An openly gay school board candidate in Friendswood has come under attack over his sexual orientation.
Dakota Carter is running for the Position 2 seat previously held by Matt Robinson, who stepped down to run as a Republican for State Board of Education.
In a public post on the Friendswood Republican Women Facebook page on Aug. 29, Kathy Rogers encouraged people to look at the personal pages of Carter and his opponent, interim school board member Denise Ruiz, before deciding which candidate to support.
In a comment below Rogers’ post, Robinson alleged that Carter “wants to promote the LGBT agenda in our Friendswood schools.”
Carter said Robinson’s comments represent one of several anti-gay attacks against him on social media and via direct message. He added that he has never spoken to any of the individuals behind the attacks.
“The former person who held this position claims I have an LGBT agenda,” he said. “I don’t know what that is. I don’t have an agenda, except to take care of these kids. [But] the gay target on my back is something people have focused on.”
The 30-year-old Carter will face Ruiz, who was appointed to replace Robinson, in the November 6 election. Carter is one of a record 54 openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas this year, and he would be Friendswood’s first out elected official.
Robinson, Ruiz, and an administrator of the Friendswood Republican Women Facebook page could not be reached for comment.
In a subsequent comment, Robinson compared Carter to his opponent in the State Board of Education race, Democrat Elizabeth Markowitz, who’s also openly gay.
“He’s very similar to my opponent in the general election this November — wants to have the LGBT agenda taught and promoted in our public schools,” Robinson said of Carter. “I’ve spent the last 10 years helping to make Friendswood ISD one of the best districts in Texas. Not to mention promoting a character first, family oriented school district.”
In 2016, Carter became the first openly gay person to win his party’s nomination for State Board of Education. He was defeated in the general election by Republican Donna Bahorich. Carter said he’s always been open about his sexual orientation.
“I live my life authentically,” Carter said. “Sometimes it would be more politically expedient to just put my head down and focus on a narrative and bullet points, but we have to recognize that our communities are diverse.”
A first-generation college student from a small town in the Texas Panhandle, Carter served as student body president at the University of North Texas, where he earned his bachelor’s degree before attending medical school at Houston’s UTHealth. Carter, who moved to Friendswood last year, works as a psychiatrist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Carter has co-founded two nonprofits, including one that serves troubled LGBTQ youth.
The election in Friendswood, a relatively conservative and fast-growing suburb, needs to focus on helping kids in the school district, not his sexual orientation, Carter said.
“Education really matters to me, and that’s why I’m running,” he said. “I used to substitute-teach to pay for college, and I spent a lot of time in a first-grade classroom. I found a love for kids that are struggling. I had a bunch of kids with anything from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and special needs.”
Having grown up with ADHD and a speech impediment, Carter said has a passion for helping youth.
“I just really have a special spot for making sure that schools are equitable and really taking care of all kids, no matter how they learn.”
Carter, who is just a few weeks into his campaign, said he has been surprised by the vitriol from some Friendswood residents.
“In my previous race, my sexual orientation definitely came up,” he said. “It’s coming up more in this recent race. It seems to be the sticking point. If you can’t attack someone’s credentials or their knowledge, attack them on a personal level.”
Despite the comments online, Carter has no plans to change his campaign strategy.
“I have planned to engage with the community and meet people, and that invitation is still open to anybody,” he said.
If elected, he will make increased safety at schools a focal point, something that has been on his mind since the Santa Fe shooting in May that killed 10 people and wounded more than a dozen others, Carter said.
“Santa Fe is 15 minutes from here,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a while now, and there are a lot of kids at risk for violence, for doing these tragic, horrible events. Prevention starts with training our counselors and teachers to recognize those kids, and having interventions. I think that’s incredibly important.”
This race is about representing everyone in a community, regardless of sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, Carter said.
“Every one of those people should have a voice,” he said. “We need to have a school board that’s engaged. Some people who have been on the board have been on the board since I’ve been in 8th grade. I think new ideas and innovation are so vital.”
He added that he’ll strive to run an authentic and honest campaign in the coming weeks, and that includes being transparent about his sexual orientation.
“I would not be walking the walk if I was hiding who I was just to get into political office,” he said. “It’s taken a while to get to that level of comfort, but I refuse to be anybody but me.”