion in the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance should be maintained, although Price reportedly said of the ordinance at another forum in April that she didn’t “like the idea that the city is in this business at all.”

Both candidates said they support maintaining the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer position and continuing diversity education training now mandated for all city employees. Both also said they would support continuing efforts to promote Fort Worth as a tourist and convention destination within the LGBT community.

Price and Lane both said, however, that when it comes to the one remaining item on the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force’s “to-do” list — expanding health benefits for transgender city employees — they need to study the issue further before making a decision on where they stand.

Fort Worth, like other cities in the Metroplex, has a “weak mayor” form of government, one where the city manager is the one with the power to hire and fire department heads, prepare the annual budget and oversee the day-to-day operations of the city.

Yes, the City Council is the entity that hires — and fires — the city manager. And yes, the council has final say on the budget. But, as Fort Worth’s gay Councilman Joel Burns pointed out, each council member including the mayor is just one of nine votes in deciding these and other questions.

So why does it matter so much whether the new mayor of Fort Worth supports equality and fair treatment for the city’s LGBT residents? Because of what the mayor represents.

Lisa Thomas

“Yes, the mayor has one vote, the same as any other council member. But that one vote is an influential vote,” said Burns, who represents Fort Worth’s District 9 and was re-elected last month, without opposition, to a second full term.

“The mayor is in a position to take a leadership role, to use that office as a bully pulpit and set an example for other people on the council,” Burns continued. “The mayor can have a real influence on the way other council members vote on an issue.

“Look back at 2009 when we voted [to amend the nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for transgenders]. Mayor Moncrief voted with us on that issue and we won. But we might not have won without the influence his vote may have had on some other councilmembers,” Burns said.

“Plus, the mayor plays a very important role as the city’s main ambassador,” and the LGBT community benefits from having a mayor who promotes Fort Worth as a city that welcomes everyone, including LGBT visitors, and that treats its own LGBT citizens fairly, Burns said.

Burns said this week he doesn’t expect to see many LGBT issues coming before the council in the near future; of the 20 initiatives and changes proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force in the months after the Rainbow Lounge raid, 19 have already been approved and implemented.

The one proposal not yet approved involves health care benefits for trans employees. City staff have been studying the potential costs of expanding those benefits and results of that research is likely to be presented when the council considers the budget later this year.

While the city has made tremendous progress, Burns said, LGBT residents need to stay involved and informed, and they need to get out and vote in the runoff on Saturday.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” he said, “but now we need to make sure we don’t take any steps backward.”

Lisa Thomas, an openly gay member of Fort Worth’s Human Rights Commission and president of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats, echoed Burns’ sentiments.

“I believe it is imperative that we elect a mayor in Fort Worth that supports the rights of all citizens and visitors,” Thomas said in an email this week to Dallas Voice.

“The LGBT community has come so far in the past two years. … But there is more to be done, and we need a mayor that understands our issues and will strive with us to address the remaining recommendations [of the Diversity Task Force] and continue to improve the working relationships that have been developed,” Thomas said.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Early voting begins today in runoffs for mayor in Dallas and Fort Worth

Mike Rawlings, left, and David Kunkle, are in runoff for Dallas mayor.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Early voting begins today in runoffs for mayor in Dallas and Fort Worth. For a complete list of voting locations and times in Dallas, go here, and for Fort Worth, go here.

2. Lisa Stone’s friends held a vigil Sunday in Mesquite to mark one year since the gay Dallas woman vanished. Watch a report on the vigil from NBC 5 below.

3. Check out our photo slideshow from Razzle Dazzle Dallas.

View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.

—  John Wright

Price, Lane square off at LGBT forum

MAKING A POINT | Jim Lane listens as Betsy Price responds to a question during the Fort Worth mayoral runoff forum on LGBT issues Wednesday at Four Day Weekend Theater. The two candidates both pledged support during the event for the city’s various LGBT initiatives. (Robert Camina/Special Contributor)

Candidates pledge support for LGBT initiatives, but differ in their approach to running the city

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Fort Worth mayoral candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price both pledged support for LGBT initiatives undertaken in the city over the last two years, and both declared a commitment to treating all people fairly, when they spoke Wednesday night, June 1, at an LGBT community forum.

But the forum also showed subtle differences in the two candidates’ familiarity with LGBT issues, and not-so-subtle differences in their leadership styles and ideas on how to run the city.

