Some of Our Own

The municipal elections in November include openly gay and lesbian candidates, both first-time office seekers and popular incumbents. WITH EXTRA WEB CONTENT

By Tim Brookover

Lovell is running for her second Council term

Our community needs more GLBT candidates, local political observer David Arpin declared in an essay he wrote for this magazine in November 2005, following a bruising campaign over the antigay marriage amendment to the Texas constitution. Arpin’s call for candidates (“Win It Forward,” November 2005OutSmart) included this observation:

“As a community, we must understand the calculus of supporting and electing our members to office. Everybody in town knows who Annise Parker is. And just about everybody should know that Annise is on track to become our first openly lesbian mayor. But it is not as simple as that. We need a bench, a minor-league team of open GLBTs who are ready to move up the electoral ladder behind Annise…. We have to be able to show that our community can repeatedly get behind candidates and get them elected.”

Two years later, that team Arpin imagined—he serves on the board of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works with GLBT candidates across the nation—seems more of a reality. The ballot for the November 6 municipals elections will include four openly gay and lesbian candidates. Additional GLBT candidates are already contemplating future campaigns for office. In next month’s OutSmart, we profile the Victory Fund “boot camp” training for potential candidates and local activists who have completed it.


Annise Parker, who faces no opponent, is seeking her third term as controller.

City Controller Annise Parker and City Council representative Sue Lovell are certainly two of the most prominent gay/lesbian office holders in the nation. We asked some local savvy political observers in the community to comment on these highly regarded incumbents running for reelection (Parker is unopposed, and Lovell faces one challenger, frequent candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin, owner of the Montrose sports bar Griff’s).

Jeff Reid, Houston Equal Rights Alliance board member emeritus:

“I am very pleased to see what a great speaker Annise has become. She consistently gives touching and insightful speeches, which are both rousing and informative.

“Sue has been working hard for the community by helping to build a strong and supportive city government, and as part of that work it has been very exciting to see Sue take on a role as mentor for great candidates like Wanda Adams, HGLBTPC [Houston GLBT Political Caucus] endorsed candidate for the District D council seat.”

John Nechman, attorney and South Texas College of Law adjunct professor:

“Sincere, graceful, authentic, brave,

brilliant—all of these describe Annise, who may turn out to be the finest public office holder our city has ever had. In the coming term, we know she will continue to fulfill the critical obligations of controller, but we also know she has her eye on a bigger prize, and the next mayor’s race will start early and be crowded. I want to see Team Annise ready to move her ahead of the crowd, reminding Houstonians of her exemplary experience at nearly all levels of city government, and I also want to know her vision for Houston.”

David Arpin, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund board member:

“First, it has been a pleasant change to see that a controller can work with the mayor while still assuring competent oversight of city financial dealings. Because of Annise’s ability to disagree agreeably, we have had the most effective City Controller in at least 25 years. And she has identified and helped the city make critical changes in many areas of administration and management that save our tax dollars.

“Sue has become a real work horse on City Council and exhibits a knowledge of our city and the workings of our City Hall and departments that is exceptional. For a freshman Council member, she has accomplished some significant benchmarks, like the increase in AIDS funding at the health department and neighborhood protection related to graffiti. It is a testament that she has not drawn any serious challengers in her reelection bid.”

Phyllis Randolph Frye, attorney:

“Nothing surprises me about Annise’s work in any capacity. She is always on the top of her game (pardon the pun about game, because she was my women’s softball coach some 20 years ago).

“I wish all Council members would approach their position as a job like Sue does. She soberly and carefully approaches and studies all topics that come her way in this position. I am proud of her in this capacity.”

Two of the candidates on the November ballot are openly gay men seeking elected office for the first time: Ray Ramirez, who is one of seven candidates for City Council At-Large Position 5, and Kevin J. Hoffman, one of two candidates for District 1 on the Houston Community College System board of trustees.
The Houston GLBT Political Caucus political-action committee endorsed Hoffman in his race but endorsed Jolanda Jones, a previous Council candidate and local attorney, for the Position 5 seat. OutSmart asked both Hoffman and Ramirez a few questions about their campaigns .

Kevin J. Hoffman is a candidate for the HCC System board of trustees.

A contractor for Devon Energy, Hoffman and life partner Jesus “Jesse” A. Gonzalez, Jr., live in the Lindale Park neighborhood with their dogs, Milo and Trixie. Hoffman’s campaign website is www.kevinjhoffman.net .

What prompted you to enter the HCCS race as opposed to other local races?
I’m seeking this public service office because I believe HCCS is at a crossroads. It must build on its role in training of tomorrow’s workforce and expand its academic credentials for those who want to transfer to higher-level institutions. I have a vision for how we will make a real difference in both the lives of HCCS students, and that of our community as a whole.
On a more personal note I was inspired by my one of my nephews. His hard work in a dual-enrollment program at San Benito High School in the Rio Grande Valley opened doors for him that would in all likelihood have be closed to him. It is my intent as a trustee to help open more doors of education for more young people who have dreams like his.

What challenges or problems have you experienced as an openly gay candidate?
Being an openly gay candidate has not been an issue for me. I’m known in Houston’s northside Houston communities as having paid my dues as an activist citizen that cares genuinely about the communities across this district. I have earned respect within district as someone that without regard to orientation race, religion, and political persuasion as one that has and can take real action to build bridges, to tear down walls, and solve the problems.
I have focused on and become knows as one of the outspoken voices on many issues that effect many northside neighborhoods, including rail and other mobility issues, nuisance bars/cantinas, weeded lots, graffiti, gangs, crime, etc. It is though my many volunteer efforts on these issues that I have gained the respect of many civic and community leaders of the Near Northside and other neighborhoods.

If you are elected, what is the primary goal that you hope to achieve?
I want to seek new programs that will nurture business partnerships and promote economic development, particularly within the area of Northeast College. Expansion of the METRO rail line to Northline Mall is an incredible opportunity for our area to attract and engage in the similar, dynamic, and quality growth that has benefited the tax base of other neighborhoods. We must be prepared and plan for this unprecedented opportunity, the likes of which have not presented themselves since this area was initially developed.

Ray Ramirez is a candidate for City Council At-Large Position 5.

A long-time community figure active in several organizations, Ramirez was named male grand marshal of the Pride Parade in 2006. He works as a hairdresser at the Hairitage salon and lives in the Memorial Park area. His campaign website is www.rayramirezhouston.com .

What prompted you to run for the City Council now?
This is a good time for me to run. This race is wide open with no incumbent. My job will be to represent all the voters; however, my friends and I feel it’s time we had a qualified gay man on City Council. It’s the logical next step for our community’s greater acceptance.

Is this your first race for public office?
This is my first as the candidate. I’ve worked behind the scenes politically for a long time. I’ve always opened the door for everyone else. Now I want to put to work what I’ve learned as a graduate of the Victory Fund’s training for candidates. In the past I’ve been elected to various boards and committees of cultural and fundraising groups like SPARKS after-school parks programs, the film festival, the GLBT History Tent [a GLBT Pride event in 2006], the Holocaust Museum, AVES, and spent 17 years helping Bunnies on the Bayou raise over half a million dollars for local medical charities. My church chose me to chair their anniversary celebration and sent me to Mexico to help expand our outreach in Latin America. I’ve served as PAC [political-action committee] chair for the Caucus and was elected Parade Grand Marshal in 2006.

What challenges or problems have you experienced as an openly gay candidate?
So far I’ve faced the same challenges as any other candidate. The voters mainly want to talk about taxes and city services. However, things may heat up if we have a runoff. I’m ready.

Have you had to deal with any openly expressed homophobia?
I’ve been out so long that most people judge me on the important things in life. I’m lucky. Being completely out is liberating. This is why I’ve worked to help others gain the acceptance and respect they deserve.

If you are elected, what is the primary goal that you hope to achieve?
I’ve got several goals. On Council, I’ll use my talent as a consensus builder to address our city’s infrastructure, safety, and mobility issues, tackle our long-term budget concerns, find permanent recruitment solutions to our shortage of police cadets, and help coordinate with city, county, and state leaders to improve our area disaster evacuation plans. Many people in the community know you from your salon. Do you still work there?
I’ve worked for several years at the Hairitage salon on Bammel in the River Oaks area, where I own my own business but lease space from my friends. My job gives me an opportunity to interact with lots of small business owners and professionals. It’s a great chance to hear what’s on the minds of three generations of the public: their hopes and fears, their opinions on the news of the day and what they think politicians should be doing—great training for me. I have, however, taken the pledge to be a full time Council member. Go ahead and ask my opponents if they’ll be showing up full time. You might be surprised.

Steve Kirkland

Judge Steven Kirkland has announced his candidacy for the 215th Civil District Court of Harris County, a 2008 race. Kirkland, a municipal civil court judge appointed to the bench in 2001 by then-mayor Lee Brown, is gay. Kirkland graduated from Rice University and earned his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. He has been recognized for his efforts in historical preservation and the development of affordable housing and work on behalf of the homeless. In December 2006, Kirkland received the Government Friend of the Homeless Award from the Coalition for the Homeless in Houston and Harris County for his development of the Homeless Recovery Court, the first such court in Texas.
In addition to Steve Kirkland, Houston has two other gay jurists: John Paul Barnich was the first openly gay municipal judge in the city, appointed in 1999. Barbara Hartle was appointed an associate municipal judge in 2006.

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus political-action committee has made the following endorsements:

City Controller
Annise Parker
City Council At-Large 2
Sue Lovell
City Council At-Large 3
Melissa Noriega
City Council At-Large 4
Ron Green
City Council At-Large 5
Jolanda Jones
City Council District B
Jarvis Johnson
City Council District C
Anne Clutterbuck
City Council District D
Wanda Adams
City Council District H
Adrian Garcia
City Council District I
James Rodriguez
HISD District 4
Paula Harris
HCCS Trustee District 1
Kevin J. Hoffman

These candidates, endorsed after a vetting process that began last summer, will speak at the monthly caucus meeting on October 3, 7 p.m., at the Havens Center at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

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