Not a good night for incumbents in Dallas County or Texas

John Carona

State Sen. John Carona

Challengers did unusually well against incumbents in both the Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday.

Several members of the Texas House and Senate will not be returning.

Sen. John Carona, whose district includes parts of Oak Lawn, lost his bid for re-election to tea party favorite Don Huffhines. Carona, a moderate Republican, has served in the Legislature since 1990.

Staunch LGBT ally Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth lost his bid for re-election to Ramon Romero who has no connection to the Democratic Party and has mostly donated to Republicans, according to the Burnt Orange Report. Burnam has the endorsement of all Democratic groups, including Hispanic groups.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, an Irving Republican, lost her bid for re-election to tea party favorite Rodney Anderson. During redistricting, Harper-Brown and Anderson were drawn into the same district. Anderson decided to sit out the last election.

Arlington Republican Diane Patrick lost her bid for re-election to Tony Tinderholt. Patrick was the author of the final anti-bullying bill that passed the Legislature in 2011. Among Tinderholt’s complaints against Patrick is a bill she authored that would have required kindergarten children to have a dental exam before entering first grade. He’s running on a platform of securing the border, gun rights and fighting Obamacare and abortion and an almost cartoonish picture on his homepage shows him with his buxom blond wife, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, in a tight red sweater.

Matt Rinaldi beat Carrollton Rep. Bennett Ratliff. Rinaldi is endorsed by Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shakelford, Texas Home School Coalition and Texas Values President Joanathan Saenz.

In other races, former Dallas City Councilwoman Linda Koop edged out Rep. Stefani Carter. Koop didn’t receive 50 percent of the vote, so they will face off in a runoff.

State District Judge Lena Levario is one of a number of incumbent Democratic judges who lost their primary races on Tuesday. Levario held District Attorney Craig Watkins in contempt of court last March. He was later acquitted, but his prosecutor, Tammy Kemp, challenged Levario, raised twice as much money and won the primary.

Other local judges were defeated for r-eelection by Watkins prosecutors. The list of defeated incumbents includes Lori Chrisman Hockett, Andy Chatham, Carlos Cortez, Marty Lowy, Larry Mitchell, Bill Mazur, Michael E. Miller and Chris Wilmoth.

In the Republican race for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst received only 28 percent of the vote. Sen Dan Patrick polled 43 percent. They face each other in a runoff.

Metroplex Republicans President Rob Schlein lost his bid for re-election as Republican Precinct Chair 2069. Former Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez lost his race for re-election as Democratic Precinct Chair 2062.

—  David Taffet

UPDATED: Sen. John Carona backs 2nd pro-LGBT bill, repeal of sodomy law

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m.: Jamie McCormick, a spokeswoman for Carona, said in an email, “Senator Carona is supportive of SB 538.”


State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who made history last week when he stood up to anti-gay bigots and bucked the GOP line by voting in favor of a pro-LGBT bill, may get a chance to do it again this Wednesday.

Equality Texas issued an Action Alert moments ago urging constituents to call Carona’s office and express their support for SB 538, which would repeal Texas’ unconstitutional homosexual conduct law and which is scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, on which Carona serves as part of a 4-3 Republican majority.

Last week, the committee voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316, which would extend legal protections to sexually active gay and lesbian teens. SB 1316 was the first pro-LGBT bill to clear a committee in the Texas Legislature in 12 years. Carona joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. One Republican voted against it, while the other two were absent.

—  John Wright

TX legislative panel advances pro-LGBT bill for 1st time in 12 years

John Carona

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, voted in favor of the pro-LGBT bill.

Even in Texas, LGBT equality is inching forward.

For the first time in 12 years, a state legislative committee advanced a specifically pro-LGBT bill on Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted 4-1 to advance SB 1316 — which would provide legal protections for sexually active gay and lesbian teens.

Sen. John Carona, a Republican from Dallas who made news by waffling on LGBT issues last year, joined three Democrats in voting to advance the bill. The Democrats who voted for the bill were author John Whitmire of Houston, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and Jose Rodriguez of El Paso. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, voted against the advancing the bill. The other two Republican members of the criminal justice committee were absent from the hearing.