The forum, sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, was the first of its kind in Fort Worth, marking the first time that mayoral candidates had participated in a forum focusing on LGBT issues. About 75 people attended the event, held at the Four Day Weekend Theater in Sundance Square.

Price, touting her 10 years as Tarrant County’s tax assessor/collector, promised to bring to the city the same business sense that she used, she said, to increase efficiency and therefore cut costs and lower taxes at the county.

“I believe we need to be running the city like a business,” Price said.

Lane, however, said that being a successful mayor is less about “business sense” and more about coalition building. He said the 12 years he spent on the Fort Worth City Council gives him the experience necessary to work with council members and citizens to build the necessary coalitions and get the job done.

“I understand how things work at City Hall,” Lane said.

Lane also noted repeatedly that he was on the Fort Worth Council when the city added sexual orientation protections to its nondiscrimination ordinance, and that he voted in favor of that amendment, which he said “had national implications.” He also, throughout the evening, named LGBT community leaders that he knows personally, saying that he would ask for their input on LGBT issues.

Price, for her part, said that as a 60-year-old woman, she has, herself, been on the receiving end of discrimination and that she knows “what it’s like to have to fight it out with the men” to receive fair and equal treatment.

Although Tarrant County has no statutes or policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, Price said that she worked diligently throughout her tenure as tax assessor/collector to increase diversity within her office. She said that when she first took office, employees were all “Caucasian men,” and by the time she left to run for mayor, the office reflected the diversity of the county as a whole.

Both candidates declared that their answers and positions on LGBT issues would remain consistent, regardless of the audience to which they were speaking. But after the forum, an audience member gave Dallas Voice a transcript of an April 26 forum with all five original mayoral candidates, in which Price suggested the LGBT protections in the nondiscrimination ordinance were unnecessary — a very different answer from the one she gave this week.

“I haven’t studied this intensely, but I really, I don’t like the idea that the city is in this business at all,” Price said of the ordinance during the April 26 forum. This week, however, Price and Lane both said the ordinance, complete with LGBT protections, should be maintained. Both candidates stressed that they believe everyone should be given equal and fair treatment.

Lane’s answer this week was consistent with his reply at the April 26 event, where he said, “If you believe in the Constitution and you will not accept discrimination, then you would have voted with the Council the way they did [in 2009 by adding gender identity and expression protections], and I would have done that.”

Both candidates said they support maintaining the LGBT liaison position Police Chief Jeff Halstead created in 2009 in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid. Lane said he knows liaison Officer Sara Straten well and would “absolutely maintain” that position, while Price called Straten’s position — and other community liaison officer positions — “crucial to the gains we’ve made as a city. They all must be maintained.”

The two agreed on the necessity of continuing to promote Fort Worth as a tourist and convention destination, and both said they believe the city should reach out specifically to LGBT tourists and conventions.

They also agreed that LGBT-owned businesses should be given the same considerations that other minority-owned businesses get in awarding city contracts.

The question of whether the candidates believe the city should advertise in the LGBT press became an issue following Richard Clough’s publication of his “Texans for Faith and Family voters’ guide.”

Lane did not respond to Clough’s questionnaire, but the published voters’ guide indicated that Price opposed city advertising in the LGBT press.

On Wednesday, however, Price said that Clough’s voters guide misrepresented her response on that question, repeating what she told Dallas Voice a week earlier.

Price said she believes that because of the current budget situation, the city shouldn’t advertise in any niche publications because it is too expensive. But, she added, if the city advertises in any publication targeting a specific readership, the city should advertise in all such publications, including the LGBT press.

Both candidates said that when it comes to employment ads, the city should advertise wherever necessary to attract the most qualified applicants.

Price and Lane both said that if confronted with a Texas law nullifying LGBT protections and benefits enacted at the city level, they would consult with attorneys to find ways around the prohibition.

Lane said the first thing he would do would be call gay attorney Jon Nelson to help find away to fight such a law.

“I’d hope the Texas Legislature wouldn’t be that stupid,” Lane said, but after pausing, he added, “I take that back. They might be. I’d do everything I knew to do to get out of that.”

Price, chuckling at Lane’s remark, said, “I would hope that the people of Texas would rise up against such a law. I would consult with attorneys to see if we couldn’t get around it.”

The candidates agreed that current diversity training on LGBT issues mandated for all city employees should continue, and both said they would attend such classes if elected as mayor, even though elected officials are not required to attend.

The two took different tacks, however, in answering a question on whether city health benefits should cover gender reassignment surgery for transgender employees.

Lane said that although he has studied the issue a bit, he still doesn’t completely understand all the specifics. He did note, however, that “a very smart lawyer” had recently compared gender variance issues to post traumatic stress syndrome, saying that when Vietnam veterans first began complaining of PTSD, no one took those complaints seriously because no one understood the syndrome. Now, however, such diagnoses are more common and better understood, and no one questions the necessity of treatment.

Similarly, few people really understand transsexualism now, but there will come a day when people do understand the necessity of such treatments, Lane continued.

Price, too, said that while she needs to study the issue further, for her the question of whether city health benefits should cover such treatments comes down to a question of “fiscal responsibility.” She said she expects city staff currently studying the issue to “have a recommendation shortly.”

Price noted that when her daughter underwent fertility treatments to have a child, her insurance considered the procedures to be elective and did not cover the costs.

Some LGBT advocates in Fort Worth have been critical of the city’s police and firefighters associations for not playing a more active role in trying to secure pension benefits for LGBT officers and firefighters and their domestic partners.

When Lane was questioned Wednesday night about his ties to those associations, he offered a lengthy explanation of how pension negotiations work, saying that the process allowed no undue influence, regardless of the fact that those associations have endorsed him and contributed heavily to his mayoral campaign.

He also said that it would be no more difficult for him to negotiate with the associations on pension issues than it would be for Price to deal with Chesapeake Energy on issues of oil and gas drilling in the city. Chesapeake has endorsed Price in the race.

Price, however, noted that the police and firefighter associations never spoke to other candidates before endorsing Lane, whereas Chesapeake interviewed all five of the candidates. And, she added, while the police and firefighter associations had donated heavily to Lane’s campaign, Chesapeake has never made donations to her campaign.

Price, for her part, has come under fire from some in the LGBT community for her ties to the Republican Party. She said Wednesday night that while she “makes no bones” about being a conservative Republican, she supports fairness and equality for everyone and has been endorsed by Republicans and Democrats alike. And, she added, partisan politics have no place in city elections. “If we start getting into partisan politics in our city races and in running our city, we’re going to end up with the same kind of mess we have now in Austin and Washington, D.C.,” Price said.

Much of the LGBT community’s current active role in city politics began after the June, 2009, raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Both Price and Lane agreed that the raid never should have happened in the first place.

“There’s just no excuse for what happened that night at the Rainbow Lounge,” Lane said, adding, “Isn’t it a shame that it took something like that for educated people to be willing to sit down and talk about these issues?”

Price said the raid was “an extremely unfortunate incident,” but added that it served as a catalyst for change and that the city has “made tremendous strides forward” since.

“I hope that in 10 years, our children and our grandchildren will look back at this and wonder how something like the raid could have happened, and why we had so many problems” with equal treatment for everyone, Price said.

The runoff that will determine whether Price or Lane will succeed Mike Moncrief as mayor of Fort Worth is June 18. Early voting begins Monday, June 6.

—  John Wright

Fort Worth LGBT mayoral forum is Wednesday

Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price will attend a forum Wednesday evening sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce

Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price on Wednesday at Four Day Weekend Theater, 312 Houston St. That’s on Houston at Third Street, next to The Reata in downtown Fort Worth.

Price and Lane both talked to Dallas Voice last week about where they stand on LGBT issues. But this forum gives the community a chance to hear more from the candidates not only on LGBT issues, but on other topics of interest, too. Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy and I will be moderating. Anybody who has a specific question they would like to see asked can email that question to FairnessFtWorth@aol.com.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for 30 minutes of meeting and greeting with the candidates, and the Q&A session starts at 6 p.m.

—  admin

FW mayoral candidates denounce discrimination

Jim Lane and Betsy Price

 

Price, Lane face off in runoff to replace Moncrief, will attend LGBT forum Wednesday

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — After nearly two years of unprecedented progress on LGBT issues within the Fort Worth city government, Cowtown’s LGBT residents are now facing the prospect of not having Mike Moncrief in the mayor’s seat at City Hall.

Although Moncrief probably can’t be described as the LGBT community’s biggest cheerleader, in the 22 months since the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, he has at least been a steadfast voice for equal treatment and has supported a number of changes proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

Those changes included amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to add protections based on gender identity and gender expression, despite often strident opposition from some of Fort Worth’s most conservative residents.

