Dems seek supermajority on Commissioners Court

LGBT ally Theresa Daniel among those vying for Dickey’s seat

Going-after-Gay-vote1

GOING AFTER THE GAY VOTE | Cecile Fernandez, left, speaks to Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Texas Land & Cattle in Uptown. Fernandez is one of two Republicans who’ve filed to replace retiring GOP Commissioner Maurine Dickey. On the Democratic side, longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel, above right, and Daniel Clayton are two of the three candidates running for Dickey’s District 1 seat.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thinks Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up a fourth seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court since newly drawn lines extend a district into Oak Lawn.

District 1 Republican incumbent Maureen Dickey — who voted against transgender nondiscrimination protections for county employees last year — isn’t seeking re-election. Two Republicans and three Democrats have filed to run for the seat Dickey has held since 2004.

Narvaez said two of the three Democratic candidates are members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Theresa Daniel and Gloria Levario.

The redrawn district, he said, will be harder for a Republican to retain. Cedar Springs Road is the dividing line. The northeast side of the street will be part of the new District 1. The southwest side of the street will be represented by District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price, also up for re-election, lost the Oak Lawn portion of his district but picked up more of Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. Parts of South Dallas between Interstate 30 and US Highway 175 also shifted from Price to the new District 1.

Usually the filing period ends on Jan. 1 for the November race. Because of legal challenges to redistricting maps, Narvaez said the filing period will be reopened. Candidates whose districts have changed may decide to change races or may pull out of the running and receive a refund.

“And that’s extremely unusual,” Narvaez said.

So he said that the field of candidates — even for the Commissioners Court races where boundary lines haven’t been challenged — isn’t necessarily set. Although the primary is still tentatively scheduled for April 3, a firm date cannot be set until new maps are approved.

“I wonder how long this marathon is going to be,” said Daniel, one of the Democratic candidates for the District 1 seat.

Daniel was a staff member for Democratic Congressman Martin Frost. She has served on the State Democratic Executive Committee since 1996 and as chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party Advisory Committee for four years. Currently, she works with the Dallas Independent School District in program evaluation and accountability and is an adjunct professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Daniel said she’s been a member of Stonewall Democrats for 10 to 15 years. As a member of the SDEC she helped add two seats to the state body for Stonewall Denocrats leaders.

“With their activity level, both locally and at a state level, they were a model,” she said.

In 2004, Daniel received Stonewall’s Democrat of the Year award.

Daniel said she’s glad sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy last year and called health benefits for the domestic partners of county employees a “civil right.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins has said he supports DP benefits but didn’t bring the proposal forward last year due to budget constraints.

On healthcare issues, Daniel said she needs to take a look at how agencies are funded but said, “I’d work to keep funding on track.”

She called the new Parkland hospital “absolutely wonderful.”

“When you have an 80-year-old building we’re going to have problems,” she said, adding that the new hospital shows Dallas County’s commitment to public health.

Daniel Clayton is the third Democrat running for the District 1 seat. He has worked for state Sen. Royce West for five years and currently serves as his political director.
Before joining West’s office, he worked on a number of campaigns. In 2001, he campaigned for Jim McGreevey, who became New

Jersey’s “gay-American” governor. Clayton served as deputy field director for former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s Senate campaign.
Since 2007, Clayton has served as president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

In 2004, he was executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. That year, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and other Democrats swept into office, which began a run of Democrats who were elected to county-wide office.

“How do we make county government more efficient?” Clayton said when asked about his top concern.

He said continued funding for AIDS programs was a priority.

“Dallas County’s rate of HIV is so high,” he said. “It’s affecting the minority community terribly.”

On partnership benefits, he said the idea sounds fair and he needs to study the economic impact.

On the Republican side, Dickey has endorsed Cecile Fernandez, a former Dickey’s Barbecue executive vice president who helped create the franchise program and take the company national. District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell has endorsed Fernandez’s opponent, attorney Larry Miller.

Fernandez attended the kick-off event this week for the new Dallas Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” she said of the meeting, adding that she attended because several of the founders “are longtime personal friends.”

She said that although the new boundaries of District 1 give Democrats a slight edge, her connections in the Hispanic community and position as vice chair of the Dallas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly will make the difference.

“I think I’m the Republican who can win that seat,” she said.

She expressed support for LGBT issues. She backs partnership benefits for county employees, but worried that in the new budget year everyone’s benefits will have to be cut.

She said that funding for HIV and AIDS treatment must remain in place and added she sees no room for discrimination.

“It’s not the ’80s,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who’s died of AIDS.”

She said she supports Parkland Hospital and has had people in her family use the facility.

“The people at Parkland are so caring,” she said. Despite being overworked in a rundown facility, “they must really love their jobs.”

