Top 10: City elections proved groundbreaking for LGBT community


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

Trans candidate places 3rd in Amarillo mayoral race

Sandra Dunn

Dunn proud of her efforts, but says she won’t run again without more community support

JAMES BRIGHT | Contributing Writer

Transgender mayoral candidate Sandra Dunn placed third in Amarillo’s mayoral election May 14 in an 11-candidate field that included an anti-gay pastor. Dunn said voter turnout was a major concern in the election, with fewer than 15,000 votes cast, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

Mayor-elect Paul Harpole won the election with 77 percent of the vote. Roy McDowell came in second with 13 percent and Dunn in third with 3 percent.

“It seems traditionally most people do not realize that local votes are critical,” she said. “People think they just need to vote nationally and that’s just not the case. There have been several cases in the past where an election has been decided by just one vote.”

Dunn is not disappointed about her placement though. “Third out of 11 is nothing to be ashamed about,” she said.

Even though she lost the election, Dunn said her third-place finish should give her some weight in the City Council.

She also said she would not run again unless a committee was formed for her election and she received support both socially and financially.

“I’m not trying to beat my own drum, but I did this one all by myself,” Dunn said. “I put out several feelers nationwide asking for help and I received zero support.”

Dunn also said her work in politics is far from over. She has already been talking to Amarillo’s city manager about job discrimination and the restroom issue: “I’m going to approach the city about getting some things added to certain policies to take in consideration issues that affect transgender people.”

According to Dunn, transgender people using public restrooms has become a major concern among the city’s straight population. She said the idea of transgender people using family restrooms appealed to both groups.

“A family restroom is a single stall room,” Dunn said. “You can go in lock the door and no one will bother you. It will help us as transgender individuals and help parents who have two or three kids on an outing.”

Dunn said her primary goal politically is to push for legislation that would prevent all discrimination in the work place.

Dunn’s military service also stood out in this election. Denny Meyer, media director for Transgender American Veteran’s Association, said although endorsing candidates can get a bit tricky the group supports all members of the LGBT community who run for public office.

“It’s almost a victory to celebrate that she came in third in that district,” Meyer said. “It’s a positive sign in that field and means independent voters by large went for her.”

Monica Helms, president of TAVA, said the organization takes a lot of pride in people like Dunn and their efforts to make progress in the world, both politically and professionally. “She [Dunn] represents some of the best of our community, and some of the best of our transgender veterans,” Helms said.

If Dunn were to run again, Helms said she would have the support of TAVA in the future.

Transgender people have frequently been thrown under the bus, according to Meyer.

“They were completely left out of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’” he said. “It did not even occur to them [legislators] when they wrote [the bill] that transgender people existed.”

But, he said, Dunn’s campaign shows a significant gain in changing that. “It’s not just gay people getting elected, but transgender people advancing as well,” Meyer said. “It’s the final frontier.”

For now Dunn said she will continue counseling transgender people, spending time with her family and working on her master’s degree in psychology.

—  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