The committee heard testimony from the parents of gay teens before voting to advance the bill, which is backed by Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, although the anti-gay group Texas Values issued statements to media outlets saying it amounts to “promoting sexual behavior.”

Under Texas law, sexual contact with minors under the age of 17 is a crime of indecency. But a “Romeo and Juliet” defense protects teen couples from prosecution as long as they are in a consensual relationship, both over 14 and within three years of age of each other. However,  the law specifically states that this protection is available only to couples of the opposite sex. SB 1316 would give same-sex teen couples the same protection as their heterosexual peers.

A House version of the bill, HB 2403, was also heard by a committee today but did not receive a vote. Despite clearing the Senate committee, the measure still faces long odds. It would need a two-thirds majority vote from the full Senate before it can be considered on the floor.

The last pro-LGBT bill to clear a Texas legislative committee was the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes protections based on “sexual preference” and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2001.

Four anti-bullying bills passed the Legislature and were signed by Perry in 2011, but none contained specific protections for LGBT youth.


—  John Wright

John Carona won’t talk about throwing LGBT community under the bus


State Sen. John Carona addresses the gay GOP group Metroplex Republicans in October.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, whose disgusting recent flip–flop on gay rights ranks right up there with former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s, isn’t commenting about his decision to sign a right-wing group’s letter calling for the Boy Scouts to keep their ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

Back in October, Carona told me he supports same-sex adoption rights, domestic partner benefits and LGBT workplace protections. In fact he came within a hair’s breadth of declaring his support for marriage equality. Carona’s business, AssociaTitle, is a major sponsor of Dallas’ annual Black Tie Dinner, the largest LGBT fundraiser of its kind in the nation.

But Carona, who once suggested that rabidly anti-gay state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is in fact a closeted homosexual, is now siding with Patrick on LGBT rights because he’s scared of losing his seat in the Senate in 2014 — or perhaps because he’s positioning himself for a run at statewide office.

“Senator Carona is not available for comment,” Carona spokeswoman Jamie McCormick wrote in an email this morning responding to my inquiries from yesterday. “Thank you for following up with our office.”

You’re more than welcome, Jamie, and as I said yesterday, let’s hope the LGBT community will continue to follow up with Carona’s office, and ask him to do the right thing by taking his name off the Boy Scouts letter. His contact info is here. You can also go to his Facebook and Twitter pages.

You may be saying to yourself that Carona’s betrayal of the LGBT community isn’t the least bit surprising and wondering why this even matters. Well, say what you want about Republicans, but they have a stranglehold on the Texas Legislature. And if we cannot get moderates within the GOP like Carona — whose District 16 includes a large chunk of Oak Lawn and who supports us privately — to stand up for us publicly, we won’t make any statewide progress here in the foreseeable future.

If Carona backs down in the face of pressure from the right, it will make it that much more difficult to get anyone else in his party to stand up.

—  John Wright

John Carona sells out the gays, signs letter in support of Boy Scouts ban

John Carona

Sen. John Carona

Republican state Sen. John Carona of Dallas, who drew the ire of social conservatives when he spoke out in support of pro-LGBT legislation last year, has signed a letter calling for the Boy Scouts of America to keep its ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

Carona has joined a group of 51 Republican elected officials in Texas who’ve signed the letter published on the website of Texas Values, one of the groups that criticized him for backing pro-LGBT legislation during an exclusive interview with Dallas Voice in October.

“As state elected officials, we strongly encourage the Boy Scouts of America to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles. Capitulating to the liberal social agenda not only undermines the very principles of scouting, but sets the stage for the erosion of an organization that has defined the American experience for generations of young men,” the letter states. “Scouts begin each meeting with an Oath, ‘to do my duty, to God and my country, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’ By caving in to pressure from the social left, the national leadership would violate each of those principles.”

Four months ago, Carona became one of the first Republican legislators in Texas to back pro-LGBT legislation when he spoke to Dallas Voice at a meeting of Metroplex Republicans, a gay GOP group. Carona expressed support for legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.

