Tom Leppert now in minority of Republicans who will only tolerate ‘homosexuals’ if they’re single

Tom Leppert fraternizes with the queers in Dallas.

A poll released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling shows that a majority of Republicans nationwide — 51 percent — now support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples. As Public Policy Polling notes in a blog post about the results, the percentage of Republicans who support same-sex relationship recognition is higher than the percentage — 45 percent — who approve of DOMA-loving House Speaker John Boehner’s job performance. Unfortunately, in the region identified as the South, which presumably includes Texas, 55 percent of Republicans still oppose any form of relationship recognition. And among self-identified Tea Party voters, 57 percent oppose relationship recognition. Which probably explains two-timin’ Tom Leppert’s decision to come out against both marriage and civil unions on his Senate campaign website. Speaking of that, here’s our latest idea for a Leppert campaign slogan: “I may have had a gay chief of staff as Dallas mayor, but by God he was single!” If that leads to follow-up questions, Leppert can simply say it was before he gained the courage to be open and honest about his tea-bagging.

—  John Wright

Tom Leppert has raised $1.1 million in the month since he threw you under the bus

Tom Leppert

Hard to believe, but it’s been well over a month since Tom Leppert stepped down as Dallas mayor and sent out his infamous anti-gay Tweet, before announcing that he’s running for U.S. Senate.

Later, of course, we discovered that the Tweet wasn’t the half of it: Leppert came out on his campaign website against both same-sex marriage and civil unions. (In other words, he believes your relationship is shit.)

Leppert announced today that he’s raised $1.1 million during the first month of his Senate campaign, in addition to a personal investment of $1.6 million. When campaign finance reports come out, it’ll be interesting to see how much of Leppert’s money thus far has come from anti-gay groups. Regardless, he has a ways to go: According to The Hill, observers say candidates will have to spend upward of $20 million to be competitive in the Republican Primary.

The Hill also says Leppert’s campaign “will be built around his time in the mayor’s office.”

Except, of course, for the part where he hired an openly gay chief of staff and appeared in two gay Pride parades.

 

—  John Wright

Does it matter who sent Leppert’s anti-gay tweet when his website says he opposes civil unions?

Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein, from left, his mother Shirley Schlein, Laura Leppert, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and LCR Treasurer David Keeton are shown during the group’s Christmas Party at Schlein’s home in 2009.

An anti-gay message sent last week from the Twitter account of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert wasn’t written by Leppert himself but by “an overzealous campaign worker,” according to Rob Schlein, president of  the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

Speaking at Log Cabin’s regularly monthly meeting on Monday night, Schlein said Leppert called him just before the meeting to apologize for “the tone of the tweet.” According to Schlein, Leppert said he wasn’t the author of the tweet and agreed to meet privately with Schlein later this week to discuss the issue further.

The tweet, sent on the same day that Leppert announced his resignation as mayor to run for U.S. Senate, criticized President Barack Obama for his decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The tweet said, “We need leaders in Washington to stand for the principle of marriage between one man and one woman.”

Many in the LGBT community have said they feel betrayed by Lepppert because he was supportive of the LGBT community as mayor, including hiring an openly gay chief of staff and appearing in two gay Pride parades.

Leppert’s Senate campaign spokesman has failed to return multiple phone calls from Instant Tea seeking comment.

Schlein spent several minutes at the start of Monday’s meeting reading a sternly worded, heartfelt letter he wrote to Leppert about the tweet. However, the guest speaker at the meeting, Leppert political consultant Carol Reed, declined to comment on the issue. Reed said she’s advising Leppert on his Senate campaign but is neither his chief consultant nor his spokesperson.

“I’ll let him speak for himself,” Reed told Log Cabin members. “I have nothing to add.”

In his letter, Schlein slammed Leppert for being the only candidate in the race for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat who’s tried to use gay rights as a wedge issue. He also said Leppert is the only candidate who’s posted social issues on his campaign website. In the Issues section of his website, Leppert states that he opposes both same-sex marriage and “government-sanctioned” civil unions.

Schlein said he’s supported Leppert on many key issues — including the convention center hotel and the Trinity River toll road. And he said Leppert attended numerous Log Cabin events as mayor, including the group’s annual dinner and holiday parties at the home of Schlein and his partner.

“With all due respect, nobody likes a flip-flopper or a political panderer,” Schlein said as he read his letter to Leppert aloud. “You’ve left many friends in your wake. This is truly a sad day.”

Below are screen grabs from the Issues section of Tom Leppert’s Senate campaign website:

 

—  John Wright

What will Carol Reed say about Tom Leppert’s gays-under-bus-throwing tweet at Log Cabin?

Then-Mayor Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2009.

Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republcians, sends along word that political consultant Carol Reed, who’s currently working on Tom Leppert’s Senate campaign, will speak at the group’s regular monthly meeting tonight.

“Many of us have questions about Mayor Leppert’s tactic to lurch rightward in his efforts to run for Senate,” Schlein wrote atop an invite sent out over the weekend. “This has upset many Log Cabin’ers as well as others in the general LGBT community. Carol will answer your questions about his decision, and many others. This should be an interesting meeting!”

Undoubtedly Schlein is referring to the anti-gay message sent from Leppert’s twitter account last week, in which he threw the LGBT community under his Senate campaign bus. Leppert’s campaign hasn’t responded to our messages seeking comment about the tweet, so perhaps Reed will try to make it all better tonight.

The Log Cabin meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Mattito’s, 3011 Routh St.

—  John Wright

Tom Leppert is running for Senate, but Chris Heinbaugh will remain in the mayor’s office

In case you missed it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate today.

Not long after Leppert’s video announcement (above) was posted to his campaign website, we spoke with his openly gay chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Chris Heinbaugh.

Leppert, who announced his resignation Wednesday, will remain mayor until 11:59 p.m. today, at which point Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will take over.

Heinbaugh declined to publicly comment on the Twitter message sent out by Leppert on Wednesday, in which he slammed President Barack Obama for ordering the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Heinbaugh, who is no longer handling media calls for Leppert, advised Instant Tea to contact the mayor’s Senate campaign office about the tweet. We left a message with campaign spokeman Shawn McCoy but haven’t heard back.

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Heinbaugh did tell us that he plans to remain in the mayor’s office to help Caraway, who will serve out the remainder of Leppert’s term — until a new mayor is elected in May and sworn in in June. In other words, Heinbaugh will not be going to work on Leppert’s campaign.

“I’m gonna be here for a while,” Heinbaugh said from City Hall. “I’m just going to continue on in the office and do whatever I can to help Mr. Caraway. If I can make it a good, stable, smooth transition, then great.”

Heinbaugh said he won’t serve as Caraway’s chief of staff, and it’s still unclear what exactly his role will be. However, he said both Caraway and City Manager Mary Suhm have expressed a desire for him to stay on.

“We’ve got a lot of things going, and they don’t just stop if the mayor walks our the door,” Heinbaugh said.

We asked Heinbaugh about the challenge of working for Caraway, whose recent missteps have prompted concerns from other council members about him serving as mayor — even temporarily.

“Mr. Caraway is a good guy,” Heinbaugh responded. “I’ve known him for a long, long time. Ever since I moved to Dallas, I’ve known him. His heart is in the right place, and he will work very hard for the next four months.

“Over and over again he’s said, ‘I’m not going to start some new initiative — dig up Main Street and stick a river down it,’” Heinbaugh said. “We’re just going to continue the things that are already moving forward. I’m here to help him do that as long as he wants me here.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert to announce resignation today

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is expected to announce his resignation at the close of today’s City Council meeting.

Leppert’s resignation has long been expected as he prepares to seek the Republican nomination for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat in 2012. It’s really just been a question of when, and now we know: Leppert will step down four months short of the end of his term.

For a Republican in Texas, Leppert has been a relatively good mayor for the LGBT community. After defeating openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley to become mayor in 2007, Leppert reached out and appeared to understand the LGBT community’s importance in Dallas.

Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff, former WFAA reporter Chris Heinbaugh, and became only the second mayor to appear at gay Pride, doing so in two of his four years in office. Leppert made a habit of showing up at GLBT Chamber events and also attended two of four Black Tie Dinners.

But in the latter part of his term Leppert clearly veered to the right in an effort to position himself for the Republican Senate primary — including joining the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how Leppert treats LGBT issues in his Senate campaign. Being a moderate Republican won’t win him many votes in a statewide Republican primary, but at the same time it will be difficult to hide from his record in Dallas.

Leppert’s resignation means that Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will temporarily become mayor until after the May elections. Although Caraway is a Democrat, he hasn’t been much of an advocate for the LGBT community.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Tom Leppert, Broadway Baptist Church, Chris Colfer at the Golden Globes

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially won’t seek re-election this year, and instead likely will run for Senate in 2012. No surprise there, but our biggest question remains unanswered: What does this mean for Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh? Will he go to work on Leppert’s Senate campaign? Will he find another job at City Hall? Will he go back into broadcast journalism? As of last week, Heinbaugh officially wasn’t saying.

2. Southern Baptists simply can’t seem to get over the fact that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth treats gay members like human beings. Broadway Baptist has already been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention and left the Baptist General Convention of Texas over the issue. Now, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is going after the church, albeit indirectly. The seminary wants the Tarrant Baptist Association to vacate an office building it has long occupied on the seminary’s campus, in part because Broadway Baptist is one of the TBA’s members. The seminary also wants the building for a welcome center, but apparently believes the anti-gay excuse sounds more Christ-like.

3. As Arnold Wayne Jones pointed out below, the Golden Globes were about as gay as could be last night. Above is video of Chris Colfer’s acceptance speech.

—  John Wright

Sen. Cornyn: How could I be pandering to the gays when I’m not even up for re-election?

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says there’s no way he could be pandering for votes and money by attending a dinner for a gay group six weeks before the mid-term elections — because he’s not even on the ballot this year.

Cornyn, who’s never before spoken to the gay press, made the statement in a direct message to Dallas Voice on Twitter on Aug. 1, two days after he was accused of pandering in a post on this blog. We didn’t notice the Twitter message in our Inbox until this week.

Cornyn has consistently voted against gay rights in the Senate, receiving a zero from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard, and he’s advocated for a federal ban on gay marriage as recently as this year. Now, with the election looming, he’s agreed to speak at the National Dinner of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group.

As chair of the Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is over Republican re-election efforts this year. We suggested that he’s trying to scrounge up money and votes for Republicans from gays around the country by appearing at Log Cabin. But Cornyn seemed to have forgotten about his role as committee chair when he sent the Twitter message. He suggested that he couldn’t be pandering because he’s not up for re-election until 2014. Again, the Instant Tea post to which Cornyn was responding is here, and here’s a screen grab of his Twitter message, in which he appears to specifically address our criticism related to the timing of the dinner, which will be held Sept. 22:

We tried to send Cornyn a direct-message response, but we were unable to do so because he isn’t a follower of Dallas Voice on Twitter. So we sent him a public response requesting an interview. He has not responded.

John, if you’re reading this, we’d love to talk to you. Instant Tea is officially nonpartisan. You may get a chance to prove you’re not pandering by voting for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which could come to the Senate floor around the same time as the Log Cabin dinner.

Until then, we’re inclined to agree with the Texas Observer, which has a post up today mentioning Cornyn’s appearance at the Log Cabin dinner. Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who’s over the House campaign committee, is also slated to appear. From the Observer:

So why would these two leading gay-rights opponents — Republicans from a state where gay people can’t even get divorced, and the governor can’t stop bashing them — attend such a function? Because their job is to raise campaign cash. While marriage might be reserved for certain people, and while gays might make a handy punching-bag when you want to throw some red meat at the hardcore right-wing folk out there, money is money. Priorities are priorities.

—  John Wright

Cornyn to seek ‘common ground’ with Log Cabin — 6 weeks before the Nov. mid-term elections

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who famously compared gays to “box turtles” in the draft of a 2004 speech, now says he wants to find common ground with LGBT Republicans.

Cornyn, who happens to be chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, reportedly plans to visit a Log Cabin Republicans reception before the group’s national dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, about six weeks before the critical mid-term elections. From the Standard-Times of San Angelo:

“Some things we won’t agree on,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “But I think it’s always better to talk and then try find those things we can agree on rather than just assume there’s no common ground whatsoever.”

Cornyn said same-sex marriage is “absolutely” one of those things he and LCR members don’t agree on, but he’s happy to talk to them.

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation,” Cornyn said.

We’re sure some will try to argue this is a sign of progress, but we mustn’t forget Cornyn’s strong support for a federal marriage amendment, his vote against hate crimes last year, his stated opposition to DADT repeal, and his all-but-certain vote against ENDA if it ever reaches the Senate floor. Cornyn has received a zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office.

So, until Cornyn puts his votes where his mouth is — and he very well might get a chance when DADT repeal comes to the Senate floor the same month he’s slated to visit Log Cabin — we see this visit as nothing more than pandering for votes and money from gay Republicans across the country. When the GOP platform in your home state calls for imprisoning gays, where can the common ground possibly be?

—  John Wright