Dallas County ballots include 3 gay candidates

Log Cabin president says election offers LGBT voters several viable Republican candidates to back

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The ballot for this year’s election is long — nine pages in some parts of Dallas County. Voters will decide races for district attorney, county clerk and county judge in addition to a number of family, district and criminal court judges.

Those are in addition, of course, to all statewide positions and members of the Texas and U.S. House of Representatives.

Four propositions also appear on the ballot. Two countywide questions would legalize beer and wine sales throughout Dallas County. Two are city questions about selling two parks.

Three openly gay candidates appear on the ballot. Gary Fitzsimmons is seeking re-election as county clerk. Tonya Parker is running for 116th Civil District Court judge. And Peter Schulte appears on the ballot in parts of the city. He is challenging Dan Branch for the Texas House in a district that includes parts of Oak Lawn.

All three are Democrats.

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein touted a number of Republican candidates, especially some running for judicial positions.

“Jonathan Neerman is an attorney and lined up quite a few competent people who know what it takes,” Schlein said.

Neerman is chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

This is not a complete list but highlights some races of interest in the LGBT community.

District Clerk
Former City Councilman Craig Holcomb is treasurer of Fitzsimmons’ re-election campaign.

“As Dallas County district clerk, he has moved that office into the 21st century,” Holcomb said of Fitzsimmons.

For the first time, all documents are now transmitted electronically.

Fitzsimmons has saved almost $1 million for his office since he was first elected in 2006 when compared with his predecessor during the previous four years. He also removed a one-year backlog of family court filings.

“And I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has in the last four years,” Holcomb said.

Fitzsimmons worked for Holcomb for 15 years.

Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore said, “He’s one of the more competent elected officials in Dallas County.”

Fitzsimmons’ opponent in the race is Tammy Barnes, 47. She has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and is a candidate for a masters’ in criminal justice from the University of North Texas.

Barnes is a member of the Lancaster Zoning Board of Adjustment,  a Big Sister volunteer and president and casework volunteer for Family Outreach of Southern Dallas.

County Judge
Clay Jenkins defeated County Judge Jim Foster in the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Wade Emmert in the general election.

“We need to have someone who sees the county as needing tending and not as their own personal playground,” Moore said of the county judge’s office. “Clay has a good perspective on that.”

She said he has the personality and wherewithal to be a good county judge.

Jenkins served as an intern to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost and was Oscar Mauzy’s law clerk when he served on the Texas Supreme Court.

Jenkins is president of the law practice Jenkins & Jenkins, with offices in Dallas and Waxahachie. This is his first run for public office.

Emmert is also an attorney and serves on the Cedar Hill City Council.

“On the City Council, he develops budgets and does the things that are needed as county judge,” said Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas President Rob Schlein.

Emmert often attends Log Cabin meetings and Schlein believes that if elected he’d be open and accessible to the LGBT community.

County Commissioner District 4
Former Dallas City Council member Elba Garcia is challenging 16-year incumbent Ken Mayfield for County Commissioner District 4.

Mayfield is known for his combative style in Commissioners Court. Fitzsimmons called him “the most homophobic elected official in Dallas County.”

In 1995, Mayfield signed a letter with two other commissioners regarding condom distribution.

“We don’t want anyone, especially anyone in authority, telling our children or future grandchildren that it’s an approved or acceptable lifestyle to be a homosexual, a prostitute or a drug user,” Mayfield and the others wrote.

Garcia, on the other hand, is seen as a strong ally of the LGBT community. She served four terms on the Dallas City Council representing North Oak Cliff.

Moore called the county commissioner seat critical when it comes to funding HIV services at Parkland hospital.

“She was not only there for us, she was first in line leading the effort,” Moore said of Garcia’s tenure on the council. “She was instrumental in passing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.”

But Mayfield, Moore said, is one of the LGBT community’s worst enemies.

In the last days leading up to the election, Mayfield has been accusing Garcia of voter fraud. Mayfield’s supporters said that absentee ballots were sent when none were requested and they charge that Garcia encouraged people to vote twice.

No charges have been filed.

District Attorney

Danny Clancy is challenging incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins for Dallas County district attorney.  Although Watkins sought LGBT support in his first campaign, Moore said that as district attorney he has been a divisive figure, accused of being a celebrity D.A. and not doing his job here.

Neerman believes that more than any other race, this is the one for the LGBT community to consider voting Republican.

Clancy has been an assistant district attorney, criminal court judge and private attorney. He has prosecuted more than 250 cases and, as judge, presided over more than 450 cases.

“Clancy will protect all of Dallas County,” said campaign spokesman Brian Mayes.

He said that this race is between a D.A. caught in a number of ethical controversies who refuses to pursue a number of cases and a prosecutor who is tough on crime.

Mayes said sexual orientation would play no role in how tough Clancy would prosecute. He said that he’s looking for support from Log Cabin Republicans and the rest of the LGBT community.

“He’s a good guy,” said Mayes. “His heart’s in the right place. He has no political agenda in fighting crime.

“It’s about competence vs. incompetence,” said Schlein. “Not about left and right.”

County Criminal Court No. 2
Dan Montalvo is challenging incumbent King Fifer for County Criminal Court No. 2.

Schlein said Montalvo spoke to Log Cabin at the recent Grand Ol’ Party. He told the group he’s challenged about being Hispanic and Republican just as Log Cabin is questioned about being gay and Republican. Schlein believes he’d be a fair judge.

Montalvo is challenging Democratic incumbent Jeff Rosenfield.

116th Civil District Court
Tonya Parker faces Mike Lee for 116th Civil District Court.

“She’s one of the most eminently qualified people running to be judge and we support her 100 percent,” Moore said.

Among her honors, Parker was listed as a rising star by Texas Monthly three times and in 2006 was named Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Outstanding Young Lawyer.

Mike Lee is an attorney whose practice focused on civil litigation. He has significant experience representing minors in cases before Dallas County juvenile courts.

“Mike Lee’s a good guy,” said Schlein. “He’s someone gay people should be comfortable with,” he said.

193rd District Court
Carl Ginsberg is an active member of Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats. He took the lead in educating his colleagues about gender-marker changes and said that there’s statutory authority to make those changes.

“Believe it or not, there’s actually the legal authority in Texas to do it,” Ginsberg told Dallas Voice earlier this year.

Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats President Pennington Ingley said, “He’s an avid supporter of ours. He’s very approachable and has been a strong supporter of LGBT issues.”

His opponent is Republican Wes Johnson.

194th District Court

Judge Ernest White presided over the Jimmy Lee Dean hate crime trial. The jury handed down a sentence even tougher than the one the prosecutor suggested.

Michael Robinson was a witness to the crime. He testified in the case and sat through the entire trial. He said he was impressed with how White handled the case and allowed his testimony to be given.

“The LGBT community needs more judges like Judge Ernest White to allow crimes like these to be heard fairly and without any bias towards the community,” Robinson said.

“Judge White allowed all the evidence to be heard so the jury could make a decision to convict Bobby Singleton [to receive] 75 years and Jonathan Gunter [to receive] 30 years [in prison].”

His opponent is Republican David Lewis.

292nd Judicial District Court

Lisa DeWitt is challenging incumbent Democrat Larry Mitchell.

“She’s a member of Log Cabin,” Schlein said of DeWitt, “an open and active supporter.”

DeWitt uses her Log Cabin endorsement in all of her campaign literature and stood up for the group when questioned about her support and involvement, Schlein said.

Log Cabin honored her recently at their Grand Ol’ Party. She has been a county attorney and a public defender.

The Democrat in the race is Larry Mitchell.

298th Civil District Court
Emily Tobolowsky is a longtime member of Stonewall Democrats but her current claim to fame is from her cousin Stephen. He plays disgraced gay music teacher Sandy Ryerson on Glee.

Before her 2007 election, Tobolowsky was an attorney with experience from commercial, real estate and employment litigation to family law.

Her opponent in the race is Bryce Quine, a trial lawyer and a partner at the law firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.

301st Family District Court

Judge Lynn Cherry, a Democrat, ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change at the request of DART.

That ruling began a push by a number of groups to get DART to change their discriminatory policy against transgender employees and had LGBT groups questioning why the agency would interfere in a family court matter.

Cherry hasn’t commented on the matter or explained why an employer’s opinion would be considered in a family court matter.

Her opponent is George White, a family court attorney with 35 years experience. He has completed more than 8,000 cases. He was member of the Texas Army National Guard. Schlein calls him affable and said he’s been to a couple of Log Cabin meetings.

302nd Family District Court  Judge Tena Callahan declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision related to a gay couple who had married in Massachusetts and filed for divorce in Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott challenged the divorce. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned her decision. The divorce is again on appeal. “She would say she made the right decision and was just doing her job,” Moore said.

Her opponent is family law attorney Julie Reedy, who endorsed Callahan before deciding to run for the office herself. Reedy’s campaign website refers to Callahan’s decision by saying, “I promise NOT to legislate from the bench and will serve the court to the letter of the law.”

Propositions
Two countywide propositions appear on the ballot in Dallas. The first would lift the restriction on sale of beer and wine in convenience and grocery stores throughout the county. The second would allow restaurants throughout the county to sell beer and wine without being private clubs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

BREAKING: Re-hearing sought in gay divorce

Attorneys for a gay Dallas man who’s seeking a divorce from his husband have filed a motion requesting a re-hearing of the case by the full 5th District Court of Appeals.

An all-Republican, three-judge panel of the Dallas appeals court ruled in August that the man, identified in court documents as J.B., cannot obtain a divorce in Texas because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

J.B. and his attorneys had the option of dropping the matter, appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, or requesting a re-hearing by the 13-justice 5th District Court en banc.

“We believe adequate grounds exist for the entire Court of Appeals to reconsider the panel’s opinion, and we hope the entire Dallas court of appeals will do that,” said attorney James J. “Jody” Scheske of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the Austin firm representing J.B.

Scheske said for the request to be granted, a majority of the 13 justices would have to agree to rehear the case. There is no timeframe for the court to rule on the request, he said. Depending on the outcome, Scheske said he’s unsure whether his client will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Scheske said. “We’re hopeful the entire court of appeals will issue an opinion we can live with, in which case further appeal won’t be necessary.”

J.B. and his partner, H.B., were married in Massachusetts in 2006. After they moved to Dallas, J.B. filed for a divorce in 2008.

In October of last year, Democratic District Judge Tena Callahan ruled she had jurisdiction to hear J.B.’s divorce petition, saying Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed Callahan’s decision, and the appeals court ruled on Aug. 31 in Abbott’s favor.

To read the full text of the motion seeking a re-hearing, go here.

—  John Wright

Public lewdness charge dropped against ex-WFAA anchor Brad Hawkins

A public lewdness charge against former WFAA anchor Brad Hawkins has been rejected by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, according to Hawkins’ attorney, Peter Schulte.

Hawkins, now a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, was arrested in April following an incident at Flag Pole Hill Park near White Rock Lake.

Schulte told Dallas Voice the DA’s office has elected not to prosecute Hawkins.

“He didn’t commit a crime,” Schulte said, calling it a “false arrest.”

“That conduct as alleged by the police department does not constitute a crime,” Schulte added.

—  John Wright

'The Daily Show' on Dallas' gay divorce case

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“Do same-sex couples really just want the right to marry that’s afforded to all heterosexual couples, or do they have a more sinister agenda in mind?” Jon Stewart asks at the start of last night’s segment on Texas’ first same-sex divorce case. The segment ends with a straight married couple making out with another woman, and correspondent Jason Jones trying to get in on it. “This is marriage to me,” Jones says. “This is the sanctity of marriage to me. We can’t let gays have all this. No way. They haven’t earned it.” There’s plenty of good stuff in between, including interviews with Dallas attorney Peter Schulte and his client, “J.B.,” as well as East Texas pastor Rick Scarborough, who’s asked whether he’s concerned that “gays are trying to shove their long, thick agenda down your throat repeatedly.” Ultimately Jones concludes that if gays are allowed to divorce, nothing will stop them from the grand abuses of marriage that heterosexuals enjoy, such as furtive gay airport sex. He also says God intended man and woman to be stuck in a loveless union, not gays. Check it out.

—  John Wright

'Daily Show' to lampoon gay divorce case

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Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is working on a segment about Texas’ first same-sex divorce case.

The Daily Show‘s Laura Swisher contacted Dallas Voice last month seeking potential sources.

Swisher told me today that a Daily Show crew was in Dallas last week filming for the segment. She said they interviewed the plaintiff in the divorce case, “J.B.,” along with his attorney, Peter Schulte.

The crew then traveled to East Texas to interview right-winger Rick Scarborough, the former Southern Baptist pastor who heads Vision America.

“I think we got good material from everybody, and I think it’s a really interesting case, so it was fun to kind of explore,” Swisher told me. “It’s a great story, just on the face of it, so we’ll have some fun with it.”

She added that the segment likely will air sometime after the New Year.

—  John Wright

Plaintiff in Dallas divorce case: 'This is not about gay and lesbian marriage'

The plaintiff in Texas’ first gay divorce case appeared on “Good Morning America Weekend” on Sunday along with his attorney, Peter Schulte. The plaintiff, who’s asking to be identified only as “J.B.,” again insisted that the divorce isn’t a “test case” designed to further LGBT equality.

GMA host Bill Weir: “Gay marriage advocates are celebrating this as an interesting way to get the whole issue in front of state supreme courts and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. How much of that motivated you here?”

J.B.: “From the beginning, I have said this is not a test case, I’m not the poster child. In reality, for 10 months, there have been two people on the plane, the pilot and myself in the cabin alone. If anybody else had wanted to bring their cause to the table, they could have been there. Some of the greatest negative feedback that I’ve gotten has been from the gay and lesbian community, the legal community in the gay and lesbian community specifically. So you know what? You can’t just jump on when you want to and claim your stake. … This is not about gay and lesbian marriage.”

—  John Wright