Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, second from left, Texas state Rep. Julie Johnson, third from left, and U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, fourth from left, pose for a photo with supporters during a Human Rights Campaign rally Sunday, Aug. 18, in Dallas. (Brandon Wade/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

New HRC president stresses importance of lawmakers backing equality

James Russell | Contributing Writer
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The Human Rights Campaign rolled out its first Texas endorsements during a press conference in Dallas on Sunday, Aug. 18, backing incumbent freshmen Congressman Collin Allred of Dallas and state Rep. Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch.

The two Democrats defeated incumbent anti-LGBTQ Republicans last fall and are top Republican targets in the 2020 elections. Congressional Republicans, who saw significant losses in 2018, are seeking to take back the lower chamber and the GOP wants to maintain its majority in the Texas House.

Morgan Cox of Dallas, the new co-chair of HRC’s Board of Directors, also introduced new HRC President Alphonso David.

David, a civil rights lawyer who previously worked for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and for Lambda Legal, was in town touring the region and meeting donors. He said Allred and Johnson are the candidates necessary to advance LGBTQ equality.

“Since he was elected and ousted one of the most anti-LGBTQ lawmakers, former House Rules Chairman Pete Session, [Allred] has backed and co-sponsored the Equality Act,” David said. The bill would advance LGBTQ protections nationwide. It has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Johnson is a true changemaker,” David said of Johnson, an openly-lesbian freshman legislator. “As a founding member of the LGBTQ Caucus, she led the charge defeating 22 anti-LGBTQ bills. They [Johnson and Allred] prove why elections matter,” he said.

Allred said Democrats’ ability to defeat incumbents like Sessions was not one solely related to a backlash against President DonaldTrump, enthusiasm for presidential candidate former Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz or about one candidate. Instead, he said, “It was the product of ordinary people coming together and [who] saw government does not reflect our values and politicians do not represent the district. That change wouldn’t have happened without HRC.”

Johnson noted HRC was the first organization to back her 2018 campaign against former Rep. Matt Rinaldi and is the first to back her this cycle.

Johnson touted the victories for LGBTQ rights she has seen in the two decades since she first volunteered with HRC. But, she said, “we have a long way to go,” adding that she was asked to provide a marriage certificate before adding her wife, Dr. Susan Moster, to her state health insurance.

“Do you think my straight counterparts have to do that?” she asked.
Johnson said she plans to research changes to pursue in the next legislative session.

Cox said that 2020 can be an even better year for the LGBT community than 2018 was. North Texas has become a battleground for expanding Democratic gains in Congress and seizing control of the Texas House.

Democrats are only nine seats away from flipping the state House, and two of the key seats are in Dallas County, which saw a near-blue sweep of its state legislative body in 2018.

The two remaining Republicans representing DFW districts — General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer of Highland Park and Urban Affairs Committee Chairwoman Angie Chen Button of Garland — narrowly won re-election and are top Democratic targets for next year.

No challenger has emerged against Johnson, but a handful of Republicans are mulling runs against Allred, including Meyer and Sessions.

The only other out LGBT representative in a swing seat is Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat and the body’s first openly bisexual member. Republicans Carrie Isaac, wife of former Rep. Jason Isaac, who preceded Zwiener, former candidate Austin Talley and former Hays County GOP Chairman Kent Wymore have filed to run for that seat.

Caucus Chairwoman Mary Gonzalez of Clint, Rep. Celia Israel of Austin and first term Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, also of Dallas, represent safe Democratic seats. But Jessica Gonzalez may face a primary challenge from former State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, whom she defeated in the 2018 primary, his spouse and former City Council candidate Sylvana or his sister, former Councilwoman Monica Alonzo.