RUNOFF ELECTION: Early voting puts Veasey, Cruz ahead

State Rep. Marc Veasey had an 8 percent lead on Domingo Garcia with early voting totals in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff.

Veasey earned 54 percent of the vote for the new Congressional District 33 that spans Tarrant and Dallas counties. Garcia earned 46 percent of the vote.

Garcia led in early voting totals in Dallas county with 71 percent to Veasey’s 29 percent. In Tarrant County, Veasey got 58 percent compared to Garcia’s 42 percent.

In the Republican Primary runoff, Ted Cruz was ahead of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with 52 percent statewide compared to Dewhurst’s 48 percent.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more runoff results.

—  Anna Waugh

Incumbants fair poorly in runoff election

We now have results from all precincts:

District A
Helena Brown: 55%
Brenda Stardig: 45%

District B
Alvin Byrd: 49%
Jerry Davis: 51%

Place 2:
Kristi Thibaut 49.9%
Andrew Burks 50.2%

Place 5
Jack Christie  54%
Jo Jones  46%

Both incumbents, Jones and Stardig, seem to have lost their bid for re-election, Thibaut misses a council seat by only 212 votes and Davis becomes the only candidate endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to win in the runoff.

—  admin

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

Fort Worth LGBT mayoral forum is Wednesday

Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price will attend a forum Wednesday evening sponsored by Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce

Fairness Fort Worth and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for Fort Worth mayoral runoff candidates Jim Lane and Betsy Price on Wednesday at Four Day Weekend Theater, 312 Houston St. That’s on Houston at Third Street, next to The Reata in downtown Fort Worth.

Price and Lane both talked to Dallas Voice last week about where they stand on LGBT issues. But this forum gives the community a chance to hear more from the candidates not only on LGBT issues, but on other topics of interest, too. Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy and I will be moderating. Anybody who has a specific question they would like to see asked can email that question to FairnessFtWorth@aol.com.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for 30 minutes of meeting and greeting with the candidates, and the Q&A session starts at 6 p.m.

—  admin

UPDATE: Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle appear headed to runoff for Dallas mayor

With 426 of 555 precincts reporting at 9:25 p.m., it sure looks like former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings and former Police Chief David Kunkle are headed to a June runoff.

Rawlings leads with 42 percent of the vote, and Kunkle is second with 32 percent. City Councilman Ron Natinsky is third with 24 percent, and he now trails Kunkle by more than 4,000 votes.

Rawlings has 25,245 votes to Kunkle’s 19,023 and Natinsky’s 14,683. Edward Okpa has 1,321 votes, or 2 percent.

 

—  John Wright

Update: Hightower apparently headed for runoff in Arlington

With 80 percent of the vote counted, gay candidate Chris Hightower appears to be headed into a runoff for the District 5 seat on the Arlington City Council with incumbent Lana Wolff.

Although only 112 votes separate the two, Hightower is leading by 7 percentage points.

Their closest competitor is Julie Douglas with 13 percent.

—  admin

Low turnout could amplify gay vote

Dallas mayoral candidates make final pitch to LGBTs

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE:
COMMUNITY SPLIT OVER DISTRICT 14 RACE
FORT WORTH ELECTION ROUNDUP

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With turnout expected to be dismal for Saturday’s municipal elections, LGBT voters could play a pivotal role in determining which two candidates advance to an all-but-certain runoff for Dallas mayor.

It’s arguably the gay-friendliest field in the city’s history, with all three major candidates seeking the endorsement of both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. And all three — David Kunkle, Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings — have their share of high-profile supporters in a community that’s still smarting from the betrayal of former Mayor Tom Leppert.

Overall turnout in municipal elections is expected to hover around 10 percent, or just 50,000 of the city’s half-million registered voters. But with hotly contested council races in Districts 3 and 14, as well as a gay candidate in District 7, turnout among LGBT voters could be much higher.

“With a turnout as small as it’s predicted to be, for everyone who goes to the polls, their turnout almost counts multiple times,” Natinsky said this week. “Every vote becomes more important. We’re just trying to get voters out.”

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Natinsky again touted his record of support for the LGBT community during six years on the council, as well as the backing of three openly gay former councilmembers. Natinsky was also endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“I have not hesitated from day one, or previous to that, over the years to participate and support the GBLT community,” Natinsky said. “I think I’ve got a lot of strong supporters and friends within the community, who are seriously out there working hard to help me get elected, and they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t believe in me. And the difference is that I’m a proven quantity.”

Even in a nonpartisan race, Natinsky’s Republican Party affiliation could hurt him among some LGBT voters. But gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, a Democrat who lost a runoff for mayor to Leppert four years ago, said he doesn’t think it should.

“I’m supporting him because he’s the right person at the right time for Dallas, and I don’t care if he’s a Republican,” Oakley said recently. “I wish everybody would just put their partisan issues aside and look at the candidates, and support who you think is the best person.”

Natinsky initially sought the backing of Stonewall Democrats but withdrew from the screening process at the last minute over questions about whether his party affiliation would make him ineligible for the group’s endorsement.

Stonewall Democrats voted to endorse to Kunkle, the former Dallas police chief who this week predicted he will win the overall LGBT vote.

“I believe that I will be the one who will work the hardest to make their [LGBT residents’] lives better and also to help grow the economy in a way [in which] they will personally prosper,” Kunkle said. “I think I will do better [than the other candidates] within the LGBT community. I think the Stonewall Democrats’ support carries a lot of weight. … I’m not going to change who I am and what I believe. My core, basic way of thinking and reacting is not going to change, and that will be supportive of the GLBT community.”

Both Natinsky and Rawlings said recently during a forum that they opposed Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. But Kunkle said only that he didn’t vote on the amendment.

This week Kunkle clarified that if he did vote, he would have voted against the amendment.

“It seems to me that if two people love each other and want to commit to each other … that’s not a bad thing to happen in society,” Kunkle said.

Jesse Garcia, a past president of Stonewall who’s backing Kunkle, pointed to things like the former chief’s support for a full-time LGBT liaison officer at DPD.

“I’ve had the honor of meeting all four candidates for mayor. I respect their decisions to seek office and truly believe they want what’s best for Dallas,” Garcia said. “But when it comes to the LGBT community, Kunkle stands out as someone that was tested on LGBT issues and made the right call.”

Rawlings, who’s raised by far the most money and is perhaps an odds-on favorite to at least make the runoff, said his plan for economic development and philosophy of inclusion makes him the best candidate for the LGBT community.

“When this city is grown in the correct way, we all win, and most of the LGBT community I know are very pro-growth, are great professionals, and want to have a fabulous business environment,” Rawlings said. “We have the ninth-largest city in this country, and the more we include all the diversity throughout the city, I think the stronger we are.”

In endorsing Natinsky, DGLA issued a rare “warning” about Rawlings, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.”

But Rawlings has vehemently denied DGLA’s accusation, saying he demonstrated his willingness to stand up for people’s civil rights as the city’s homeless czar.

“I don’t think any CEO that I know has spent five years dealing and working with the homeless,” Rawlings said. “If I’m able to do that, I would think I could do it for groups that are much more powerful than them, and I think the LGBT community is one of them.”

Lesbian activist Pam Gerber, a member of both DGLA and Stonewall, has called DGLA’s warning about Rawlings “irresponsible” and immature.”

Gerber, also a member of a city task force on LGBT issues, said this week she’s supporting Rawlings because he has “the right combination of skills.”

“Whether it was him running a successful company or running a successful nonprofit endeavor, he’s proven that he can do it all, and I think that’s a valuable pallet of skills,” Gerber said. “I just think Mike has more to offer.”

But Gerber added that she doesn’t think any of the three major candidates would do harm to the LGBT community as mayor.

“I think they all have our best interests in mind,” Gerber said. “I think we’re really lucky to have the candidates we have. The only thing we’re not lucky about is the apathy of our community to get out and vote.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. For a full list of locations, go to www.dalcoelections.org.

—  John Wright

Openly gay candidate for Arlington City Council says ‘basic issues’ key in 5-way race

Chris Hightower

Chris Hightower says sexual orientation hasn’t been a significant issue so far

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

ARLINGTON — When Chris Hightower first started talking to family and friends about running for the District 5 seat on the Arlington City Council, the response he got, he said this week, was, “It’s time.”

“That just turned out to be the theme I was getting from everyone: ‘It’s time,’” Hightower said.

Hightower, who grew up in District 5, is the son of Paula Hightower Pierson, who represented District 5 on the City Council from 1989 to 1997, and then served in the Texas House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010.

If he wins the District 5 seat, Hightower will become the first openly gay person on the Arlington council.

Thanks to his mother’s life in government and the civic service arena, Hightower said, “I have always had civic service in my blood. I’ve thought about running for public office before, but this time, I just decided to do it. I’m not getting any younger, and I decided it was time to step up. Like everyone said to me, it’s time.

“We are a very close family, and when one person in the family is doing something, the whole family is there to support them. I would not have run for the council while my mother was still in the House. I wouldn’t have wanted to take away from her efforts. But since she lost re-election last year, I decided the time was right to run for the council. And she supports me completely,” Hightower said.

Hightower is one of four candidates challenging eight-year incumbent Lana Wolff for the District 5 seat. Also on the ballot with Hightower and Wolff are Terry Meza, Christopher McCain and Julie M. Douglas.

With five people in the race, most poll watchers expect a runoff. Apparently Wolff is among them, Hightower said, noting that the incumbent has, so far, done little campaigning.

“She expects there will be a runoff and that she will be in it, and she is saving her efforts for the runoff,” he said. “But my plan is to win outright in the general election, to avoid a runoff altogether.”

And if campaign contributions are any indication, Hightower is on his way. He said this week he expects his campaign contributions so far to significantly exceed the other candidates’ when financial statements are reported to the City Secretary’s Office this week.

So far, Hightower said, only only one person — not one of the candidates — has tried to make Hightower’s sexual orientation an issue in the race. But Hightower said he doesn’t believe the gay-baiting tactics have gotten much traction.