But with Moncrief choosing not to run for re-election this year, LGBT residents now find themselves faced with a choice between former tax-assessor/collector Betsy Price and attorney and former City Council member Jim Lane.

City elections are nonpartisan, but it is no secret that Price is Republican and Lane is a Democrat.

Price came in way ahead in the May 14 general election, pulling down 43 percent of the vote. Lane claimed his spot in the runoff with 26 percent.

Price comes into the race with endorsements from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Fort Worth Business Press and, generally, speaking has the backing of the city’s business community. Lane, on the other hand, is backed by the city’s firefighter and police officers associations, as well as the Retired Firefighters Association, the African American Firefighters association, former fire chief Larry McMillen, former police chief Ralph Mendoza and District Attorney Joe Shannon.

This week, Lane announced that he has also been endorsed by two of the other three candidates from the general election: Cathy Hirt, who was third in the general election with 21 percent and Nicholas Zebrun, who won less than 1 percent of the vote.

The fifth general election candidate, former state Rep. Dan Barrett, has not backed either candidate in the runoff. He garnered 8 percent of the general election vote.

Turnout in Fort Worth’s general election barely topped 10 percent of the city’s 326,623 registered voters. And both Price and Lane said that getting their supporters back to the polls on June 18 for the runoff will be the key to victory.

“We obviously had, far and away, the most voters on Election Day,” Price said. “What we have to do now is reach and touch our voters again and get them back to the polls for the runoff. We’re going to send out mailers, call people, knock doors, do meet-and-greet events. I’m going to get out there and shake hands and get to know people.”

Price said she would also be sticking to her same message that put her in the lead in May.

“Our message is about bringing good business sense to City Hall, about cutting taxes and building a stronger economy. We have to have an open, friendly, diverse and receptive city to do that well,” Price said.

Lane said this week he knows he has some ground to make up, based on the numbers from the general election. But he said he believes Hirt’s endorsement this week gives him a head start.

“I think that is a really wonderful endorsement to have. She is extremely bright and well thought of, and she got 21 percent of the vote on May 14,” Lane said. “Nicholas Zebrun has endorsed me, and that helps too. And I am going to try and meet with Dan Barrett to ask for his endorsement too.

“We’ve seen a lot of motivation from our voters, and Cathy Hirt has a very avid support group,” Lane added. “I think they will all be enthusiastic about coming back out to vote.”

Some political watchers in Fort Worth have suggested that the runoff  between Dennis Shingleton and Jon Perry for the District 7 City Council seat could help swing turnout in Price’s favor, since that district is located in the city’s more conservative northwest area. But Lane noted this week that he is from that area of the city, and that he has significant support there, too.

Lane also questioned Price’s pledge to “bring good business sense to City Hall,” saying that his 12 years on the Council give him insights into how city government operates that Price doesn’t have.

“The way our government is set up, you have to build coalitions to get things done. You have to talk to each council member about the issues in their district, work with them to determine what will be the best policy for the city manager to implement. These are all going to be seasoned council members — except in District 7 — and the mayor is going to be the one who’s the new kid on the block,” Lane said. “I’m the one who has the experience to do those things.”

With turnout being such a key issue in who wins, Fort Worth’s LGBT community has the opportunity to have significant impact on the outcome. Both Price and Lane know that, and both have voiced their support on issues of equality.

Both have also committed to participate in a forum on Wednesday, June 1, sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

Since Tarrant County officials have never dealt directly with LGBT issues, Price’s stance there is something of an unknown. However, her replies published in a “voters guide” issued by right-wing minister Richard Clough’s Texans for Faith and Family, gave many in the community pause.

According to Clough’s voters guide, Price agreed that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, and “strongly agreed” that the city should not spend money to advertise in LGBT publications.

Price did not respond in the voters guide to a question on whether the city’s ordinance protecting transgenders from discrimination is necessary.

But Price said Clough’s voters guide misrepresented her reply on the issue of spending money in LGBT publications: “That whole thing with the Faith and Family brochure — they didn’t print the explanations with the answers,” Price said. “What I said was that the city doesn’t need to be advertising anywhere right now. It’s just too expensive. But if we are advertising in one [minority] publication, we should be advertising with ya’ll [the LGBT press], too. If we are advertising for job candidates, then we need to be advertising everywhere that there will be good candidates.”

