On June 16 gay
city councilman Ed Oakley and former Turner Construction
CEO Tom Leppert will face off in Dallas for a
runoff mayoral election.Should Oakley
win the election, Dallas, the nation's
ninth-largest city, according to 2005 population
estimates, would become the first major American city
with an openly gay mayor.
Oakley's candidacy has not been without
opposition, attempts to derail his campaign have
failed thus far.On the morning of
the initial May 12 election, involving 11
candidates, many residents received an anonymous
call claiming, "Ed Oakley has a radical gay
agenda for Dallas," and adding,
"Dallas needs a strong conservative leadership."
ignited outrage in the blogosphere, with many claiming
that it was a violation of Texas Ethics Commission rules.
spokesman Craig Murphy was not surprised by the tactic.
"We expected the call," he says."It's
the anonymous sort of advertising that you would
never put on TV."
Oakley, who currently represents district 3 on the
Dallas city council, placed second with 21% of the
vote while Leppert led the pack with 27%.Since no candidate
received a majority of the votes, the two with the
highest percentages are slated for a runoff.
Oakley,a Dallas resident
for the past 25 years, has served on the city council
since 2001.His previous
positions include six years on the city planning
commission and two years on a zoning committee.
"Oakley is an
insider who really knows city policy," says
Dallas resident Jeff Phillips.
recently garnered endorsement from the Dallas Police Association."This
endorsement was the big one," says Murphy,
crediting Oakley's strong call for crime
reduction during his campaign.His plans include
hiring additional police officers and tearing down
2,000 of the most crime-ridden apartments in Dallas.
has the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund,
a national LGBT political action committee working
to increase the number of openly LGBT elected
officials across the country.The Victory Fund is
working to raise $100,000 for Oakley's campaign;
so far it has amassed just over $71,000
toward this goal.
election has the capacity to change politics,"
says Victory Fund vice president for
communications Denis Dison."And I think
making any official statements regarding his stance on
LGBT issues, Leppert has been known to support
antigay Texas representative Pete Sessions,
contributing $2,000 to Session's 2004 reelection campaign.On the Human Rights
Campaign's 2006 Congressional Scorecard,
which rates legislators based on their votes on
LGBT issues, Sessions received a score of 0 out of 100.
Leppert also did not return an endorsement
questionnaire from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian
Alliance, one of the city's largest gay rights organizations.
Though it may
come as a surprise that Dallas is the setting for this
potentially historic election, a largely unnoticed
wave of liberalism has been sweeping over this
city once renowned for its macho swagger and buxom cheerleaders.
Democrats won 47 local offices, many of which had
previously been held by long-standing Republican incumbents.
Convention and Visitors Bureau's LGBT microsite
boasts that "Dallas truly is the most
liberal city in Texas!" with its "sassy
drag queens and strapping gay rodeo champs."Dallas also has the
ninth-largest concentration of same-sex couples in
the country, according to the Williams Institute,
a think tank studying sexual-orientation law and
public policy at the University of California, Los
Angeles, School of Law. Furthermore, the Cathedral
of Hope, the world's largest gay church,
with a congregation of 3,500, is located in Dallas.
The growth of
gay representation in Dallas politics has its own
extensive history.In 1991 a judge
ordered that the city council districts be
redivided among 14 seats, thus ensuring better
minority representation.The first openly gay
city council member was elected two years later.Dallas currently has
a few county-level elected officials who identify
as gay, including Sheriff Lupe Valdez and county
judge (chairman of the county commissioners) Jim Foster.
Austin's got some competition for "most
gay-friendly city" in Texas. (Padraic
Wheeler, The Advocate)