The March 2022 midterm primary elections saw a rainbow wave of over 700 LGBTQ candidates nationwide. Locally, there are still three out contenders who need your vote in this month’s runoff elections.
Steve Duble, Ben Chou, and Jolanda Jones face runoff challengers on May 24 after receiving less than 50 percent of the vote in March. Early voting takes place May 16–20, and the last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is May 13.
Duble, who is running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Place 2, won 26.5 percent of the vote and faces opponent Sonia Lopez, who won 41.1 percent of the vote. Chou, who is running for County Commissioner Precinct 4, received 24.6 percent against opponent Leslie Briones’ 33.9 percent. State Representative District 147 contender Jolanda Jones garnered 41.3 percent of the vote against Danielle Keys Best’s 19.9 percent. Jones and Best will also face off in the special general election on May 7 to fill the unexpired term of retiring Representative Garnet Coleman, who has endorsed Jones to replace him. The May 7 winner will serve in Austin until December 31 of this year.
“It’s actually not as hard on the candidates as you might think, because my runoff opponent and I are the only candidates for the special election,” Jones says. “It basically feels like one long, extended campaign. But it is terribly confusing for voters. They are the ones that have to sort through all the different voting dates and ballots.
“We’re cutting through the confusion by asking voters to complete “The Jolanda Two-Step” with us. Step 1: Vote in the Special Election on May 7 or vote early April 23–May 3. Step 2: Vote in the Runoff Election on May 24 or vote early May 16–May 20.”
Chou gave his staff a breather after the primary, but they are now hard at work again. “To help our team avoid experiencing burnout over the course of the 12 weeks before the runoff election, we decreased the number of work hours per week and increased the gasoline reimbursement to account for higher gas prices,” he says. “This campaign is as much about our team’s well-being as it is about winning votes. Our staff and volunteers are at their best when they are well rested and motivated to succeed. A positive work environment begets a successful campaign.”
For Duble, the runoff is his final step in the Harris County race, since there are no Republican challengers in November. “We are excited to have achieved our goal of making it into the runoff in a very competitive five-person race,” Duble says. “We have already laid out our plans to transform the JP court into a point of connection to a wide range of legal and supportive services. Having secured the endorsements of most of the major political endorsing organizations and two of our former opponents, we are now focused on talking to voters directly, which is rewarding and energizing. JP courts can do more than just process paperwork. They can serve our community, help people access the resources they need, and work toward equitable solutions to problems that harm everyone, such as evictions. For me, this position is not a stepping stone on the way to higher office—it is where I want to spend the rest of my career because the JP courts can and should work better, and I’m ready to put my experience to work making sure that it does.”
Volunteers are also the key to Chou’s runoff campaign. “Our strategy is ambitious: we plan to contact every likely voter multiple times, whether it be by knocking on their door or calling their phone,” he says. “As the only candidate in this race who refuses to accept pay-to-play donations from County vendors, we are fully focused on recruiting volunteers to help us get the word out.”
Jones is quick to sum up what is at stake in this election, especially for young queer voters: “On a personal level, I’d like to encourage young LGBTQ+ people to get involved in politics. Please come join me. Don’t be scared. Demand to be a part of this political system. Be your authentic self unapologetically. America needs us—as does Texas, especially. We can compete with anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or identity. Non-LGBTQ people need to see us doing and being and existing just like them. We are not anomalies. We are them, and they are us. We must put ourselves in positions to make laws that protect the people in the cities, counties, states, and country that we live in. We need to be at the table creating policy and laws, rather than being the meal on that same table. I’d rather us eat than be eaten.”
Important dates for the May runoff elections:
May 13 – Last day to apply for a ballot by mail (received, not just postmarked)
May 16 – First day of Early Voting by personal appearance
May 20 – Last day of Early Voting by personal appearance
May 24 – Election day, and last day for mail-in ballots to be received
For a list of polling locations, visit harrisvotes.com.
This article appears in the May 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.