More bad news from Election Night: 3 Iowa judges who backed marriage equality are defeated

Tena Callahan

Among the Democrats in Dallas County who hung on to their seats on Tuesday was State District Family Court Judge Tena Callahan, who in 2009 boldly declared Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Callahan defeated Republican opponent Julie Reedy by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, and her landmark decision didn’t appear to have hurt her at all at the polls.

However, the news was not so good for three Supreme Court judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2009. The three were all defeated in retention elections on Tuesday, after being targeted by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

NOM spent $600,000 on TV ads and a 45-county bus tour targeting the Iowa justices. Despite their defeat, though, LGBT groups noted that same-sex marriage remains legal in Iowa.

“By their own admission, NOM’s Iowa strategy was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “NOM and its secret donors will continue to target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process.”

Lambda Legal, which brought the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, had this to say about the result:

“Let’s be clear about what happened in Iowa and what didn’t happen: Three skilled jurists lost their jobs, but the Court’s ruling in the case allowing same-sex couples to marry is still the law of the land, enshrined in the Iowa Constitution. Same-sex couples continue to marry in Iowa. Antigay groups have lost on the big issue — equality — and they are attacking our courts for protecting it.

“This spiteful campaign is a wake-up call to future voters who must resist attempts to politicize the courts. It is the responsibility of us all to protect the system of checks and balances that defines our democracy, and it continues to be our responsibility at Lambda Legal to make our case for equality, not just before judges, but in the court of public opinion.

“We are angry, but we also take the long view: The Iowa Supreme Court delivered justice that will outlast this political fight by upholding the Iowa Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all Iowans. Seven jurists were posed a question by people who had been denied basic fairness guaranteed by the state constitution. The judges did their jobs with integrity – as they must.

“But the result in Iowa shines a light on a dangerous agenda to undermine the democratic system of checks and balances that has served us well for over 200 years. If an embattled judiciary were to lose its ability to protect our laws and constitution with impartiality, that would be a tragic loss for our country. We can’t let that happen.”

—  John Wright

Dallas Cty. races neck and neck in early voting

Early voting results are in, and countywide races in Dallas County are, for the most part, neck and neck between Democrats and Republicans. Early voting is expected to account for roughly half of all turnout, so it can be a good indication of where local races are heading. However, Democratic turnout is typically higher than Republican turnout on Election Day, so the fact that Democrats are even or ahead after early voting is a good sign that the county will stay blue.

“Our assumption is that we will continue to climb on Election Day, and that’s traditionally the case in gubernatorial years,” said openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who led Republican opponent Tammy Barnes by fewer than 1,500 votes after early voting, out of more than 200,000 ballots cast.  “At this point, I’m feeling pretty good. I think this is where I wanted to be, over 50 percent with early vote. Right now the results seem to be consistent with what everybody was expecting.”

While Fitzsimmons has a slight lead in his race, other Democratic candidates for countywide office were slightly behind. District Attorney Craig Watkins trailed challenger Danny Clancy and Democratic county judge nominee Clay Jenkins trailed Republican Wade Emmert.

In another Dallas County race of significant LGBT interest, Democrat Dr. Elba Garcia led Republican incumbent Ken Mayfield by fewer than 1,000 votes as they vie for the District 4 seat on the Commissioners Court.

State legislative races didn’t look quite so good for Democrats after early voting. Incumbent State Reps. Allen Vaught, Carol Kent, Robert Miklos and Kirk England all trailed their races after early voting. Democratic challengers Pete Schulte and Loretta Haldenwang were also behind.

—  John Wright

REGIONAL: Novotny says her advantage is Kern’s extremism

Trans candidate for Oklahoma House says Republican supporters say Kern is ‘on a different level’ from conservative constituents

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brittany Novotny
Brittany Novotny

OKLAHOMA CITY — The New York Times named several transgender candidates around the country as having a good chance of election. Among them was Brittany Novotny, running for the Oklahoma Legislature.

Other transgender candidates are running in more likely places like Hawaii, Oregon and California. Theresa Sparks, a candidate for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is seeking the seat once held by Harvey Milk and is seen as the conservative candidate in the race.

Novotny’s district encompasses northern suburbs of Oklahoma City usually considered on the far end of the conservative spectrum. But she said this week her campaign is going well.

While Novotny stays on message, her Republican opponent, incumbent Rep. Sally Kern, rose to fame by calling gays a bigger problem than terrorism. The comment was especially harsh in a district that was home to many of the Oklahoma City bombing victims.

After media criticism every time she spoke about homosexuality, Kern agreed to stick to the issues rather than leveling personal attacks. However, a Kern supporter recently referred to Novotny as “a confused it.”

“The issues in my district are economic development, good jobs, roads and transportation, education,” Novotny said. “Teachers, technology, textbooks.”

Her district is usually characterized as Republican with a conservative incumbent.

Novotny said that isn’t a fair description of the area.

“It’s a moderate swing district,” she said, with an extremist incumbent.

She has been told that 48 percent in her area consider themselves moderate or liberal. People in the area are concerned with jobs, not her gender identity, she said.

“In knocking on 3,000 doors, it’s only come up once,” she said, referring to her gender identity.

Novotny said her Republican supporters have told her, “I’m conservative but Kern is on a different level.”

She believes that will be the margin of difference that will get her elected.

“We feel we have done a good job of sticking to the issues,” Novotny said.

In an interview last month, Houston Mayor Annise Parker commented on Novotny’s approach to the race by concentrating on issues.
“That’s how you win an election,” Parker said.

Novotny said she went to law school because of her interest in going into public service.

“Some thought I was going to be the LGBT candidate,” she said. “But I’ve always been interested in politics.”

Kern refused to debate Novotny in an open town hall forum. Instead they squared off on KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, on the show Flash Point for 20 minutes.

The Daily Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper that is based in Oklahoma City, has declined to endorse in legislative races.

“But they’re not fans of my opponent,” Novotny said.

She spent 45 minutes with the editorial board and said they talked about her values and vision for Oklahoma.

Mara Keisling is the executive director of The National Center for Transgender Equality, an organization that does not endorse candidates. She commented on Novotny’s race and compared it to Parker’s Houston election.

“The people of Houston weren’t looking for a lesbian mayor,” she said. “They were looking for a competent mayor.”

She said the question to voters is: Can she do a better job?

She believes Novotny has a good chance of election because Kern “has a reputation of being controversial.”

Keisling said that if Novotny wins, it will be because people in Oklahoma are concerned about jobs and the economy and want a responsible and mature state representative.

“I never wanted my trans status to hold me back,” Novotny said.

She has out fundraised Kern. In the latest filing, Novotny reported $25,000 to Kern’s $14,000. She is ahead in total raised throughout the campaign as well and has 500 small donors, also more than her opponent.

“I’m real proud of the way we’ve run the campaign and I hope it pays off on Election Day,” she said.

If elected, she would become the first transgender state legislator in the country.

Her election watch party on Nov. 2 will be at the Holiday Inn on Old Route 66 in Bethany, Okla., the same location where she announced her candidacy more than a year ago.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Mid-term elections to determine 8 Dallas, Tarrant House seats

Scandal could hurt area’s lone House Democrat, but Johnson still expected to win re-election

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

As the midterm elections grow closer, Republicans are hoping to ride a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment to majorities in both houses of Congress. That would mean hanging on to the seven seats already held by Republican incumbents in Dallas and Tarrant counties, and possibly ousting a longtime Democratic incumbent who has recently been rattled by scandal.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas has held the District 30 seat in the House since 1992 and hasn’t faced a serious challenge to re-election — until this year. In early September, her Republican opponent, Stephen Broden, released documents showing that Johnson had funneled several thousand dollars in Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to her own relatives and to the children of one of her top aides.

Johnson has since apologized, repaid the scholarships herself and restructured her committee that allocates scholarship funds. But the scandal has given Broden a seemingly secure foothold in his campaign for what has long been considered an unassailably Democratic seat.

Johnson’s district includes a large LGBT population, and Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said this week that if Broden were to defeat Johnson, it would be a significant blow to those LGBT constituents.

Johnson has long been considered one of the community’s staunchest allies in the U.S. House. She has consistently received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which ranks Congress members based on their votes on LGBT issues.

Johnson has supported federal legislation to ban employment discrimination against LGBT people (ENDA), federal hate crimes laws including LGBT people and efforts to repeal the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military (DADT), according to the nonpartisan website OnTheIssues.org.

She has voted against an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment and a bill that would have banned adoption by gays and lesbians, the website notes.

OnTheIssues.org ranks members of Congress, based on their voting records and stated positions on specific issues, on a spectrum ranging from “hard-core liberal” to “hard-core conservative.” Johnson, according to the website, is a hard-core liberal.

Broden, on the other hand, has publicly stated his opposition to legislation banning anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and to LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation. The candidate recently appeared on The Glenn Beck Show on Fox News, and said that the hate crimes law is “used to knock Christians around and keep them silent, from speaking out in America today,” and that employment non-discrimination legislation is “bullying people and pushing Christians into hiring people they should not hire.”

On his campaign website, Broden lists “Family and Faith” among the issues important to him, saying: “As the family goes so goes the nation. I will fight for policies that strengthen marriage, not destroy it. I firmly believe that our nation was founded on the principles of the Judeo-Christian heritage. These principles are the bedrock of our success as a nation and as a people. Our nation’s traditions of faith are under attack by the forces of political correctness. I intend to reinforce those principles and traditions while serving in our nation’s capitol.”

Moore said this week she expects Johnson to win re-election, but not by as wide of margins as in the past.

“I think he [Broden] is going to hurt her [Johnson],” Moore said. “I don’t think he will win, but he will hurt her. She has had 80 percent to 100 percent approval ratings [from her constituents] all along, but I think this race will be a wake-up call for her.”

Moore acknowledged that Johnson “has surely made some mistakes,” but said Stonewall Democrats are still endorsing her re-election bid.

“She has been an exemplary representative for her district and for civil rights through the years, and we still strongly endorse her. But this [scandal] is a big chink in her armor, and she needs to get out there and work to win some voters back,” Moore said.

Libertarian J.B. Oswalt is also running for the District 30 seat. Moore said she knows nothing about Oswalt, or any of the Libertarian candidates on the ballot, and Dallas Voice was unable to find a website for Oswalt.

According to CampaignMoney.com, as of the latest reporting deadline, he had not raised any campaign donations, nor had he reported any campaign expenditures.

District 3
Republican Rep. Sam Johnson has held the District 3 seat in Texas’ Congressional delegation since he was first sent to Washington in a special election in 1991, and like his Democratic colleague in District 30, has rarely faced any serious opposition to his re-election.

Moore, however, said Democratic candidate John Lingenfelder is putting up a good fight this year.

District 3 has been called “the most Republican district” in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex — the office having been held by a Republican since 1968 — and Sam Johnson has been one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress during his 20 years in office.

He has consistently received a score of 0 percent from HRC, having voted against ENDA, against hate crimes legislation and against the repeal of DADT. He has voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and in favor of a bill that would have banned adoption by same-sex couples in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his 0 percent rating by HRC, Sam Johnson has received a 7 percent rating on civil rights issues by the ACLU, an 11 percent rating by the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

OnTheIssues.org classifies Johnson as a “hard-core conservative.”

“Sam Johnson is pretty vehement on our issues, and he is vehemently against us,” Moore said. “Still, he’s not one of the ones who is out there authoring or championing legislation against us. He just always votes against us. He is pretty much just a seat warmer.”

Lingenfelder asked for and received Stonewall’s endorsement, and Moore said he is “a good guy who’s running a pretty good campaign. But like always, beating an incumbent will be hard, especially in some of the outlying regions of the district.”

She added, “We always try to do what we can to support a Democrat running against an entrenched Republican like Sam Johnson, the kind who aren’t really moving toward anything but are just holding the ground they have.”

The Libertarian in the District 3 race is Christopher J. Claytor of Plano. On his website, Claytor says he is “habitually devoted to the principles that the United States was founded on: personal freedom, individual responsibility and limited government as stated in the Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights.”

His primary focus is promoting “fiscal responsibility and smaller government,” and according to his website, Claytor is “socially tolerant, desiring that every American should be able to live their life the way they want, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others to do the same.”

District 5
Republican incumbent Jeb Hensarling faces challenges from Democrat Tom Berry and Libertarian Ken Ashby in his bid for re-election in District 5.

Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Berry in that race. But, Moore said, “I haven’t seen a lot out of his campaign, and I’m really not willing to comment on that one.”

Berry’s website includes no information on LGBT issues, focusing instead on Berry’s call to “put America back to work.”

Hensarling is another Texas Republican with a consistent 0 percent rating from HRC. He also earned a 17 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.

He has voted against ENDA, against the hate crimes law and for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. OnTheIssues.org describes Hensarling as a hard-core conservative.

Ashby lives in Plano, but Dallas Voice was unable to locate a website for the Libertarian candidate. CampaignMoney.com lists no donations to or campaign expenditures by Ashby.

District 6
District 6 has long been a Republican stronghold, with Rep. Joe Barton winning re-election easily in every election since he first took the seat in 1984, following Republican Phil Gramm who left the House to campaign for — and win — one of Texas’ two seats in the Senate.

But his comments to BP CEO Tony Hayward during a congressional hearing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in which Barton apologized to Hayward for the Obama administration’s “shakedown” of the company, may have opened the door to his opponents this time around — at least a tiny crack.

OnTheIssues.org ranks Barton has a hard-core conservative, and his votes on LGBT issues have always shored up his conservative credentials. He voted against ENDA, against repeal of DADT and against hate crimes legislation, and for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Barton has a 0 percent ranking from HRC, a 7 percent ranking from the ACLU, a 19 percent ranking from the NAACP and a 0 percent ranking from Americans for Separation of Church and State.

David Cozad, his Democratic opponent, has the endorsement of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. A spokesman for the group said Tarrant County Stonewall had endorsed the full slate of Democratic candidates, but was not actively working for Congressional candidates because “we are a state PAC, so there are limits to what we can do for federal candidates.”

Cozad’s website does not include information on LGBT issues.

Libertarian Byron Severns is also challenging Barton. Severns’ website does not include information on LGBT issues, but does note that he is pro-life and advocates for the reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

CampaignMoney.com lists no donations or campaign expenditures for Severns.

District 12
Rep. Kay Granger became the first Republican woman to represent Texas in the U.S. House when she won her first term in Congress in 1996. Her only serious challenge to re-election came in 2000 against Democrat Mark Greene.

Like other North Texas Republicans, OnTheIssues.org ranks Granger as a hard-core conservative, and HRC has consistently given her a 0 percent rating on LGBT issues. She has received a 14 percent ranking from the ACLU and a 22 percent ranking from the NAACP.

Granger has voted against ENDA, hate crimes legislation and repeal of DADT, and she voted for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.

Granger faces Democrat Tracey Smith and Libertarian Matthew Solodow in the 2010 election.
Smith also has the endorsement of Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats, but his website includes no information on LGBT issues.

Solodow also does not address LGBT issues on his website.

District 24
Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant has no Democratic challenger in the general election, but does face opposition from Libertarian David Sparks.

Marchant, who lives in Coppell, won the District 24 seat in 2004 from longtime incumbent Democrat Martin Frost after the district was significantly reconfigured by the Texas Legislature in 2003. Marchant was in the Texas House and serving on the Redistricting Committee at the time District 24 was redrawn.

Since being elected to Congress, Marchant has voted against ENDA, against the hate crimes law and in favor of amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

He has been given a 0 percent rating by HRC, a 22 percent rating by the NAACP and a 0 percent rating by Americans for Separation of Church and State. OnTheIssues.org calls Marchant a hard-core conservative.

Sparks is a minister who lives in Carrollton, and according to his website the primary issues of his campaign are “lower taxes, less government and more personal liberty.” However, his website also describes him as “an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values.”

District 26
Democrat Neil L. Durrance of Denton is challenging incumbent Republican Michael C. Burgess in District 26, and Moore said the Democrat is “a good guy with a good record in Denton County.”

Durrance is “a very strong candidate, and he has a really good chance in this election,” Moore said.
She said Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Durrance in the race.

Burgess first won the District 26 seat in 2004 after defeating Scott Armey in a Republican Primary runoff. Scott Armey was the son of longtime District 26 Congressman Dick Armey and was expected to win the race, however local media reports that he had used his influence to get county jobs and contracts for his friends.

Burgess has carried on Dick Armey’s congressional legacy of being an opponent of LGBT rights, voting against ENDA and for the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.

He has a 0 percent rating from HRC, a 36 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.

OnTheIssues.org describes Burgess as a hard-core conservative.

Libertarian Mark Boler is also running for the District 26 seat. Dallas Voice was unable to find a website for Boler’s campaign, and CampaignMoney.com lists no donations and no campaign expenditures for him.

District 32
Incumbent Republican Pete Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio and Libertarian John Jay Myers in his bid for re-election in District 32, and Moore called the possibility of a Democratic win in that race “the holy grail.”

“We keep trying to win that one, and trying hard,” Moore said. “There have been some more or less significant candidates running in that district, but Sessions is still there.”

Moore said Raggio has “a good name and a significant history in Texas politics, and I really hope we do pull that one out. It would be cause for celebration, for sure.”

Raggio is an attorney whose parents were also attorneys well known for their work in civil rights. His mother, Louise, was a national leader in winning equal rights for women, and his wife, Lorraine, is a civil district judge in Dallas County.

Moore said that Stonewall Demo-crats have endorsed Raggio, adding that “there are three levels of candidates that we endorse. There are the advocates who really get out there and fight for us. There are the allies who vote with us but don’t initiate legislation on our behalf. And then there are the ‘do no harm’ candidates, the ones who don’t fight for us or always vote with us, but who don’t fight against us, either.

“Grier Raggio is certainly not a liberal. He is very moderate in a lot of ways, but he has been very supportive of Stonewall Democrats, and he has been supportive of our fiscally supportive issues like ENDA,” Moore continued. “When it comes to [same-sex marriage], he is a middle-of-the-roader, someone who supports civil unions but not marriage. But given that district, he is probably the only kind of Democrat who could possibly win. And given who is in there now, I will gladly wear a Raggio sign ’til Election Day if that will get him elected.”

Sessions was first elected to Congress in 1996 as the District 5 representative, and was re-elected twice before redistricting in 2000 made that district more Democratic. He then moved to District 32 and won that congressional seat in 2002.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Sessions has consistently voted against LGBT issues, including ENDA, DADT repeal and hate crimes legislation. He has voted in favor of the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sessions has gotten a 0 percent rating from HRC, a 7 percent rating from the ACLU, an 8 percent rating from the NAACP and a 0 percent rating from Americans for Separation of Church and State.

Sessions has, in the past year, appeared at meetings of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, and last month received an award from the national Log Cabin Republicans organization for “serving [the] country with distinction in the model of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater.” Sessions had agreed to attend Log Cabin’s national dinner, at which the award was presented, but canceled shortly before the dinner in order to attend a House GOP Caucus meeting.

Myers, on his website, does not specifically address LGBT issues, but lists “personal freedom” as one of his priorities.

“Any government that dictates morality and invades privacy is not a small government,” Myers’ website says.

“What part of America being a free country do they not understand?”

Although not specifically mentioning same-sex marriage, Myers does address the issue of marriage in general on his website:

“The reality is that marriage is none of government’s business. People do not have to ask permission to get married; it’s their right to do so with whomever they please, whenever they please. When we surrender the power of marriage to government by asking for their permission, we give them the power to deny our rights, just as recently happened in Louisiana when a couple was denied a marriage license on account of their skin color. We should never give power over marriage to government. People are free to retain that power themselves,” his website says.

Anti-Democrat wave?

Although Republicans are hoping to ride the energy of the Tea Party movement to majorities in both houses of Congress, Moore said this week she thinks the idea of voters being anti-Democratic or anti-incumbent are too simplistic.

“I don’t think it’s anti-Democratic, and I don’t think it’s anti-incumbent,” Moore said. “I think it’s anti-inheritance. And by that, I mean that the ones who have held their seats forever and done nothing will get ousted. … People are really paying attention now, and they are not giving anyone a free pass anymore. If you are an incumbent who’s doing a good job, you’ll be OK. But if you have been just a seat warmer, then you are in trouble.”

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, did not return calls seeking comment for this article.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas