Duncan edges into runoff with Jenkins, says comment shows ‘unbridled arrogance’
Openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons called on Larry Duncan to drop out of the Democratic race for county judge after Duncan narrowly advanced to a runoff against Clay Jenkins.
Jenkins, a Highland Park attorney, received 49.82 percent of the vote in the Tuesday, March 2 primary and came up just 85 votes short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
Duncan finished second with 30 percent, followed by openly gay incumbent Jim Foster, who received only 20 percent.
In the wake of his last-place showing, Foster reportedly was alleging "voter fraud" in the race. Foster didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Fitzsimmons, who supports Jenkins, said he thinks Duncan should forego the April 13 runoff for the benefit of the Democratic Party. But Duncan, a longtime LGBT ally who’s endorsed by Stoneawall Democrats of Dallas, said he has no intentions of doing so.
"I think Larry ought to take a close look at those election results and determine whether it’s in the best interests of the party for him to continue, because I don’t think it is," Fitzsimmons said Wednesday.
Fitzsimmons, a Democrat who’s seeking a second term as district clerk, easily defeated challenger Johnny Gomez in Tuesday’s primary and will face Republican Tammy Barnes in November.
"For the good of the party he [Duncan] should step aside, and allow us to get our team together so we can start moving the county forward," Fitzsimmons added.
Duncan said he’s confident about the runoff even though he finished with 7,500 fewer votes than Jenkins on Tuesday.
"We overcame the historic half-million-dollar onslaught, and that’s over," Duncan said, referring to the amount Jenkins reportedly has spent on the race. "This is a brand new ball game, where each of us has to see how many of our voters we can get to turn out a second time."
Duncan said Wednesday that Fitzsimmons’ comments are "an example of the unbridled arrogance that voters rejected yesterday."
"You cannot buy an election in Dallas County," Duncan said.
"You cannot go back to the old days when a bunch of good old boys in a back room determined not just who got to be in office, but who got to run for office," he added, calling Fitzsimmons one of the Democratic Party’s "kingmakers."
"They don’t want an election. They want a coronation."
Duncan again touted his LGBT credentials. When he was president of the Dallas Homeowners League in the 1980s, the group backed the first openly gay candidate for the Dallas City Council, Bill Nelson.
Now president of Dallas County Schools, Duncan noted that he was one of the few elected officials who attended gay-rights rallies in the wake of passage of Proposition 8, California’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"It’s not just when it’s easy or convenient," he said. "I’ve been there all along when it’s tough."
Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she was surprised by Tuesday’s results. Moore said she expected a virtual three-way tie in the primary for county judge but was pleased that Duncan had advanced to the runoff.
"It means that the Democratic Party will have a really good choice to make," Moore said.
"I think they’re both fine candidates," she said of Duncan and Jenkins, adding that turnout for runoffs is typically very low. "It just depends on who has the better grassroots game and gets their people out."
Jenkins, who unsuccessfully sought the backing of Stonewall Democrats and appeared before the group’s endorsement committee, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment this week.
Election returns show that Jenkins was the leading vote-getter in the county’s most heavily LGBT precincts, even though his margin of victory was considerably smaller than it was overall.
In what are considered the nine most heavily LGBT precincts in the county, Jenkins captured 43 percent of the vote, compared to Duncan’s 32 percent and Foster’s 25 percent.
Fitzsimmons said he’s disappointed that Jenkins didn’t win the primary outright. He also called Foster’s allegations of voter fraud in the race "a crock" and said the incumbent "underperformed my low expectations for him."
"I’m very proud of Dallas County Democrats for realizing just what a disaster County Judge Jim Foster has been, not only for the party, but for the county," Fitzsimmons said. "Unfortunately he’s still on the Commissioners Court, and he’s still voting with [Republican Ken] Mayfield, and he’ll be doing that presumably for the next 10 months."
TRACKING THE GAY VOTE
How candidates fared in Dallas County’s nine most heavily LGBT precincts, compared to their countywide totals.
Sources: Dallas County Elections,
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 5, 2010.