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October 29, 2004

Republicans Gay-Baiting in Dallas Sheriff's Race

By Byron LaMasters

If Republican Danny Chandler is elected Dallas County Sheriff, will he be comitted to being serving the GLBT community in Dallas? His latest attacks bring that into question. The Dallas Morning News reports:

With just days left in the Dallas County sheriff's race, Republican candidate Danny Chandler on Thursday attacked Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez's endorsement by a national organization promoting gay and lesbian candidates. Mr. Chandler and the Texas Eagle Forum, a Republican woman's group, said their complaint was not about Ms. Valdez's sexual orientation, but that endorsement from the group calls for Ms. Valdez to promote a political agenda espousing goals such as federal gay and lesbian civil-rights legislation.

Ms. Valdez received an endorsement from The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which identifies, trains and supports openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates and officials.

Mr. Chandler also has issued a new promotional mailer noting Ms. Valdez's endorsement.


Ms. Valdez, who is openly gay, said Thursday that her sexual orientation has no relevance to how she would carry out the duties of sheriff.

Her campaign coordinator, Barry Hanley, said, "her only agenda is to run the jail professionally and respond to the needs of Dallas County residents. She has no other agenda. This is not a legislative position."

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Chandler said: "Ms. Valdez's personal lifestyle is her own business and should not enter into the race. The difference here is that she is promoting the endorsement of the Victory Fund," which supports gay and lesbian issues.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund is a unique organization. It basically has no agenda other seeing the election of openly gay and lesbian candidates:

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is recognized as the leading national political organization that identifies, trains and supports open lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates and officials. We are the only national organization committed to increasing the number of openly gay and lesbian public officials at federal, state and local levels of government.

Lupe Valdez hasn't signed on to any "agenda" other than that of serving the people of Dallas County as sheriff. Her sexual orientation is well-known, especially among the GLBT community, but she has not made it an issue in her campaign.

The real issue here though, is that Danny Chandler is trying to distract people from reports that he has violated federal election law:

On Monday, News 8 first reported on allegations that Chandler is violating federal election law. But even as the Chandler campaign dismisses the allegations as dirty politics, more evidence against their candidate continues to trickle out.

Chandler is now being investigated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for allegedly violating the federal Hatch Act. The complaint was filed by attorneys representing outgoing Sheriff Jim Bowles, whom Chandler defeated last March.

The Hatch Act prohibits government employees who handle federal grants from running for elected office. As Director of Homeland Security for Dallas County, Chandler comes in frequent contact with the administration of federal grants.

Last June, a federal grant coordinator notified Chandler he was "registered as the Jurisdiction Point of Contact for Dallas County." What followed were, instructions for Chandler "to utilize your 2003 UASI-2 sub grant."

Jim Badgett, who used to work for Chandler, said Chandler once asked him to help make recommendations on how to spend a federal grant.

"He just told me to survey the department that made a request to him, and to come up with a cost and submit that back to him," Badgett said.

That, according to Dallas Democratic Party Chairman Susan Hays, is why Chandler is under investigation.

"That is precisely what the Hatch Act is intended to prevent," Hays said. "It's intended to prevent people from running for partisan office while using the power to dispense federal pork."

Maybe it's just me, but federal election law violations seem more relevant to the race for sheriff than Lupe Valdez's endorsement by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Dallas County might not be the most progressive place in the world, but Dallas County does have three openly gay elected officials: Dallas City Councilmen John Loza and Ed Oakley, along with Constable Mike Dupree. Their sexual orientation has come up occasionally in their campaigns, but in general it does not seem to have been a major issue for most voters.

Update: Also via Josh Marshall is news that the Jim Bunning campaign is implying that Democratic senate candidate Dan Mongiardo is gay. (He's not).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at October 29, 2004 06:41 AM | TrackBack

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