However, Hightower added, if he does find himself facing Wolff in a runoff, he expects the incumbent to try and make his sexual orientation a campaign issue. But he doesn’t think it will hold much sway over voters then, either.

“There are only 1,800 registered voters in District 5. This is a small, intimate community with a small town mentality. It’s not about what you are, but who you are and do people know you,” Hightower said. “The people in this district know me. When I am out walking the district, I am door-knocking my old teachers, my neighbors. I ran into my old elementary school principal. They know me; they know my family.”

When it comes to the issue of his sexual orientation, Hightower seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund — which has endorsed him in the race — and is employing a strategy that paid off for other groundbreaking LGBT candidates in Texas, like Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Although he has never tried to keep his sexual orientation secret, Hightower hasn’t let it become the focus of his campaign, either, focusing instead on what he sees as the basic, core issues that affect all Arlington citizens.

“I have been out my whole life. But is that an issue in this race? I shouldn’t think so,” Hightower said. “This campaign is about city issues, about the streets that need repairs, public safety issues. It’s not about personal things. That’s how I see it, and that’s how I think the voters see it, too.

“I’m not running for City Council with a gay agenda of some kind. I am running on the issues all the citizens care about,” he said.

For the past 10 years in Arlington, “it’s been all about the Cowboys and building the stadium here. That’s not a bad thing. That stadium and the Cowboys and the Super Bowl this year have done great things for our city,” Hightower said. “But now it’s time to get back to the basics. Now it’s time to focusing on fixing the streets, on code enforcement, on public safety.

“When those things are in place, people want to live here and businesses want to move here. That’s where we will get the development we need to continue to grow.”

Hightower said he sees the University of Texas at Arlington as the city’s greatest resource, and that “finding a way to engage those students in our city and make them want to stay here and open businesses and raise their families” will be integral to Arlington’s future.

“UT-A has a great engineering program, a great nursing program, a great social work program. It has many, many fantastic programs. But what’s key is the engineering programs, the technology programs. With those, you’re talking about jobs, high-paying jobs. That’s the economic engine that will really drive Arlington into the future,” he said.

Hightower said that the success of the American League Champion Texas Rangers baseball team, the new Cowboys Stadium and this year’s Super Bowl has meant that Arlington has been “fairly lucky” through the recent recession, and so is not facing the severe budget crunch other area cities now face.

Still, he added, the city has to beginning working to “get [pensions and benefits] under control” by honoring existing contracts while at the same time “doing a better job of negotiating new contracts on the front end.”

The city also has to “crank it up a notch and do a better job” of attracting new businesses and industries to the city, Hightower said. “Right now, the council’s concept is writing checks to one business at a time, to try and get them to move here. We need a comprehensive approach that makes the city more attractive to all kinds of new businesses.”

Hightower also acknowledged that the Arlington council will eventually have to address what he called the “hotly-contested” issue of mass transit.

“People don’t have an answer yet, but we do all understand that we don’t live in a microcosm. You may live in Arlington, but work in Dallas or Fort Worth, and you need to have a way to get there,” he said. “We have to have some sort of regional transit system, and not just a municipal system.”

Hightower said that while various city programs that receive federal funds already include nondiscrimination policies that include LGBT protections, there is not citywide ordinance protecting LGBTs from discrimination.

While such an ordinance is not a No. 1 priority for him at this time, Hightower said he believes it will happen eventually.

“I do believe that the people of Arlington of fair-minded people, overall, who would frown on any kind of discrimination. And I believe that kind of [nondiscrimination] ordinance will be a natural fit here,” he said.

—  John Wright

Ed Oakley: ‘What is [Tom Leppert] smoking?’

Ed Oakley is shown alongside Tom Leppert during a runoff debate in 2007.

Turns out we aren’t the only ones concerned about the potential negative impact of Tom Leppert’s gay-loving past on his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012. From a Dallas Morning News article Sunday about Leppert’s chances, which appeared under the headline, “Ex-Dallas mayor Tom Leppert faces tough odds in U.S. Senate run”:

There are photos of Leppert participating in Dallas parades celebrating gay pride, which could cause angst for conservative voters, as well. …

But Leppert says he’ll be able to convince voters that he has the tools.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I always have been,” he said. “What our issues have to be is building a tax base. What you’ve got to do is grow the economy. I want to make a difference on those national economic issues.”

Leppert said he’s guided by his faith on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. He’s a member of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. He’s against abortion and believes marriage is between a man and woman.

“On the fiscal issues, on the spending issues, you’re going to find me as conservative as anybody,” he said. “On the social issues, I view those as faith issues. I’m comfortable talking about them, but I don’t want to lose sight on what’s going to make a difference.”

Leppert, of course, never mentioned his anti-LGBT views while serving as mayor. In fact, when we asked Leppert about marriage equality in 2008, he told us he was undecided on the issue. But don’t feel bad, because the LGBT community isn’t the only thing Leppert was for before he was against it. In a separate article on Sunday, the Morning News reported that Leppert, who championed the Trinity River Project as mayor, is now suddenly opposed to funding the project with earmarks. The article quotes openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley, who was defeated by Leppert in the mayor’s race in 2007:

—  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