Top 10: City elections proved groundbreaking for LGBT community

Rawlings

VOTERS LIKED MIKE  | Mike Rawlings defeated David Kunkle in a runoff for Dallas mayor in June. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 2

With former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert announcing that he was stepping down early to run for the U.S. Senate, and longtime Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief announcing he would not be running for re-election, candidates were lining up early this year for both offices. And the LGBT community on both sides of the Trinity River played a more visible and more vocal role than ever before in city elections.

In Dallas, businessman Mike Rawlings, former Dallas Chief of Police David Kunkle and City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who had reached his term limit representing District 12, quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the mayoral election. All three candidates came courting the LGBT community, participating in the North Texas

GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral debate and asking for endorsements from individuals in the community, as well as from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Kunkle’s involvement with the community during his days as police chief helped him win the Stonewall Democrats endorsement in the general election, while Natinsky withdrew his name from contention for the Stonewall endorsement after questions came up over whether his Republican voting record disqualified him.

DGLA threw its weight behind Natinsky, then went a step further to issue a warning against Rawlings, saying that based on his answer to a question during the confidential interview, they feared the candidate’s commitment to business interests might override his commitment to civil rights.

In the general election, Kunkle won in precincts considered to be heavily LGBT and came away with 32 percent of the vote overall to claim a place in the runoff against top-vote-getter Rawlings, who had 41 percent.

The two candidates continued to court the LGBT vote in the runoff, both participating in a second debate on LGBT issues, this one sponsored by Dallas Voice and partner organizations. Although DGLA had shifted its endorsement to Kunkle, Rawlings’ performance in the second debate seemed to win over some LGBT voters, and he won the runoff and the mayor’s seat, with 56 percent of the vote. Kunkle, however, again captured the most heavily LGBT precincts.

DGLA and Stonewall also split their endorsements in the District 14 City Council race, where longtime LGBT ally Angela Hunt faced three opponents, including one-time supporter James Nowlin, a gay man who filed in the race early when Hunt was still considering a run for the mayor’s seat. The race split the community, with Stonewall

Democrats endorsing Nowlin, who was a member of the organization, and DGLA backing Hunt. Hunt went on to win another term of the council without a runoff, taking 65 percent of the vote in the general election. Nowlin was second with 30 percent.

In Fort Worth, former City Councilman Jim Lane, who was on the council when the city became one of the first in the state to include protections for lesbians and gays in its nondiscrimination ordinance, and former Tarrant

County Tax Appraiser/Collector Betsy Price were the top two vote-getters in the general election, and during the runoff campaigns, the two met for the first-ever Fort Worth mayoral debate focusing on LGBT issues.

While Price had raised suspicion among some with a vague answer regarding her position on the city’s recent decision to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression in the nondiscrimination ordinance, both she and Lane pledged at the debate sponsored by the GLBT chamber and Fairness Fort Worth to support LGBT equality and to maintain an open door to the community.

Price went on to win the runoff, 56 percent to 44 percent, and in October became the first Fort Worth mayor to not only ride in, but also serve as grand marshal of, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade.

Also in Fort Worth, the city’s first and only openly gay councilmember, Joel Burns, still riding a wave of national popularity following his “It Gets Better” speech during a council meeting the previous October, didn’t even draw an opponent in his bid for a second full term on the council.

Down the road in Arlington, Chris Hightower became the first openly gay candidate to run for city council, tossing his hat into the ring along with three others challenging District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff. Hightower, who easily outpaced all the candidates in fundraising, came out on top of the heap in the general election. But he lost the runoff to Wolff by less than 100 votes, an outcome many of his supporters blamed on anti-gay robocalls describing him as a “weirdo,” a “convicted sex pervert” and a “sex creep” — even though Hightower has no criminal record.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rawlings, Kunkle headed to Oak Cliff for debate

Dallas mayoral candidates David Kunkle, left, and Mike Rawlings

Any of you didn’t get answers to all your questions at Dallas Voice’s LGBT mayoral runoff forum — and those of you who might have stayed home due to the weather — have another chance to hear Dallas mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle speak on the issues.

The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce is hosting a mayoral debate forum at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hitt Auditorium at Methodist Hospital, 1441 N. Beckley Ave.

KERA‘s Shelley Kofler will moderate, and questions for the candidates can be submitted by email to memberservices@oakcliffchamber.org.

—  admin

Local Briefs

DBA, others sponsor mayoral debate

Several organizations in North Texas are sponsoring a one-hour debate between Dallas mayoral runoff candidates David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings on Monday, June 6, at the Pavillion at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave. in Dallas. The forum will be moderated by Shawn Williams, editor of Dallas South News.

The debate, which will begin promptly at noon, is free and open to the public. An optional $13 lunch buffet will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m.

The debate is sponsored by the Public Forum Committee of the Dallas Bar Association, the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, J.L. Turner Legal Association and the League of Women Voters of Dallas, the program is intended to educate the Dallas legal community and public of the backgrounds and philosophies of the candidates. The Dallas Bar Association is a non-partisan organization.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to sevans@dallasbar.org so adequate seating is available.

C.U.R.E. begins fundraising for Quilt

On Sept. 30–Oct. 2, C.U.R.E. 2011 will bring panels from the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt to the Dallas Convention Center. This display will be the largest seen since the Quilt was exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC. Dallas will be the venue for a national event focusing on educating our diverse populations about AIDS and how to prevent its spread.

To help fund the weekend, C.U.R.E. has started a fundraising campaign, asking people to donate just $2 and to ask friends and family to do the same. The link to make a donation through PayPal is CureNTx.org.

C.U.R.E was founded by Roseann Rossetti and Rosemary Odom. Tyler Sweatman is the event director for the Quilt display.

United Way disburses funds

United Way of Greater Dallas voted to disburse $25 million to 78 nonprofit organizations in the Dallas area. Because of new criteria that emphasized improving education, income or health, some new agencies received money and others lost their United Way funding.

Among the regular recipients are Resource Center Dallas, which will receive $383,409, and AIDS Arms, which will receive $772,548. Bryan’s House is one of the new agencies receiving United Way funding and they will get $315,106.

Donors who sign up to contribute through United Way can designate an agency, if that organization is among their approved agencies. •

—  John Wright