Carona also told the Voice he was “evolving” on same-sex marriage but added that he was “not there yet.”

Carona’s comments drew backlash from both Texas Values and the Texas Pastor Council, which prompted him to backtrack on the statements, and since then he’s been silent about LGBT issues.

Jamie McCormick, a spokeswoman in Carona’s Austin office, said the senator was in Dallas on Monday afternoon and she was trying to get in touch with him to see if he has anything to say about his decision to sign the letter.

In January, when senators drew lots to determine how long their terms will be, Carona drew a two-year term, meaning he’ll be up for re-election in 2014.

It seems fairly obvious that in signing the Texas Values Boy Scouts letter, Carona is pandering to social conservatives in an effort to stave off a challenge from the right in the Republican Primary.

It’s a cowardly move, and the LGBT community should call him out on it. Contact info for Sen. Carona can be found here.

—  John Wright

Senator who wants to ban DP benefits in Texas was subject of gay rumors

Sen. Dan Patrick

If state Sen. Dan Patrick is a closeted homosexual, he’s doing a pretty horrible job of hiding it.

That’s because if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, it’s that the most rabidly anti-gay public figures often turn out to be gay themselves. See Roy Cohn et al.

On Friday, Houston’s Patrick made a major anti-gay move by requesting an opinion from the attorney general’s office about whether domestic partner benefits offered by local government entities violate Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. According to the Houston Chronicle, Patrick is declining to comment on his own views on DP benefits until the AG’s office issues its opinion. (As if we don’t already know what Patrick’s views are. Why would he seek such an opinion if he isn’t against DP benefits?)

Anyhow, even though it’s true that closeted politicians tend to be anti-gay, being anti-gay probably isn’t sufficient grounds to assume that a politician is a closeted homosexual. But in Patrick’s case, it turns out we have more to go on than just that.

Back in May, one of Patrick’s fellow Republicans in the Texas Senate, John Carona of Dallas, pretty much accused Patrick of being homosexual. After Patrick sent an email to every single member of the Senate saying Carona was spreading rumors about his marriage, Carona responded by writing, “Though I have heard rumors regarding your marital status and sexual preferences for a while now, at no time have I told anyone that you are either separated, divorced, or gay.”

—  John Wright

Time for John Carona to grow a pair

John Carona

The Texas Tribune is the latest to weigh in on Republican State Sen. John Carona’s remarks to Dallas Voice in support of pro-equality legislation, with the video report below by Alana Rocha.

The Tribune focuses on Carona’s comments about marriage and compares them to its poll released yesterday showing that nearly 70 percent of Texans share Carona’s position — supporting some form of legal partnerships for same-sex couples, whether it be civil unions or marriage.

But Carona still isn’t talking, not to us, not to the Dallas Observer and not to the Tribune, about his comments last Monday (and strangely the Dallas Morning News has remained on the sidelines). But the fact is, despite all the reports saying he has, we still don’t truly know whether Carona is backtracking on his comments. All we have is hearsay from the Texas Pastor Council’s Dave Welch — not the most reliable source — but by remaining silent Carona is choosing to allow Welch to speak for him.

So here’s our advice to you, senator: Grow a pair and own your comments that we got on tape, then tell the Pastor Council to take a flying fuck. You told me you were concerned about representing constituents in your conservative district, and you questioned my statement that poll numbers show a majority of Texans support equality. Well, the latest poll shows that 70 percent back relationship recognition for same-sex couples, which based on several previous polls includes a majority of Republicans. These numbers can only be higher in your urban Dallas district than they are statewide. You also told me you were an independent voice who wasn’t afraid to buck the Republican Party line. Now stop kissing Welch’s ass and prove it!

Watch the Tribune’s video report below.

—  John Wright

Sen. Carona reportedly backtracks on LGBT support, but we’ve got the audio

In response to pressure from right-wing groups, Republican state Sen. John Carona reportedly is backtracking on his unprecedented statements last week in support of pro-equality legislation in Texas.

