Openly gay council candidate accuses opponent of gay-baiting
Gay District 3 Dallas City Council candidate Joseph Hernandez is accusing his opponent in the upcoming runoff of employing anti-LGBT tactics during the May 12 election.
Hernandez, who is vying to replace gay mayoral candidate Ed Oakley in the Oak Cliff district, finished second in the election behind Dave Neumann in a nine-candidate field. Hernandez garnered 32 percent of the vote, or 1,837, to Neumann’s 36 percent, or 2,072.
Hernandez claims Neumann’s poll watchers went to all lengths to ensure that voters didn’t cast ballots for Hernandez. Those lengths included things like telling voters Hernandez has a “gay agenda” and calling him the “wrong candidate” because of his sexual orientation, Hernandez alleged.
“That’s not the kind of campaign that we’re running,” Hernandez said. “If I don’t win, it’s because I refuse to play dirty politics.”
Neumann flatly denied the allegations.
“That’s utterly untrue, and that’s the first I’ve ever heard of it,” he said. “We would not have encouraged nor would we have condoned any type of behavior like that.”
Hernandez also criticized campaign mailings leading up to the election with photos of Neumann’s wife and children, saying they reflect Neumann’s views about what a family should be.
“That’s not everyone’s definition of family,’ Hernandez said. “You don’t have to be married or have kids to understand the importance of family.
“He may not be anti-gay, but his mail pieces are.”
Neumann responded by saying he always has been inclusive. He also said he supports current policies that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in Dallas city government and grant employees same-sex benefits.
“I am supporter of all individuals being treated with respect and dignity,” Neumann said. “I want to be an advocate for everyone.”
But Hernandez, a Democrat, called Neumann “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” a “staunch Republican” and a strong supporter of U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who received a 0 out of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent Congressional Scorecard.
Most recently, in 2006, Sessions voted in favor of a failed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. He also voted against a measure that would have allowed the federal government to assist local jurisdictions in fighting hate crimes against gay and transgender people.
“Pete [Sessions] is like the anti-Christ to the GLBT community,” Hernandez said.
Dallas City Council races are nonpartisan, and Neumann would not comment on his party affiliation.
However, Federal Elections Commission records show Neumann made a total of $5,000 in contributions to Sessions’ campaign in 2004.
“I am a fervent supporter of relationships with elected officials,” Neumann said. “He’s [Hernandez is] raising a lot of issues, but I don’t know if they’re relevant to being qualified as a capable city councilman.”
Neumann was one of six District 3 candidates who completed a survey and interview seeking an endorsement from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which ultimately went to Hernandez.
“Dave Neumann did not give us a tremendously negative interview by any means,” said Patti Fink, chairwoman of DGLA’s political action committee. “That was a really tough district [to endorse in]. We had so many candidates.”
However, Fink reiterated DGLA’s support for Hernandez.
“If you don’t want Tom Leppert [Oakley's opponent in the mayoral runoff] and you don’t want Dave Neumann, you better get out and vote,” Fink said. “To me, that’s what it boils down to for our community.”
Hernandez said he believes it’s critical for District 3 to elect a gay councilman to replace Oakley and maintain the LGBT community’s political presence.
Although the community has been successful in enlisting many straight allies at City Hall, that’s not the same as having LGBT councilmembers, Hernandez said: “It’s not as effective and powerful as having equal representation at that Horseshoe.”
The runoff is June 16.
For more information on the District 3 candidates, visit www.josephhernandez.net and www.daveneumann.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 18, 2007