Miller and Levario did not return messages before press time.

Levario, the sister of Dallas County’s 204th District Court Judge Lena Levario, works for Baylor’s physician network to manage their medical practices. She’s also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Narvaez said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Maryland lawmakers get cold feet on marriage

Del. Sam Arora

Despite supporters’ high hopes, Maryland delegates send bill back to committee; marriage equality faces promise, threats in other states

DANA RUDOLPH  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The road to marriage equality in Maryland had never been a short or smooth one, but supporters of allowing same-sex couples to marry could see the altar this time: passing the House and sending the bill to a governor who said he would sign it.

But supporters never had a clear majority, and some who had said they would back it got cold feet in the days leading up to the House vote.

On March 11, instead of voting for the bill, the House unanimously voted to send it back to committee. Even some LGBT activists conceded it was the thing to do.

The Maryland vote reduced to two the number of states that could possibly see marriage equality move through the state legislature this year: Rhode Island and New York.

Iowa could lose existing marriage equality rights through actions in the legislature this year, and six states that already have statutes that prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses — Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — could add constitutional amendments to protect the bans from legal challenges.

An attempt to do so in Wyoming died in committee in February.

Equality Maryland, the state’s leading LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement that, although they are “disappointed” the bill didn’t pass, sending it back to committee was “a strategic step that will allow us to fight and win in the future.”

Board member David Lublin explained to Maryland Politics Watch (Maryland-Politics.Blogspot.com) that, if the bill failed in a vote on the merits, it would have been harder later to convert the delegates who had already voted no in public.

And a coalition of groups including Equality Maryland, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Gill Action released a joint statement after the vote, saying, “Over the past several days it has become clear that additional time to continue the marriage conversation in the state will better position the Civil Marriage Protection Act for success.”

The full Senate had passed its version of the bill on a vote of 25 to 22 Feb. 24.  Action then moved to the House, where the Judiciary Committee had voted 12-10 on March 4 to send the bill to the floor, even though committee chair Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Democrat, who cast the deciding vote to do so, indicated he would not support marriage equality on the floor.

Support for the bill had already grown shakier. Committee member Sam Arora, a Democrat and an original co-sponsor, had said March 3 he would vote against it on the floor, and he only wanted to send it to the full House so voters could have their say in a likely referendum.

The state constitution allows voters to submit new laws to a referendum if they can collect the 55,736 signatures necessary to do so.

And Democratic Delegates Tiffany Alston and Jill Carter — both co-sponsors — were no-shows at the first scheduled committee vote.

Alston said she wanted more time to weigh her decision based on diverse feedback from constituents and others. Carter said she was just trying to draw attention to other legislation.

Alston eventually voted against sending the bill to the floor, but Carter voted in favor of doing so.

Sponsor Melvin Stukes, a Democrat who was not on the Judiciary committee, announced at the end of February that he was withdrawing his sponsorship. He said he had come to realize that the bill would grant full marriage equality instead of civil unions.

Three days before the full House vote, the bill was still “probably one to two short” of the 71 votes needed for passage, said Democratic Delegate Heather Mizeur in an interview March 8, adding, “There is still a large block of undecided who will go to the floor undecided.”

Democrats hold a 98 to 43 majority in the chamber.

Even Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he would sign the bill, appeared to shift towards the idea of a voter referendum — something equality advocates have shunned.

O’Malley told reporters March 3, “We should let the people decide,” according to the Baltimore Sun. After the bill was recommitted, he told the Associated Press, “I would have hoped that we could have resolved this issue and then let the people decide.”

The full House vote came after nearly four hours of debate on March 9 and 11. Debate centered around religious beliefs regarding homosexuality, whether the LGBT community’s political movement for equal rights could be compared to that of African-Americans, and whether same-sex marriage would negatively impact children.

Delegate Mizeur, in one of the most personal speeches during debate, spoke of reconciling her deep Catholic faith with being a lesbian. She said that, if the bill failed, it would not stop her and her wife from loving each other, but the lack of legal protections would “make it really, really difficult for us in the worst, most challenging times.”

Committee Chair Vallario asked, “Where would Martin Luther King be on this issue?”

“I don’t know,” he said, but the introduced a motion to recommit the bill to his Judiciary Committee. The House unanimously approved.

One other bill remaining in that committee seeks to ask voters to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Spokespeople for both the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Don Dwyer, a Republican, and Vallario could not say whether that bill would receive a vote before the session ends April 11.

In the remaining states, the Rhode Island House and Senate Judiciary Committees have held hearings on marriage equality bills in recent weeks, but neither chamber has yet scheduled a vote.

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will urge the legislature to take up marriage equality this session. He met with LGBT advocates March 9 to discuss the matter.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright