Republican George Clayton isn’t trying to hide his sexual orientation but says he doesn’t like labels as he launches bid for TX House in 2014
At least three openly LGBT candidates plan to run for Texas House next year, but one said this week he doesn’t want to be labeled as a “gay candidate.”
Republican George Clayton formally announced he’ll seek Dallas Republican Rep. Stefani Carter’s District 102 seat in 2014. An administrator for the Dallas
Independent School District, Clayton served on the State Board of Education from 2010-12 until he was outed as gay and lost in the primary last year.
Carter is stepping down to run for Railroad Commission. Former Dallas Councilwoman Linda Koop has also announced that she will run for the seat in the 2014 primary.
But while Clayton would be the first openly gay Republican elected to the Texas Legislature, he is focusing on his education platform, which includes standardized testing reform and capping administration salaries, and he rejects the gay label.
“I am out and have been for many years. However, I will not run as a ‘gay candidate’ or ‘gay Republican,’” Clayton told Dallas Voice this week. “Labels promote inequality and should never be used by anyone.”
Clayton initially indicated he would seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee that helps elect openly LGBT candidates. But he later said the organization is too left-wing and is “all too fond of labeling.”
“I believe that labeling segregates people and creates a platform of inequality,” Clayton said. “I am always amazed at how quickly the gay community is willing to embrace this inequality. True equality will come when labels do not precede a person’s name or party affiliation.
“Let me be clear,” he added. “I support equal standing under the law for all people including marriage, job opportunity, political freedom and the absolute right to live upon the public and private stage free of labels, categories or any highlighted aspect of a person’s life or condition.”
Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison said the Victory Fund instructs its endorsed candidates to address questions about their sexual orientation and then move on to address the issues that are important to them.
“In some sense he’s right,” Dison said about Clayton not wanting to be the “gay candidate.” “There is a built-in, mistaken assumption that being honest about your sexual orientation is mainly what their campaign is about. People are running for a variety of reasons and more often it’s because they see a need for change on issues important to them.”
Texas currently has only one openly LGBT state legislator.
State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, a freshman in the House, said she’s already launched her re-election campaign. She said her outspokenness about LGBT and women’s issues during this year’s sessions have drawn two potential challengers in the Democratic Primary.
Gonzalez, who identifies as pansexual, was targeted for her sexual orientation last year, but won the primary without a runoff. During her first term, she passed four bills to help reform education and infrastructure in her district. She also filed two LGBT-specific bills.
She said while she expects a hard fight to keep her seat in the coming months, she’s excited about the possibly of having more LGBT politicians join her at the Capitol.
“I’m always excited about increasing the amount of LGBT voices in the Legislature,” she said. “Having more than one person makes sure we have seats at many tables on different issues.”
Austin lesbian Celia Israel could join Gonzalez as a representative in a few months. Israel has filed to run in the special election in November to replace former Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who resigned earlier this summer.
The election will fill Strama’s unexpired District 50 term. Israel, along will two other Democrats and a Republican, are seeking to replace Strama. She has applied for the Victory Fund endorsement for the special election. Endorsements will be announced in late August.
Israel, a real estate agent and community activist, said she planned to run for Strama’s seat at the end of last year when it became clear he wouldn’t seek another term. Her campaign will focus on equality, Medicaid expansion, healthcare and public education reform.
“Our state doesn’t stand for progress,” she said. “The leadership in the Legislature does not represent mainstream Texas.”
She referred to the filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill this summer and the bill’s later passage in another special session that engaged many Texans to speak out against the Legislature’s actions.
“That was the spark that motivated many Texans to say, ‘This is enough,’” Irsael said.
Israel, who is from El Paso but has lived in Austin for 31 years, joked about the possibility of having two female LGBT representatives in the House, saying
“Texas is big enough for two lesbians.” She said her political activism and volunteerism, which began when she was an aide for former Gov. Ann Richards, makes her the most experienced candidate in the race.
“There’s no one else in this race with my deep roots in the communities of Austin,” she said. “I have the experience that will reassure the voters that I have a wide range of credentials to serve and represent them well.”
Another potential gay candidate for state Legislature in 2014 is Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said this week that she would either run for her Senate seat or for governor. In her address to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Aug. 5, she outlined her work on the abortion filibuster that shot her to political stardom and said many voters feel legislators don’t reflect their views.
If Davis decides to run for governor, Burns could run for her Senate seat.
Burns did not respond to requests for comment on whether he would run to replace Davis. He ran for Davis’ seat on the council in 2007 when she resigned to run for the Senate.
Davis is expected to make a decision by Labor Day.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.