WATCH: Gay intern credited with saving Giffords’ life speaks at Stonewall fundraiser in Dallas

Daniel Hernandez Jr. at the Brick on Tuesday night.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is doing “remarkably well” for someone who was shot in the head only six months ago, according to Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay intern credited with saving her life on Jan. 8.

Hernandez appeared Tuesday night — on the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — during a fundraiser for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats, first at a private residence in Oak Lawn and later at gay bar the Brick.

In his prepared remarks, Hernandez didn’t talk much about Giffords, instead focusing on the importance of 2012 elections for Democrats. But in response to a question from an audience member, Hernandez noted that Giffords is still in Houston but has been released from the hospital and is undergoing outpatient rehabilitation.

“I don’t know if any of you saw the pictures, but she’s looking great,” Hernandez said. “The only real difference is she has a little bit shorter hair and she’s wearing glasses. So it’s great to see the same smile, and she’s doing remarkably well, considering the fact that she was shot six months ago, and I think the progress that she’s made has been truly inspiring not just for those of us in Tucson and in Arizona but really around the country.”

—  John Wright

What’s ahead for LGBTs in Dallas, Fort Worth under cities’ new mayors

Dallas-mayor elect Mike Rawlings and his family were led in a prayer by the Rev. Steven C. Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church following his victory speech on Saturday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

With municipal election runoffs finally complete in North Texas, LGBT advocates in Dallas and Fort Worth said they are looking forward to working with new mayors and councilmembers in both cities.

Mayoral runoff candidates in both cities openly and diligently courted LGBT voters, and all four candidates participated in forums specifically addressing LGBT issues. Advocates said those efforts indicate that Dallas Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor-elect Betsy Price will likely be willing to work with the LGBT community in the years to come.

Fort Worth

“I was very pleased that both candidates, Betsy Price and Jim Lane, had an open dialog with our community during the runoff campaign,” Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable said. “And I believe we can continue making the kind of progress we have made over the last two years as we go forward with Betsy Price as our mayor.”

Price, former Tarrant County tax assessor/collector, defeated lawyer and former City Council member Jim Lane, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Anable noted that Price and her husband, in another outreach to the LGBT community, attended Celebration Community Church on the Sunday before the June 18 runoff vote. Celebration, pastured by the Rev. Carol West, has a primarily LGBT congregation.

Anable said the city’s Employee Health Benefits Committee is expected to present estimates to the council during negotiations on the FY 2011 budget on costs associated with expanding health care benefits for the city’s transgender employees. Including insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery is the only one of 20 recommendations made by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force — convened in 2009 following the Rainbow Lounge raid — that has not already been implemented.

Although the city now offers domestic partner benefits, Anable said, the employee is required to pay the full cost of those benefits. The Employee Health Benefits Committee is also investigating the cost to the city to pay the same percentage on DP benefits that it already pays on benefits for employees’ opposite-gender spouses and children.

“We have already completed diversity training for 20 percent of the city’s employees, and with Mayor-elect Price having said she is on board with continuing that training, and with set-asides for GLBT-owned businesses, we are looking forward to working with her on these and other issues,” Anable said. “I have to say I am very pleased with the way the [electoral] process worked in Fort Worth.”

Dallas

In Dallas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said they are looking forward to a productive relationship with Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings, even though both organizations endorsed his opponent, David Kunkle, in the runoff.

Rawlings defeated Kunkle, 56 percent to 44 percent.

“We had some differences in policy approaches during the election cycle itself, but I fully expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings and DGLA will have a good working relationship going forward,” Fink said. “I know that DGLA will work to have a good relationship, and I don’t expect that Mayor-elect Rawlings would want any less.

“Elections are a time when we have some heated discussions about who we want to lead our city, but when it’s done, we all come together and work for what’s best for the city,” Fink added.

DGLA endorsed another candidate, Ron Natinsky, in the general election, at the same time issuing a rare warning against Rawlings, saying that Rawlings seemed likely to put business considerations ahead of human rights considerations.

However, when Natinsky failed to make the runoff, DGLA gave its endorsement to Kunkle without re-issuing the warning against Rawlings.
Narvaez said that while members of his organization that their endorsed candidate did not win, “we are looking forward to working with Mike Rawlings…. I think we will see some really good things coming out of the City Council in the next few years.”

Narvaez said that although Stonewall Democrats endorsed Kunkle as an organization, “we had several members who supported Rawlings and worked on his campaign and with him. Mike Rawlings is a great idea man who will work well with all the communities in our city. I don’t think he is the kind of person to hold a grudge. He is too mature for something like that. He is a bigger man than that.”

Narvaez said the fact that Kunkle came out ahead in voting precincts identified as being heavily LGBT means that Rawlings “knows he has some work to do in the LGBT community.” But, he added, he believes the mayor-elect is willing to do that work.

“I think he will be there to support our community, and we will support him as well, because our main mission is to move Dallas forward and make it a better, more inclusive city for everyone.”

Both Narvaez and Fink said they are excited about the LGBT Pride month reception planned for Monday at Dallas City Hall, during which Councilwoman Delia Jasso will present an LGBT Pride Month proclamation from the council.

“We can start working on it now, and maybe next year we can have a whole month of Pride events [involving city officials],” Fink said. “We heard a lot of support for that across the board from council candidates and council members who screened with us during the election.”

Narvaez added, “Hopefully next year, the Pride Month celebration will include a rainbow flag flying over City Hall.”

Narvaez said he hopes to see the City Council move forward in the coming months with plans to form and city human rights commission or board, and that Stonewall Democrats will continue to work with city officials to find ways to reinstate city funding for HIV/AIDS services and programs.

Fink said that while the city already has numerous policies and protections in place for its LGBT employees and citizens, “we want to work to ensure that those policies and protections are optimized.”

—  John Wright

Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez Jr. to speak at Stonewall Democrats fundraiser in Dallas

Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords prior to the shooting. (via Facebook)

We’re working to get in touch with Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay Latino intern credited with saving the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but for now we thought we’d go ahead and mention that Hernandez will be in town next Tuesday for a Stonewall Democrats fundraiser marking the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Hernandez is a University of Arizona student who’d been an intern for Giffords for only five days at the time of the January shooting in Tuscon. Hernandez applied pressure to Giffords’ head wound and held her upright so she wouldn’t choke on her blood while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Then he rode with her in the back of an ambulance, squeezing her hand as she squeezed back.

The following day, Instant Tea was the first to identify Hernandez as gay. And a few days after that, he would be honored at the Tucson memorial attended by President Barack Obama, where he insisted he wasn’t a hero.

Hernandez will attend a private fundraiser at the home of Stonewall Democrats members on Tuesday, before making a public appearance at the Brick. Sponsorships for the private fundraiser range from $50 to $1,000 and can be purchased here. The fundraiser runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2916 Throckmorton St.

The public event runs from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Brick, and Hernandez will speak at 9. A $10 donation is suggested.

Watch Hernandez’s interview with CNN after the shooting, as well as his speech at the memorial service, after the jump.

—  John Wright

Kunkle again wins the gay vote

Dallas Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings and his family are led in a prayer by the Rev. Stephen C. Nash of Mount Tabor Baptist Church following Rawlings’ victory speech on Saturday. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Former Police Chief David Kunkle, endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, won the city’s 10 most heavily LGBT precincts in Saturday’s runoff for Dallas mayor, according to an analysis of election results by Instant Tea.

Kunkle captured 58 percent in the 10 precincts, or 1,224 votes, compared to Rawlings’ 42 percent, or 886 votes. Kunkle, of course, lost the overall vote by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.

Stonewall Democrats has identified the 10 precincts based on the highest concentration of same-sex couples according to the 2009 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Turnout in the 10 most heavily gay precincts was 13 percent, slightly above the overall turnout but still pretty dismal.

In the May 14 election, Kunkle captured 44 percent of the vote in the 10 most heavily LGBT precincts, to Rawlings’ 37 percent and Ron Natinsky’s 17 percent.

—  John Wright

ELECTION: Mayor’s role vital for LGBTs

Gay former councilman says that choice between Rawlings, Kunkle means gay community ‘can’t lose’

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Even though Dallas has a “weak mayor” form of government where the city manager is the person with actual control over the city’s day-to-day operations, having mayor who supports LGBT equality is still very important for Dallas’ LGBT community, advocates said this week.

Voters go to the polls Saturday, June 18, to decide whether Mike Rawlings or David Kunkle will replace Tom Leppert, who resigned from office earlier this year to run to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. Although Leppert reached out to the LGBT community for votes, pledging his support on LGBT equality issues, when he ran against gay candidate Ed Oakley in 2007, in recent months he appeared to backtrack on those issues as he prepared for his senate campaign.

Ed Oakley

Oakley, a former City Council member, said this week that having elected officials who understand and embrace the diversity of the city played an integral part in progress the city has made on LGBT issues.

“We wouldn’t have passed [the] nondiscrimination [ordinance including protections for LGBT people] if Laura Miller wasn’t sitting in that [the mayor’s] seat,” he said.

Miller, who had campaigned on adding a nondiscrimination ordinance, put it at the top of her agenda when she came into office.

“The city manager could not have done that,” Oakley said. “The mayor accomplishes what he wants to accomplish.”

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink agreed.

“Until Laura Miller made it [the nondiscrimination ordinance] a priority and put it on the agenda, it didn’t happen,” she said.

She said that although the city has a strong city manager form of government, the mayor can be an advocate, and he or she is the one that presides over the council that sets policy.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez said the mayor is the face of the city.

“The mayor makes sure people and city services are being taken care of. He makes sure our civil rights are being protected. His big job is promoting the city,” Narvaez said.

And the city’s LGBT community can play a big role in who wins the seat this year.

In the general election on May 14, turnout in what are considered the top 10 precincts in the LGBT community, mostly in Oak Lawn and North Oak Cliff, was 38 percent, compared to a citywide turnout rate of only 11 percent.

Patti Fink

And if early voting totals are any indication, LGBT voters have the chance to play an even bigger role in the runoff outcome. In the May election, 46,109 people voted early in Dallas County.

In the runoff, only 27,962 voted early.

Narvaez said that because voter turnout is traditionally low in runoff elections, the LGBT community could decide the mayor’s race.

“People [in our community] were heavily engaged in this election,” Narvaez said. “I don’t see them suddenly not voting for mayor.”

While DGLA and Stonewall Democrats have both endorsed David Kunkle in the runoff, Mike Rawlings has the support of many members of the LGBT community, including several gay former elected officials.

Both candidates actively sought the endorsement of both DGLA and Stonewall, and both have actively campaigned in the community.

Oakley said that Rawlings’ life experiences are different than some members of the City Council that Oakely served with who did not support LGBT issues.

“He faced our issues in the corporate world,” Oakley said.

He said that Rawlings’ company, Pizza Hut, had nondiscrimination policies in place and embraced diversity.

Fink said Kunkle has a prove, and public, record on LGBT issues.

“Kunkle has a proven record working in the community and being an advocate for us,” she said, noting that as police chief, Kunkle turned the LGBT Dallas police liaison position into a fulltime position and presided over the police department while an officer transitioned without incident and with his support.

“And we worked with him on diversity training,” she said.

Former Dallas City Councilmember Chris Luna said, “The biggest role the mayor plays is cheerleader, spokesperson and figurative head of government.”

Chris Luna

He said that when something like the Rainbow Lounge raid in Fort Worth or a raid at a gay bathhouse happens, the mayor’s job is to say, “This is wrong. I’m going to go gather the facts.”

The mayor needs to know when something’s wrong, he said.

“That’s why so many people feel burned by Leppert,” he said.

Luna said that the mayor also appoints the chairs to all boards and commissions, which many council members served on before being elected to office and Rawlings was president of the park board.

The mayor makes committee assignments. When Councilmember Angela Hunt opposed Leppert’s positions, he took away those assignments away.

“The mayor helps distribute the power,” Luna said.

In the race between Kunkle and Rawlings, Luna said, “I have my preference, but from a community standpoint, we can’t lose.”

—  John Wright

Kunkle camp counting on LGBT voters for win

Mike Rawlings, left, and David Kunkle

It might look to some like frontrunner Mike Rawlings has the momentum building for an easy win in the Dallas mayoral runoff, but Kunkle supporters claim they are going to come from behind for an upset victory on June 18.

LGBT political activist Jesse Garcia said there are many “unknown factors” that could lead to a Kunkle victory. Runoffs traditionally produce poor turnouts, and without any South Dallas candidates being on the ballot there will be fewer votes cast from that area where Rawlings did so well in the election, Garcia said. Another unknown is the number of voters that abstained in the election but might vote in the runoff.

In a recent blog post I wrote that Rawlings had received endorsements from many past and present gay officials, and Garcia said that misrepresented where the majority of the LGBT community stands politically. “He only has certain key people, not the whole community lined up,” he said. Garcia added that Kunkle also has major support from LGBT “super activists” who contribute so much to civic affairs.

In fact, an analysis of the election results showed that Kunkle enjoyed strong LGBT support when he came in second behind Rawlings. In the 10 precincts where the most LGBT voters are believed to live, the Dallas Voice analysis showed Kunkle took 44 percent of the vote in those precincts, to Rawlings 37 percent.

Garcia also noted that it is unclear how those people who voted for Ron Natinsky, who failed to make the mayoral runoff and threw his support behind Rawlings, will actually vote. The runoff in District 12 for Natinsky’s former council seat is also on the ballot, so presumably many of his supporters will be returning to the polls, along with District 14 voters that traditionally turn out in large numbers.

—  admin

It’s probably time for LGBT groups to start paving new political inroads to mayor’s office

Mike Rawlings, left, and David Kunkle

In terms of flexing their political muscle, Dallas’ LGBT political activists have shown a somewhat lackluster performance in the municipal election this year.

Businessman Mike Rawlings, the apparent frontrunner in the mayoral race that concludes in a runoff election June 18, failed to receive endorsements from either Stonewall Democrats of Dallas or the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance Political Action Committee. Instead, DGLA endorsed Ron Natinsky, the losing candidate in the election, and Stonewall Democrats endorsed David Kunkle, who came in second and faces Rawlings in the runoff. DGLA even expressed reservations about Rawlings, and the group has endorsed Kunkle in the runoff.

But Rawlings, who enjoys the endorsements of The Dallas Morning News, most current and former elected officials — including gay ones — and even Natinsky, appears to be headed for victory. Kunkle, the former Dallas police chief who proved himself to be a good friend to the LGBT community, is greatly admired and respected in the LGBT community, but it just doesn’t look like he is going to be our next mayor.

Given all of that, maybe it’s time for LGBT political leaders to start paving a political inroad to a potential Rawlings mayoral administration. We’ve enjoyed remarkable access to the mayor’s office for many years now to our enormous benefit, and we sure don’t want to lose that.

In the District 12 council runoff, there is an opportunity to elect Sandy Greyson, who as a former councilwoman voted favorably on LGBT issues during her previous four terms in that seat. Greyson, who also is endorsed by The Dallas Morning News, stepped down because of terms limits and passed the seat to Natinsky, who also proved himself to also be an ally. Greyson’s opponent in the runoff, financial planner Donna Starnes, is an unknown factor in regard to LGBT issues. As a Tea Party member and organizer, her alliances could possibly put her on a collision path with our community.

However the runoff turns out, the LGBT community seems to be on solid ground with so many political allies already seated, despite the fact that two openly gay candidates lost their bids for council places. But it never hurts to be on the winning side in politics, especially at the top of City Hall

Early voting in the runoffs continues through June 14. You don’t have to have voted in the May election to vote in the runoff. For a list of early voting times and locations, go here.

—  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

Stonewall-backed Haldenwang takes high road on Harper-Brown's use of contractor's car

harper_brown_linda
Linda Harper-Brown

The Dallas Morning News published a story today questioning four-term Republican State Rep. Linda Harper Brown‘s use of a Mercedes. The car is owned by a company called Durable Enterprises Equipment that makes millions of dollars in state transportation contracts.

Harper-Brown’s husband said the car is compensation for accounting he does for the company’s owner. His wife serves on the House Transportation Committee.

Harper-Brown’s opponent in the November election is Loretta Haldenwang, who has the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Harper-Brown won the seat two years ago by just 19 votes.

—  David Taffet