Patti Fink, left, and Damien Duckett

Stonewall Democrats backs Kunkle for mayor, Nowlin for District 14; nonpartisan DGLA prepares for candidate screenings

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee began its candidate screening process this week for the May 8 Dallas municipal elections.

Last weekend, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas interviewed candidates and has released its endorsements.

Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said his group looks for candidates who are inclusive of the community.

“But we are partisan,” Narvaez said. “We’re looking for good Democrats.”

That’s the big difference between Stonewall and DGLA.

DGLA President Patti Fink said, “We’re non-partisan and have been since the 1970s.”

In the mayor’s race, Stonewall interviewed only three of the candidates. Ron Natinsky, the fourth, spoke at Stonewall’s monthly membership meeting the previous week and honestly answered a question that he had voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.

Although he had originally asked for the group’s endorsement, he withdrew his request when Stonewall members questioned his eligibility based on their bylaws that prevent the group from endorsing Republicans.

That won’t be a sticking point for DGLA.

“DGLA endorsed him in the past,” Fink said, “And we’re looking forward to speaking to him again this year.”

Stonewall gave its nod to former police chief David Kunkle. Mike Rawlings also received considerable support, and Edward Opka screened with the group as well.

What gave Kunkle the edge, Narvaez said, was that all of Rawlings’ answers revolved around business.

“Business is a very important part of our city,” Narvaez said, “But you’ve got to think about the parks, the libraries.”

He said Kunkle spoke movingly about inclusiveness and talked about working with a transgender officer who transitioned on the job.

“He reinstated the liaison and made the position full-time,” Narvaez said, referring to the LGBT police liaison position. “His experiences were heartfelt.”

In the District 14 race, the vote was close, but in the end, the endorsement went to openly gay candidate James Nowlin over incumbent Angela Hunt.

“It was a coin flip,” Narvaez said. “That was a tough one.”

Although the vote was split, Stonewall does not do dual endorsements. He said Stonewall makes a single recommendation and then works to get that candidate elected.

“We’ll block walk, fund raise, put out yard signs, advertise, distribute push cards,” he said.

DGLA has made dual endorsements in the past when the committee’s vote was close and two candidates seemed equally suitable.

Stonewall attracted 73 people to their candidate forum. All were able to ask the candidates questions. Of those, 57 were current members who were allowed to vote on the endorsements.

Damien Duckett, DGLA’s political action committee chair, heads that group’s endorsement process. He said DGLA has a three-step procedure.

This week, they began contacting candidates by phone and sending questionnaires.

When Natinsky withdrew his name from the Stonewall endorsement process, he also released his questionnaire. Stonewall’s policy is to shred questionnaires after the endorsements are announced.

But DGLA keeps its questionnaires on file.

When President George Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005, DGLA released her written answers to a 1989 Dallas City Council election endorsement questionnaire, a document that contradicted some of Miers’ statements after she was nominated.

But, Duckett said, the questionnaires are normally not released.

Duckett said that after candidates return the requested information, the organization schedules a confidential interview with the screening committee. Those will be held over several days during the next two weeks.

DLGA’s Don Baker Educational Fund, the non-profit branch that is separate from the DGLA PAC, will hold an open candidate forum on April 9. Everyone running for city office is invited to participate and the public is invited to interact with the candidates.

The committee will then vote and Duckett said he expects to release the group’s endorsements the following Monday or Tuesday.

“We’re the only nonpartisan LGBT endorsements in Dallas,” Duckett said.

“We’ve endorsed a number of Republicans over the years,” Fink said.

Among them is Natinsky, who was endorsed by DGLA for his current council seat.

“DGLA isn’t interested in your voting history,” Duckett said. “Simply your views on LGBT issues.”

He said he was surprised at some of the candidates who indicated that they wanted DGLA’s endorsement.

District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis asked for a questionnaire. Although she never sought the group’s endorsement before, this time Davis has an opponent — Casie Pierce, who is openly lesbian and received Stonewall’s endorsement.

Duckett said the committee would concentrate on how candidates support five issues that DGLA expects to be action items over the next two-year council term.

DGLA and Stonewall endorsements are usually the same. In some council races, DGLA has endorsed Republicans in races that Stonewall offered no endorsement.

But in this race there may be different endorsements in major races including District 14 and mayor.

Both groups said they would work for their endorsed candidates. Neither thought that presented a conflict in the community.

Fink said she thought it was a sign of maturity that a variety of candidates held appeal within the LGBT community.

Narvaez said that in the District 14 race, the margin between Nowlin and Hunt was razor thin.

He acknowledged that some Stonewall members are working with Hunt’s campaign and said that although Stonewall would work for Nowlin, members were free to work for any candidate they chose.

“There were hurt feeling on both sides in that one,” Narvaez said. “It hurt to make that phone call [to Hunt]. You had to pick between two friends.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.