Dunn proud of her efforts, but says she won’t run again without more community support
JAMES BRIGHT | Contributing Writer
Transgender mayoral candidate Sandra Dunn placed third in Amarillo’s mayoral election May 14 in an 11-candidate field that included an anti-gay pastor. Dunn said voter turnout was a major concern in the election, with fewer than 15,000 votes cast, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.
Mayor-elect Paul Harpole won the election with 77 percent of the vote. Roy McDowell came in second with 13 percent and Dunn in third with 3 percent.
“It seems traditionally most people do not realize that local votes are critical,” she said. “People think they just need to vote nationally and that’s just not the case. There have been several cases in the past where an election has been decided by just one vote.”
Dunn is not disappointed about her placement though. “Third out of 11 is nothing to be ashamed about,” she said.
Even though she lost the election, Dunn said her third-place finish should give her some weight in the City Council.
She also said she would not run again unless a committee was formed for her election and she received support both socially and financially.
“I’m not trying to beat my own drum, but I did this one all by myself,” Dunn said. “I put out several feelers nationwide asking for help and I received zero support.”
Dunn also said her work in politics is far from over. She has already been talking to Amarillo’s city manager about job discrimination and the restroom issue: “I’m going to approach the city about getting some things added to certain policies to take in consideration issues that affect transgender people.”
According to Dunn, transgender people using public restrooms has become a major concern among the city’s straight population. She said the idea of transgender people using family restrooms appealed to both groups.
“A family restroom is a single stall room,” Dunn said. “You can go in lock the door and no one will bother you. It will help us as transgender individuals and help parents who have two or three kids on an outing.”
Dunn said her primary goal politically is to push for legislation that would prevent all discrimination in the work place.
Dunn’s military service also stood out in this election. Denny Meyer, media director for Transgender American Veteran’s Association, said although endorsing candidates can get a bit tricky the group supports all members of the LGBT community who run for public office.
“It’s almost a victory to celebrate that she came in third in that district,” Meyer said. “It’s a positive sign in that field and means independent voters by large went for her.”
Monica Helms, president of TAVA, said the organization takes a lot of pride in people like Dunn and their efforts to make progress in the world, both politically and professionally. “She [Dunn] represents some of the best of our community, and some of the best of our transgender veterans,” Helms said.
If Dunn were to run again, Helms said she would have the support of TAVA in the future.
Transgender people have frequently been thrown under the bus, according to Meyer.
“They were completely left out of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’” he said. “It did not even occur to them [legislators] when they wrote [the bill] that transgender people existed.”
But, he said, Dunn’s campaign shows a significant gain in changing that. “It’s not just gay people getting elected, but transgender people advancing as well,” Meyer said. “It’s the final frontier.”
For now Dunn said she will continue counseling transgender people, spending time with her family and working on her master’s degree in psychology.