Vernon Franko criticizes James Nowlin for criticizing Angela Hunt in District 14

Angela Hunt

It’s not every day that one candidate in a race criticizes a second candidate for attacking a third candidate. But that’s exactly what happened tonight in the District 14 Dallas City Council race, when challenger Vernon Franko sent out a press release criticizing fellow challenger James Nowlin for criticizing incumbent Angela Hunt.

Franko’s press release comes in response to an email sent out by Nowlin’s campaign on Saturday night touting his fundraising lead in the race. The headline of Nowlin’s email read, “Nowlin surges ahead, Hunt a celebrity not a servant.”

“The incumbent is more focused on being a celebrity than a servant and District 14 has taken notice,” Nowlin’s email stated. “Ms. Hunt tried to run for Mayor and failed at that. Now, she is using the 14th District as her backup political plan and that’s unfair to our great city and our district.”

The Nowlin email went on to criticize Hunt, whom it called “entrenched,” for voting in favor of a tax increase. The email also alleged that Hunt is ineffective because others on the council are “openly hostile” to her ideas.

“District 14 lags in consensus-building and suffers for Hunt’s arrogance,” the Nowlin email said.

And apparently that upset Franko, who sent out a press release tonight under the headline, “City Council Candidate Vernon Franko Condemns Email Attack Ad by Candidate James Nowlin as Embarrassing and Immature.”

—  John Wright

Candidate forums set for Saturday, Monday

Damien Duckett

As we noted in today’s cover story, candidates for Dallas mayor and City Council will attend a forum Saturday hosted by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s Political Action Committee. The forum begins at 2 p.m. at Kiest Park Recreation Center, 3080 S. Hampton Road, and it will follow an open question-and-answer format.

The three major mayoral candidates — David Kunkle, Mike Rawlings and Ron Natinsky — all plan to attend the DGLA forum. Damien Duckett, chairman of the DGLA PAC, said other City Council candidates who are scheduled to attend include Casie Pierce, Pauline Medrano, Billy MacLeod, Luis Sepulveda, James Nowlin, Cynthia Durbin, Scott Griggs, Dave Neumann, Angela Hunt, Jerry Allen and Sheffie Kadane.

• The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League will host a political forum Monday evening, and District 3 City Council candidates Scott Griggs and Dave Neumann both reportedly plan to attend. OOCCL President Michael Amonett said each will have 40 minutes for questions and answers with the voters and the League.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Avalon at Kessler Park, 2522 Fort Worth Ave. (Avalon is next to the Fort Worth Avenue Home Depot.)

—  David Taffet

Stonewall endorses Kunkle, Nowlin

David Kunkle

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed former police chief David Kunkle for mayor and openly gay candidate James Nowlin for the District 14 City Council seat on Saturday.

Kunkle and Nowlin were among 12 who received the LGBT group’s backing after 57 members interviewed 23 candidates in May 14 municipal elections, during a seven-hour session at Resource Center Dallas.

Stonewall’s endorsement of Kunkle came after Ron Natinsky pulled out of the candidate screening when he learned he would not be eligible for the group’s backing because he’s a Republican. Despite his party affiliation, Natinsky has received endorsements in the mayor’s race from some prominent gay Democrats, including openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley. Municipal elections are nonpartisan.

The other two candidates for mayor, Mike Rawlings and Edward Okpa, also sought Stonewall’s endorsement.

In heavily gay District 14, Nowlin beat out incumbent Angela Hunt for the group’s backing, despite the fact that Hunt has been an LGBT ally on the council.

Stonewall also endorsed Delia Jasso for District 1, Pauline Medrano for District 2, Scott Griggs for District 3, Monica Alonzo for District 6, Cassie Pierce for District 7, Cynthia Durbin for District 10 and William Tsao for District 12.

The group opted not to endorse Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway, who’s seeking re-election to his District 4 council seat. Caraway is currently finishing out the term of former Mayor Tom Leppert, who stepped down to run for U.S. Senate. Stonewall also opted not to endorse Sheffie Kadane in District 9. Both Caraway and Kadane sought the group’s endorsement and attended Saturday’s screening.

A full press release after the jump.

Kunkle, Nowlin receive Stonewall endorsements

After seven hours and 23 interviews, 57 Stonewall Democrats of Dallas members selected to endorse in 12 races for the May 14 municipal election.

Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle won the endorsement for Dallas Mayor, which was ratified along with other races by the membership immediately after the endorsement screening ended at 4:45 p.m.

Also winning endorsements for Dallas City Council were Delia Jasso for District 1, Pauline Medrano for District 2, Scott Griggs for District 3, Monica Alonzo for District 6, Cassie Pierce for District 7, Cynthia Durbin for District 10, William Tsao for District 12 and James Nowlin for District 14.

The lone Dallas Independent School District candidate that sought the organization’s endorsement, Mike Morath, was endorsed for District 2.

Candidates for Dallas County School Board Trustees Anthony Pace for District 1 and James Hubener for District 4 were also endorsed.

Stonewall decided not to endorse interim mayor and District 4 City Councilmember Dwaine Caraway and City Councilman Sheffie Kadane for District 9. They were the only ones who screened in their respective races.

“We had a lively discussion and great participation,” said Jesse Garcia, SDD communications director. “Conversation and debate remained civil. We had great candidates seek our support and we’re proud that the process was fair and transparent.”

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will work hard to promote endorsed candidates over the next eight weeks before Election Day Saturday, May 14.

The deadline to register to vote in time for the May 14 election is Thursday, April 14. Your registration card needs to be postmarked by April 14 or dropped off at the Dallas County Elections Department, located at 2377 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 820, in Dallas. Early voting takes place May 2-10.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will register voters Saturday, March 26, from 2 to 6 p.m., in front of Hunky’s, located at 3940 Cedar Springs Rd., in Dallas.

“The LGBT community needs to turn out to make sure our voice is heard,” said Garcia. “Only one in eight Dallas voters takes part in city elections. Heavy turnout in our neighborhoods will make a greater difference this time around.”

Candidates who were endorsed will be invited to speak at the next general meeting of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 19, at Ojeda’s Restaurant, located at 4617 Maple Ave. in Dallas. Meeting is open to the public. For more information, visit www.stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org.

—  John Wright

Ron Natinsky isn’t eligible for Stonewall’s endorsement, but he’s screening for it anyway

Ron Natinsky

Twenty-four candidates in local municipal elections are seeking the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. The LGBT group will screen candidates on Saturday at Resource Center Dallas before voting on which horse to endorse in each race.

Those scheduled to appear Saturday to seek Stonewall’s endorsement include all four candidates for Dallas mayor. However, according to Stonewall’s bylaws, Ron Natinsky isn’t eligible for the group’s endorsement because he’s a Republican. The group’s bylaws read: “No member of the Republican Party, candidates in the Republican Primary, nor Republican candidates in a General or Non-Partisan Election are eligible for endorsement by this Organization. Endorsements may be made in Dallas County non-partisan elections if the candidate has a Democratic Party primary election voting history and/or affirms allegiance to the Dallas Democratic Party.”

Natinsky has been endorsed by some prominent gay Democrats, including Ed Oakley and Chris Luna, but it looks like Stonewall will be choosing between David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings.

In District 14, Stonewall members will have to decide between openly gay challenger James Nowlin and incumbent Angela Hunt, who’s been a strong LGBT ally on the council. It’s great to see gay candidates like Nowlin running for office, but I’d be shocked if Stonewall’s endorsement doesn’t go to Hunt.

In District 2, both challenger Billy MacLeod and incumbent Pauline Medrano are seeking Stonewall’s endorsement, which will undoubtedly to Medrano, who’s also a strong LGBT ally.

In District 3, only challenger Scott Griggs is seeking Stonewall’s endorsement. Griggs is running against incumbent Dave Neumann, who’s been endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the past but is not currently scheduled to appear on Saturday. We suspect Neumann is in the same boat as Natinsky when it comes to being eligible for the endorsement.

In District 4, Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway is seeking Stonewall’s endorsement for re-election to his council seat. Caraway, of course, is finishing out Tom Leppert’s term after Leppert stepped down to run for Senate. Caraway is a shoe-in for re-election, but it’s good to see that he’s scheduled to appear on Saturday.

In District 7, openly gay challenger Cassie Pierce is the only candidate scheduled to seek Stonewall’s endorsement on Saturday. Pierce is running against incumbent Carolyn Davis.

Stonewall will screen candidates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Resource Center Dallas. Only those with their membership dues as of Feb. 17 may vote.

A full press release, including a list of all candidates who are scheduled to appear, is after the jump.

—  John Wright

District 7 challenger aims to become Dallas’ 1st out lesbian councilmember

Casie Pierce

Casie Pierce believes that the Great Trinity Forest could be the gateway to lifting up South Dallas community

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Casie Pierce wins her District 7 race, she would be the first open lesbian to serve on the Dallas City Council. She is challenging incumbent Carolyn Davis.

District 7 runs from the Mesquite border north of I-30 then dips south of the highway through Pleasant Grove, across parts of South Dallas including Fair Park and stopping just before North Oak Cliff.

There have been no openly-LGBT council members since Ed Oakley resigned to run for mayor in 2007. James Nowlin, another openly gay candidate, is challenging incumbent Angela Hunt in the District 14 race.

For a number of years, Pierce has been active in her Parkdale community, a section of Pleasant Grove with a large LGBT population. She worked on neighborhood cleanup and park projects with at-risk youth.

In 2005, Pierce founded Groundwork Dallas Inc., a nonprofit organization that has improved access to the Great Trinity Forest and cleaned up gateway neighborhoods. The group has built nature trails that connect with the Trinity River Audubon Center and the planned neighboring equestrian center. The group has also done landscaping around churches and on roadway medians, and, using grant money, it has employed at-risk neighborhood teens.

Pierce sees the possibility of bringing business to South Dallas by developing local eco-tourism in the forest surrounding the Trinity River.

“Lots of people go outside of Dallas to go mountain biking,” Pierce said, adding that most people don’t even know these trails are here.

Pierce said that much more could be done to develop the Great Trinity Forest into a recreational area. The 6,200 acres of forestland lies just four miles south of downtown encompassing an area four times the size of Manhattan.

While Pierce calls District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis supportive of the work she’s done to clean up neighborhoods and attract more people to the district, “I’d be more aggressive” as the District 7 council representative, she said.

Pierce said that businesses should be given a reason to move into the district. With the opening of DART’s Green Line, she would work to bring development to the area as a council member, especially around the new Lawnview Station.

Pierce said that while she wasn’t expecting anything on the scale of the development that surrounds Mockingbird or Park Lane stations to come to her South Dallas district, she would like to see some new apartments and stores.

Pierce works as a grant writer. She cites that talent as a source for funding new projects that will stimulate and attract business to the district. Groundwork Dallas got started with an initial $100,000 grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

As a City Council member, Pierce said she would be more aggressive in attracting grant money to her district for development.

And she believes the area is primed for business development. Pierce points to all of the vacant stores, offices and manufacturing facilities in the area. She said that while much of the opposition to beer and wine sales in last November’s election came from her district, she’d like to see a few carefully zoned stores inside the Dallas border that cater to the still-dry Mesquite market.

“Right now they’re shopping in Garland,” she said.

Pierce calls herself a fiscal conservative and said the city should stop giving away PIDs — public improvement districts that offer large tax advantages to locate businesses in certain areas. She mentioned the new Hunt Oil building downtown that she said was going to be in the exact same location whether they received a tax abatement or not.

“That’s $30 million,” Pierce said. “We shouldn’t bribe people to be here.”

Pierce said her strategy is to build a coalition of voters who want to see positive growth in the area. She said she hoped her fiscally conservative views would attract voters in the more conservative District 7 areas north of I-30. In her neighborhood clean-up campaigns, she has worked with a number of South Dallas pastors who she hoped would support her candidacy.

In addition to her grant writing career, Pierce has worked for the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and still volunteers as a trolley operator when they need extra help for special events.

Her Parkdale neighborhood lies east of Fair Park and south of Military Parkway. She lives with her partner who manages a high-end restaurant.

District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis was contacted for comment for this article, but had not responded by press deadline.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Hunt ends speculation over mayoral candidacy

Angela Hunt, left, and James Nowlin

District 14 councilwoman won’t for mayor, but gay candidate James Nowlin pledges to stay in race and challenge three-term incumbent

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT ally who represents the heavily gay District 14, announced this week that she has decided not to run for Dallas mayor in the May municipal elections.

Hunt will, instead, run for re-election to her fourth term representing District 14. Mandated term limits mean that if she is re-elected, it will be her last two-year term on the council.

Although candidates cannot officially file to run in the elections until Monday, Feb. 14, four District 14 candidates have already filed paperwork with the city secretary designating campaign treasurers.

One of the four — Jim Rogers — told Dallas Voice last month that if Hunt decided to run for re-election to the council instead of for mayor, he would bow out of the race. But another, openly gay candidate James Nowlin, said this week he does not plan to withdraw.

The two other declared candidates for District 14 are Erin C. Lasseter and Vernon Franko.

