Medrano, Narvaez both re-elected; West takes District 1; Moore advances to runoff

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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Three gay councilmen will serve on the Dallas City Council as incumbents Omar Narvaez in District 6 and Adam Medrano in District 2 were both re-elected and will be joined by Chad West, who replaces Scott Griggs in District 1.

The last time three openly-gay people served together was the mid-1990s when Chris Luna, Craig McDaniel and Paul Fielding were on the council together.

West thanked his volunteers, campaign supporters, neighbors and friends. He gave special credit to his partner, Brian Bleeker, “for allowing me to do this and holding down the fort with the family.”

West and Bleeker have two young children, and West said his family is even stronger after the campaign.

The three gay councilmen could be joined by Erin Moore, who is in a run-off with Paula Blackmon in District 9. If she wins the run-off, Moore would be the first out lesbian elected to the council.

Moore said she was thrilled so many people in the district supported her in the five-way race.

“I want to be a full-time representative for everyone in the district,” she said.

In her run-off campaign, Moore said, she’ll be focused on the issues everyone across the city should be concerned with — infrastructure and transportation. Property taxes and public safety are local concerns in District 9, she said.

And because the district encompasses White Rock Lake, the environment is of particular concern: “We want Plano to stop putting sewage in our streams,” Moore said. “They need to be better neighbors.”

Moore received incumbent District 9 Councilman Mark Clayton’s endorsement after early voting ended. Her percentage of the vote increased with Election Day results compared to the early vote, and she believes Clayton’s support was part of that bump and that it will help her win the run-off.

Asa Woodberry, a gay candidate in District 4, failed to make it into a run-off.

In the mayoral runoff, state Rep. Eric Johnson has sponsored pro-LGBT legislation each session he’s been in the Legislature, and Griggs has been an LGBT ally on the council.

Adam Medrano, Chad West, Erin Moore, Omar Narvaez

The variance in turnout
While much has been made of former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller’s failed comeback attempt, she actually received the second highest number of votes out of all the more than 50 people running for the 14 Dallas City Council seats in last weekend’s election.

Unfortunately for Miller, her opponent, incumbent Councilwoman Jennifer Gates, received the highest number of votes among all city council candidates and almost twice as many votes as Miller.

That highlights the difference in voting patterns across the city.

Medrano won his race in a landslide with more than 76 percent of the vote in District 2, but he received just a little more than half the votes Miller did. In District 6, Narvaez trounced his opponents with 59 percent of the vote, but he received less than a third the votes Miller did.

Miller, who received more votes than she ever had in a city council race, lost this time in District 13, which traditionally has the highest voter turnout of the 14 council seats. When she served on the council, Miller represented North Oak Cliff.

Incumbent Councilman Lee Kleinman received the third highest number of votes in this election. Gates was just seven votes short of doubling his vote total. So impressive was Gates’ vote total that she received more votes than were cast for the eight candidates running in Districts 5, 6 and 8 combined.

Voting doesn’t just peak in District 13, it drops off precipitously at the border. Districts 6 and 13 border each other for miles, and Narvaez’s district traditionally has the lowest turnout (actually, only second-lowest in this election).
But that doesn’t speak badly of Narvaez. Voting in his district has almost doubled in city races since he’s been on the ballot.

In Dallas, run-offs will be held between Johnson and Griggs for mayor and in four city council races, including Moore’s.

Annise Parker, former mayor of Houston and now president and CEO of the LGBT Victory Fund said the general election and a runoff are two completely different types of races.

“The general election is about who you are,” Parker said, adding that candidates should “lay out why people should support you. Focus on finding your base and get them out to vote.”

Once candidates get to the runoff, Parker said, they knew who their base is.

“You know who’s interested in voting,” she said. “Focus on who voted in the first round.”

In the runoff, Parker said, candidates should define themselves compared to their opponent. When Parker first ran for mayor, her opponent attacked her for being lesbian. She said the only time coming out is negative in politics today is if the candidate spent years denying it.

“Going negative on our LGBT candidates is not a winning strategy unless there’s bad behavior,” she said.

Overall, Parker said, Victory Fund’s lesbian candidates outperform their gay male candidates, even though women are judged more harshly in politics. She gave several reasons: Lesbians often enter politics later in life than gay men do and are more prepared for the job.

“They have better resumes,” she said. “I was on the ballot 11 times. No one out-worked me.”

Parker advises candidates to go all out in the general election. When they make it into a runoff, new funds will come.

For LGBT candidates, she advised, getting the base out is imperative in low-turnout elections, so concentrate on places like the LGBT press to drive voters to the polls.

And voter turnout in the LGBT community? “The LGBT community has to be reminded and prodded to vote,” she said.

In the Tarrant County city of Watauga, openly-gay council member Scott Prescher has been shaking things up since he joined the council in a special election in November — to the displeasure of some of his colleagues. For this election, he supported a slate of candidates running for mayor and three council seats. All of them won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

“I think people connect to me because I’ve taken time to connect with them, to actually know them on a personal level,” Prescher said, explaining his governing style.

He bristled at the suggestion that he’s become a kingmaker in Watauga and credited each candidate with working hard to win their elections. But his endorsement made a difference, and he hopes the newly-elected officials will do what he’s done — continue to make things going on at City Hall more transparent.

Annise Parker, the three gay Dallas City Council members and one in Watauga are proof that when good LGBT candidates run, they’re elected. But what about a gay man running for president?

Parker said local government is the best training ground for national office, because you’re in constant touch with people from the community and serving their needs. So how does Mayor Pete Buttigieg fit in with the large field of candidates running for president?

Parker pointed out he’s one of four mayors who’s thrown his hat in the ring, one of two veterans and the only one deployed to a combat zone. He’s a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes scholar, and he speaks seven languages. And he’s religious and well-versed in theology.

“He’s a remarkable man” Parker said.

So remarkable that there’s been little reaction to pictures of Mayor Pete and his husband Chasten walking hand-in-hand or kissing. Public displays of affection aren’t something Parker and her wife Kathy did while in office or running for office.

Parker reassured that Buttigieg is driving the right wing crazy, but in a good way. They just can’t find anything wrong with this guy. So how do Mayor Pete and his husband Chasten get away with kissing in front of the cameras and not offending the public?

“They’re disgustingly wholesome,” Parker said.