LGBT ally to challenge rabidly anti-LGBT Rep. Brian Babin.
By Marene Gustin
Longtime Houston radio and TV personality Dayna Steele, a staunch LGBT ally, will formally announce her bid for Congress on Wednesday, May 31.
Steele, 57, who’s running as a Democrat in Texas’ 36th Congressional District, will kick off her campaign at the Clear Lake Hilton at 10:30 a.m.
It was during the Women’s March on Washington, one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, that Steele said she was inspired to take action. Following a few months of research, including conversations with her family and voters in the district, Steele opted to challenge two-term Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Babin.
“I knew I had to do something,” Steele told OutSmart. “I just looked at what was happening to the country, and I knew I couldn’t ignore it. This is the most serious and important thing I’ve ever done.”
Steele said she was approached by Republicans about challenging Babin in the GOP primary, but opted to run as a Democrat instead.
“Two priorities I will not compromise on are pro-choice for women and LGBTQ rights,” she said, adding that her 21-year-old son Dack is experiencing discrimination for being gay for the first time in his life.
In addition to parts of southeast Harris County, the 36th District includes Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Hardin, Orange, Liberty and Chambers counties.
Steele said Babin, who’s represented the district since 2015, is “in lockstep with Trump 100 percent.”
“He supports the Trump budget that cuts health care, federal benefits and even NASA’s educational program,” she said. “These are things the people in this district care about. He’s also supported the releasing of pollution into our streams. We’re downstream of the petro chemical plants; it would be disastrous.”
Babin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He received a zero, the lowest possible score, on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. He’s co-sponsored several anti-LGBT bills and was the author of a proposal to overturn guidance from the Obama administration saying public schools should allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.
“The federal government should not be in the business of throwing common sense and decency out the window and forcing local schools to permit a teenage boy who ‘identifies’ as a girl to use changing rooms, locker rooms and bathrooms with five-year-old girls,” Babin said at the time.
Steele graduated from Dulles High School and enrolled at Texas A&M University at age 16, working at the campus radio station. At 18, she left school for a career in professional radio and reigned for two decades as “the first lady of rock and roll” on Houston airways.
Even though she’s a Houston native and fifth-generation Texan, Steele said she didn’t become aware of the coastal area where she now lives until her early 30s.
“Once I found Clear Lake, I never left,” Steele said. “I fell in love with a NASA pilot and the area. I married that pilot, bought a house on the water, learned to water ski, and can now be found occasionally kayaking around Taylor Lake.”
Professionally, Steele went on to launch an online retail business specializing in space and NASA memorabilia. An early social media adaptor, she also became a successful author and national motivational speaker.
But it will take a lot more than social media savvy and superstar friends for a Democrat to win in the 36th District, which until now has voted solidly Republican. No Democratic candidate has captured more than 27 percent of the vote in the district, which was created after the 2010 Census.
Steele estimates it will cost $5 million, but believes it’s possible to flip the seat. She pointed to the district’s growing LGBTQ and Hispanic populations, as well as its large numbers of current and past federal employees, and water sports enthusiasts.
“I’m running as a Democrat, sort of a rebel one, but I’m really running as an America, putting country over party,” Steele said. “My heart is true and my passion is strong. We just have to get people to the polls next year.”
Steele considers Houston’s Annise Parker, the first LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city, to be a friend and mentor. Parker, now a fellow at Rice University, said she will be happy to cheer Steele on and give her advice.
“What I am seeing across the country is more and more women stepping up to run for office and I say it’s about time,” Parker said. “It’s our time.”
Steele’s website is daynasteele36.com.