“Angela made every indication that she was running for mayor, and our campaign team moved forward, and as we were moving forward we received tremendous support from voters across the district,” Nowlin said Wednesday. “Her waiting put the district and the potential candidates in a very awkward position. I’m in it to win it and I’m moving forward to the May 14 election.”

Nowlin told Dallas Voice last month he was confident that Hunt would run for mayor and that he had been discussing the possibility of running for the District 14 seat with her for more than a year.

“I’m not running against anybody,” Nowlin said. “I’m running for the district, and this is about putting the district first.”

Hunt said Wednesday that she had decided to not to run for mayor because she believes she can be more effective as a councilmember.

“For me, it’s never been about what office I hold. It’s about where I feel I can be the most effective and do the most good for my district and the city,” Hunt said. “And the issues I feel most strongly about are issues I can address most effectively as a councilmember instead of as mayor.”

Hunt said those issues are ones that focus “providing top quality basic city services” and projects that enhance the quality of life for the city’s residents, including efforts to “re-energize” the Trinity River Corridor Project and making sure the river levees are repaired and the proposed park built.

Hunt said she is also concerned with the issues of redistricting and the upcoming 2012 bond elections.

“With all due respect to the other [District 14] candidates — I know them, and they are all good people — these are issues that need someone with experience to deal with them,” Hunt said.

The three candidates that have so far declared themselves candidates for mayor are current District 12 Councilman Ron Natinsky, former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle and criminal defense lawyer Jim Moore.

Hunt said this week she has not decided who — if anyone — she would endorse for mayor. But she did say she believes the city needs someone not currently serving on the council as its next leader.

“I think it will take someone new, someone coming in from outside the current council but who also has experience as a leader” to be the best mayor for Dallas, Hunt said, adding that she is looking for a mayor who will “focus on the issues that are really important to our neighborhoods, instead of on high-dollar, high-profile projects” like the Convention Center hotel, the Trinity River toll road and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge — all projects that current Mayor Tom Leppert championed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nowlin would be Dallas’ 1st gay council member since Oakley stepped down in 2007

In Friday’s Voice we reported that gay business owner and attorney James Nowlin is planning to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council, assuming that incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

If he wins the seat, Nowlin would become the city’s first openly gay council member since Ed Oakley, who vacated his District 3 seat in 2007 to run for mayor – a race he lost to Tom Leppert in a runoff.

Oakley’s departure meant that for the first time since 1993, the council didn’t have an openly gay member. But thanks to some strong allies on the council, as well as Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Still, with 14 representatives plus the mayor on the council in the nation’s ninth-largest city, it makes sense for Dallas to have at least one openly gay councilperson. And Nowlin certainly seems like a qualified and viable candidate.

Among other things, we’re impressed with Nowlin’s candidness about his sexual orientation. He hasn’t at all shied away from interviews with the Voice, and he states plainly on his campaign website that, “James and his partner, John, live in Lakewood Heights and attend Cathedral of Hope as well as Unity Church of Christianity.”

Anyhow, following our story, Nowlin sent out an e-mail on Saturday formally announcing his candidacy and requesting donations. We’ve posted the full text of the e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright

Nowlin throws hat in ring to replace Hunt in District 14

James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Angela Hunt decides to run for mayor, the gayest council district in Dallas will be open, and at least one gay man has already announced he is throwing his hat into the District 14 ring.

James Nowlin, 30, has lived in Dallas since 2006. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and Duke University School of Law.

In 2007, he and a business partner he started Excel Global Partners, a corporate financial consulting and professional services staffing company. He said he maintains his law license.

If elected, Nowlin would become the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council. Hunt now holds that title; she was first elected at age 33.

Hunt appointed Nowlin to the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board, from which he recently resigned after deciding to run for office.

He has also serves on the board of AIDS Services Dallas and attends of Cathedral of Hope and Unity Church of Christianity.

Nowlin has already put up a campaign website and named Bill Prather as his treasurer.

While this is the first time he’s running for office, it is not Nowlin’s first campaign. In 2010, he served on the steering committee for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s campaign.

“I’ve been talking to Angela for more than a year about succeeding her,” Nowlin said Thursday, Jan. 13.

If she decides to run for re-election rather than for mayor, he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Among the issues Nowlin said his campaign would address are the budget, public safety, economic development, infrastructure and other issues of importance to the LGBT community and the community at large.

District 14 includes parts of East Dallas and Oak Lawn. If elected, Nowlin would be the first gay representative from the district since Craig McDaniel was elected to that seat in 1993 as the city’s first openly gay council member.

For more information, visit JamesNowlin.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright