Dallas may soon be the first American metropolis with a gay mayor. That is, if 54-year old Ed Oakley wins Saturday’s run-off. A three-term city councilman, Oakley’s fighting Tom Leppert for the honor. Certainly gay politicos are nothing new in this day and age, but Oakley’s win would signal a new era for not only Dallas, but Texas: President Bush’s home state.
Houston Chronicle explains the state’s :
This once-conservative stronghold has by all accounts become more diverse, more cosmopolitan and more politically liberal. But as city voters have become aware of Oakley’s sexual orientation – which had not been prominently discussed in news coverage until last week – his campaign staff and key supporters said they are finding they are not quite living in freethinking Paris or Berlin, both led by gay mayors.
They say that wider knowledge of Oakley’s sexual background – which he tersely acknowledges in interviews and debates – is hurting him in a Bible Belt city that remains home to scores of conservative churches, white and black, whose leaders regard homosexuality as a sin.
Yes, there may be a bit of an outcry against Oakley, but the queer candidate may have a few things going for him.
First, many of the white Evangelicals live in the suburbs, which means they won’t be voting in the election. Second, there’s no massive right wing movement against Oakley. Third, not many people will be voting in the election – period. The Chronicle reports that an estimated 8-10% of voters will turn out for Saturday’s vote. While this may sound like a bad thing, if the majority of these voters are gay friendly – or, at the very least, gay neutral – they won’t be guided by “traditional” values. If that’s the case, they’ll weigh Oakley and Leppert evenly. If gay friendly voters turn out, however, they could help put this queer over the edge.
Washington-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s banking on the gay vote. They helped raise $80,000 for Oakley’s campaign, telling potential patrons:
Winning this mayoral race will not only make history for our community. It will send a message to every American that we can win – even in George Bush’s backyard.
A gay candidate paving the way for a more progressive, inclusive political body? Now that’s something to endorse.
UPDATE: We mentioned there’s no massive movement against Oakley’s mayoral campaign. We may have been wrong. Dallas Morning News passes on word that someone recorded a telephone message urging voters not to vote for Oakley because he’s gay. Oakley’s opponent, Tom Leppert denies any involvement. Naturally…