In an exclusive interview with Instant Tea on Oct. 22, Carona expressed support for three pro-LGBT bills that will be priorities for Equality Texas in the upcoming legislative session. The bills would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination statewide; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates in Texas. Carona also told Instant Tea he is “evolving” toward supporting same-sex marriage but “not there yet.”

In response to our report about Carona’s statements, both Texas Values (the Liberty Institute) and the Texas Pastor Council posted items condemning the senator’s support for LGBT equality. And on Friday, Texas Pastor Council Executive Director David Welch reported that Carona had contacted him.

“Senator John Carona responded to our letter of concern by calling me at our office today, and has assured us that he is completely committed to maintaining his record as pro-marriage and pro-family in response to the concerns raised by an article in the Dallas Voice,” Welch wrote. “His comments reported as “evolving” on issues like domestic partner benefits and same sex marriage were not accurately reported in context, according to the Senator in our conversation. He said that the only position accurately reported was regarding the birth certificate issue.”

We plan to contact Carona’s office first thing Monday to seek clarification about his comments to Welch.

In the meantime, because the accuracy of our reporting is being called into question, I thought it best if we went ahead and posted the audio from my interviews with Carona. The audio is in two parts.

The first part is from my conversation with Carona prior to the Metroplex Republicans Dallas meeting where he spoke. In this conversation we covered the three pro-LGBT bills.

The second part is from immediately after the meeting, when I asked Carona about marriage equality. Listen to both parts by clicking on the links below:

PART I: Sen. Carona on employment nondiscrimination, domestic partner benefits and same-sex adoption

PART II: Carona on same-sex marriage

—  John Wright

Sen. Carona among 1st Republican legislators in Texas to back gay rights

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, addresses Metroplex Republicans Dallas on Monday.

In a rare if not unprecedented move for a Republican state legislator in Texas, Dallas Sen. John Carona expressed support for three key pieces of pro-equality legislation on Monday.

Carona told Instant Tea he would support bills in Texas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.

All three measures are expected to be priorities for Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT equality group, in the upcoming legislative session.

Carona also said he is “evolving” on same-sex marriage but added that he’s “not there yet.”

“I’m very undecided on the issue and I struggle with it,” Carona said of marriage equality. “I think the whole country is evolving, and I know for a fact that our young people are evolving including young Republicans.

“I can’t say that I’m there yet, that would be dishonest, but I can say that it’s a question that I find myself asking myself over and over,” Carona added. “What is the most conservative approach? Well, I’m always told less government, not more government, is better. What is the right thing? Well, I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing. And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household? So, yeah, I’m evolving, but admittedly I’m not there yet, nor do I believe the district is there yet, but times change and things may change.”

—  John Wright

Houston senator calls gay attack by Dallas Sen. John Carona ‘vicious,’ defends his marriage

Dan Patrick

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, clarified Thursday that he and his wife are not having marital problems after rumors spread that he is gay.

Emails leaked earlier this week revealed that Patrick had emailed state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, about rumors he believed Carona was spreading.

In a response sent to multiple senators, Carona denied the rumors, writing that though he “heard rumors regarding [Patrick’s] marital status and sexual preferences for a while now,” he did not share rumors that Patrick was “separated, divorced, or gay.

Patrick’s response demanded an apology.

He told the Texas Tribune that his marriage of 37 years is not breaking up and confirmed notions that he and Carona were at odds over replacing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.

John Carona

“I love my wife and she loves me,” Patrick said, adding later that is mistake was thinking the emails would be kept private. “If I made a mistake in this, it was believing that emails between senators, which are almost always private, would have stayed private.”

He said he did not call Carona after the gay allegation because he didn’t want a confrontation, saying “his response was an admission of guilt” because he was not shy about sharing his comments.

“Suddenly he repeats them and he adds another vile comment. Vicious,” Patrick said of the gay reference.

Admitting that he and Carona have “competing visions,” Patrick said he wants conservative Republicans senators to have more of a say in Dewhurst’s replacement, denying that he wants the position. Carona has been called a possible favorite for the position.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice