Maxey vying for state Democratic chair; record number of GLBT candidates seeking committee seats
GLBT Texans will make up a significant portion of the Democrats gathering in Fort Worth this weekend for the Texas Democratic Convention, according to local GLBT Democratic leaders.
One big draw for them is Glen Maxey’s campaign as the first openly-gay candidate for state party chair. Maxey, a former state lawmaker from Austin, was the founding executive director of Equality Texas and has been a force in the Democratic party for 30 years.
Shannon Bailey, president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas, said that at least 75 GLBT delegates are set to attend the convention.
“Those are just the ones we know of for sure, the ones from local Stonewall chapters,” Bailey said. “There will be a lot more GLBT delegates than that who are there.”
He said about 5,200 delegates and 3,000 alternates are expected to attend.
Jesse Garcia, spokesman for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said the large number indicates that more GLBT people are becoming involved in the political process following passage of the anti-gay-marriage amendment to the Texas Constitution last fall.
“What prompted this increased interest? Being mad as hell,” he said. “Typically, after an election you will see a lack of activity. But in our community, activity picked up after the November election and we have remained active throughout the winter and the spring.”
Bailey said the November election presents the Democratic Party with the chance to make “some real inroads” into loosening Republican control of the Texas Legislature and Congress.
“In the Texas Legislature, we have no chance to win the Senate. And it will be a real uphill battle to win the House. But even if we don’t win a majority in the House, we could definitely win enough seats to keep the Republicans away from the two-thirds majority mark,” he said. “That two-thirds majority is what it would take to put another bill like Proposition 2 on the ballot.”
But perhaps the biggest draw of the convention for GLBT Democrats is Maxey’s campaign, the first time an out gay person has been a candidate for state party chair.
“I think it speaks volumes that an openly gay man can run for state party chair and be a viable candidate,” Bailey said.
Maxey is running against interim party chair Boyd Richie of Graham, elected earlier this year when the former chair resigned; Charlie Urbina Jones of San Antonio; and Latisha Rogers, a Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement candidate.
Maxey said this week that while he is friends with Richie and Jones, “This is about a vision of where we go from here as a party.”
“We [the Texas Democratic Party] have been doing the same things over and over again for decades. We have been targeting ourselves out of the game. The infrastructure of our party has collapsed, and it is time for an aggressive rebuilding of the party.”
Maxey said he believes the success of the Democratic Party in Texas relies on a change in the way the party operates. In past years, he said, the party has focused its efforts and resources on specific targeted campaigns, and when those campaigns have ended, so have the party’s efforts.
“Only five counties in the state actually have party offices. Most of them are still doing this work on their personal computers at their kitchen tables,” he said. “We have got to start having a viable, working party all year long, every year.”
Bailey said that Boyd and Jones are “both quite good on GLBT issues . We can’t go wrong. We are protected all the way around when it comes to GLBT rights.”
Rogers is not considered a viable candidate in the race, Bailey said.
Bailey said that “more openly-gay people than ever before” are running for spots on the state Democratic Executive Committee, the body that runs the state party between conventions. The committee is made up of two representatives from each of the 31 senate districts and nine “add-on” caucuses, including Stonewall Democrats.
Stonewall Democrats of Texas was set to hold its biannual caucus meeting at 1 p.m. Friday, and state officers for the organization were to be elected then. Bailey is running for a second term as president. Al Daniels of Dallas is seeking re-election as treasurer; Lisa Thomas of Fort Worth is running for vice president; and Jimmy Rocha, out-going party chair for Williamson County, is seeking to join the caucus as secretary.
Bailey said the convention itself is open to whomever wants to attend. And with midterm elections looming in November, Bailey said, it is “more important than ever before” that GLBT people get involved in the political process.
The Texas Democratic Convention began Thursday at the Fort Worth Convention Center and continues through Saturday evening. Saturday’s schedule begins at 8 a.m. with permanent convention committee meetings. Workshops begin at 9:30 a.m. after breakfast, and the convention reconvenes at 11 a.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 09, 2006.