Democrat Theresa Daniel supports offering benefits to partners of gay Dallas County workers; Republican Larry Milller strongly opposes idea

ATTACK AD | A mailer sent out by Dallas County Commissioners Court candidate Larry Miller in May attacking primary opponent Cecile Fernandez for supporting domestic partner benefits for gay employees.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Democratic District 1 candidate Theresa Daniel says she would support offering benefits to the partners of gay employees if elected to the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

If the current Commissioners Court doesn’t approve DP benefits this year, Daniel could become the third vote in support of DP benefits along with County Judge Clay Jenkins and

District 4 Commissioner Elba Garcia, both also Democrats.

“I believe families, no matter how they are configured, deserve benefits,” Daniel said this week. “All families should be covered.”

Daniel faces Republican Larry Miller in the race to replace Republican Maurine Dickey, who is retiring. Miller sent out a mailer in May attacking his primary opponent for supporting DP benefits.

“Cecile Fernandez supports spending your county tax dollars to pay for partnership benefits,” Miller’s mailer stated. “Does Cecile Fernandez reflect YOUR values?”

Miller didn’t respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment this week.

In a response to a post on Dallas Voice’s blog calling his mailer “anti-gay,” Miller said in an email in May: “There is nothing ‘anti-gay’ about our mailer. I do not believe taxpayer money should be used for partnership benefits and my opponent is on the record in favor of taxpayer support of those benefits. I have attended many Republican meetings and met many voters who agree with my position.”

Daniel said that as commissioner her first priority would be the budget.

“That’s the job,” she said.

Coming under the budget, she said, the priorities are healthcare and public safety.

She said the new federal healthcare law has already had a positive effect on public health in the county with more people who have health insurance, including those under 26 who can now be covered under their parents’ policies. As more of the healthcare law kicks in over the next few years, she expects it to have a positive effect on providing healthcare throughout the county.

She called Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to reject additional Medicaid funding something that will cost Dallas County quite a bit of money as the county continues to provide a healthcare safety net.

She sees her role in public safety as “making sure the system is functioning,” listing concerns including the health of prisoners, how constables fit into the system and whether to continue traffic patrols.

“We need to make sure the jail can go through its inspections,” she said.

She said the county’s computer system must be up-to-date and efficient so county staff can do the jobs they’re hired to do.

“I’m reading a lot, talking a lot about issues that affect people’s everyday lives,” she said.

She called the position of county commissioner a continuation of work she’s been doing and training she had. She received her doctorate in public policy and public administration.

She worked as a congressional aide to Congressman Martin Frost and is currently a manager in the Dallas Independent School District.

“We need a county commissioner who can work with residents,” she said, calling her 35 years of work in Dallas what makes her more qualified than her opponent.

Miller does not list any issues on his website. He was a Hunt County District Attorney before moving to Dallas.

In District 3, Dallas County’s longest-serving incumbent, John Wiley Price, faces Republican Charles Lingerfelt.

Price has been under investigation for about a year. Records were seized from his office and cash taken from a safe in his house. The day after he won the primary, an FBI agent revealed that Price was under investigation for  a money laundering scheme, bankruptcy fraud or theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater denied motions to delay forfeiture of the money. Because Price did not file responses to the forfeiture case, Fitzwater ruled, he could not ask for the stay.

On the Commissioners Court, Price hasn’t publicly signed on to offering DP benefits. Jenkins has said he plans to bring the matter up for a vote sometime before the end of the year,

but it’s unclear whether it has the three votes needed to pass.

Lingerfelt owns Lingy’s Barbecue & Catering.

On his website, Lingerfelt claims the current healthcare law mandates “rationing and death panels.” He calls the Affordable Care Act that was upheld by the Supreme Court “unconstitutional.” He claims the healthcare law includes taxpayer-funded abortion, which he calls “against the principles of our Christian faith.”

Under healthcare on his website, he doesn’t address any of the challenges facing Parkland hospital.

His position on families states that they are “under attack by the forces of political correctness.”

He supports small business and calls a flat tax the best solution for small business.

“I will pursue changing our current tax code to support small businesses and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship,” he writes on his website but doesn’t explain how a county commissioner will change federal income tax laws.

His education policy is equally irrelevant.

“I will fight for school choice, vouchers, and charter schools in order to provide educational alternatives for parents,” he wrote.

Dallas County Community Colleges and the independent school districts are independent taxing authorities that do not come under the county commission.                            •

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 29, 2012.