When asked about the transgender anti-discrimination ordinance, Price — who was calling from her cell while traveling between locations — apparently misunderstood the question and instead spoke to the issue of trans health benefits.

“The question was about paying for [gender reassignment] surgery, I believe, and that’s a cost issue. At this point I would have to spend more time studying it before I could say one way or another,” Price said. “I don’t think the city’s insurance pays for fertility surgery either.”

The bottom line, Price said, is that “We should never discriminate, not against anyone. We’re all God’s kids. I know that’s rhetoric, but that’s the way it is. That’s what I believe. Treat everyone fairly.”

On the question of health benefits for trans employees, Lane said that he, too, needed to study the issue further before taking a stand, noting that he has asked Fairness Fort Worth Tom Anable help him understand “what sexual reassignment is.”

Both Lane and Price, when asked about other special health needs short of reassignment surgery that transgender face, said they were not aware of such issues and would have to study the questions further before answering.

Lane, however, compared the issue to his wife’s recent bout with breast cancer.

“If it’s an issue for someone, it should be covered,” Lane said. “We [the city of Fort Worth] are self insured, and we should be covering our employees’ health needs.”

Lane also noted that he has a proven public record on LGBT issues that voters can rely on. He was on the City Council in 2001 when sexual orientation was added to Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a move he supported.

“We did all that before,” Lane said, “and those 19 proposals the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force came up with, if I had been on the council then [in 2009] I would have supported every one of them. These [LGBTs] are citizens just like anybody else, as far as I am concerned. It’s a pretty practical issue. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how you look at it, we shouldn’t discriminate against anybody. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally.”

—  John Wright

Tarrant County Stonewall revving up for 2012

Lisa Thomas

Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats is holding a fundraising party tonight in preparation for the 2012 election cycle, according to TCSD President Lisa Thomas.

The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Blue Mesa Grill, 1600 S. University Drive.

Thomas noted that TCSD have not endorsed any candidate in the Fort Worth mayoral election runoff between Betsy Price and Jim Lane because the race is non-partisan. But she did say that Lane, a former City Council member who is a Democrat, has been invited to the fundraising event tonight.

TCSD holds regular  meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at Tommy’s Hamburgers, 5228 Camp Bowie Blvd.

—  admin

More on the FW mayoral runoff forum

Fort Worth mayoral candidates Betsy Price and Jim Lane

I posted this notice yesterday about the Fort Worth mayoral runoff forum being sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Today I got an email from FFW President Tom Anable with a little more information on the event.

Both runoff candidates — Betsy Price and Jim Lane — have reconfirmed their participation in the forum, set for June 1 at the Four-Day Weekend theater, 312 Houston St., in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square. It begins with a meet-and-greet session from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by the forum from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The forum begins with three-minute introductory speeches by each candidate, followed by questions from the moderators (me and Bud Kennedy with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). Only Kennedy and I will be able to ask questions during the forum, but suggested questions can be submitted in advance via email to FairnessFtWorth@aol.com.

—  admin

GLBT Chamber, Fairness Fort Worth to host forum for FW mayoral runoff candidates

Fort Worth mayoral candidates Betsy Price and Jim Lane

Former Tax Assessor-Collector Betsy Price and former City Councilman Jim Lane are headed to a runoff to determine who will be the next mayor of Fort Worth, and Cowtown’s LGBT community will have the chance to see where the candidates stand on the issues when the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and Fairness Fort Worth host an candidate forum Wednesday, June 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Four-Day Weekend theater, 312 Houston St., in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square.

Questions for the candidates must be submitted in advance, and those asking the questions can remain anonymous. Submit questions via email to FairnessFtWorth@aol.com. The forum will be moderated by Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy and by me, Dallas Voice Senior Editor Tammye Nash.

Price ended Election Day with a significant lead at the ballot box, bringing in 44 percent of the 33,581 votes cast in the mayoral race. Lane trailed by nearly 20 percentage points, with 26 percent.

Another former council member, Cathy Hirt, was third in the five-way race with 21 percent, and former State Rep. Dan Barrett was fourth with 8 percent. Independent filmmaker Nicholas Zebrun, the youngest of the five candidates, received 1 percent of the vote.

Of the 327,307 registered voters eligible to cast a ballot in the Fort Worth mayoral election, only 10 percent did so.

—  admin