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Why Didn’t The San Antonio Stonewall Democrats Endorse State Sen. Wendy Davis For Governor?

January 27, 2014

During a long afternoon of hearing from local and statewide primary candidates, the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio (SDSA) ended their Sunday marathon meeting with a round of endorsements for potential representatives they consider best equipped to fight (or continue to fight) for LGBT rights. But in the process of backing their favorite political players, the Stonewall Dems failed to endorse anyone vying for (arguably) the most notable race in the state—  a Texas gubernatorial candidate.

The Stonewall Dems love Wendy Davis. So why didn't they endorse her? The answer is in the rulebook. Photo by Mary Tuma

The Stonewall Dems love Wendy Davis. So why didn’t they endorse her? The answer is in the rulebook. Photo by Mary Tuma

According to a release issued this morning, SDSA explain the surprising omission.

While 83 percent of the 90 candidates contacted by the advocacy group returned questionnaires sent out by SDSA—a basic requirement for endorsement consideration—state Sen. Wendy Davis was among those who did not. The Davis camp’s decision to forgo filling out the form expectedly disappointed local equality allies. Her call to investigate a raid at a Forth Worth gay nightclub, the Rainbow Lounge—that left one patron with serious brain injuries and coincidently took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots— her co-sponsorship of anti-bullying legislation, her co-authorship of a LGBT employment non-discrimination bill and her vocal support for SA’s own LGBT non-discrimination ordinance make Davis, a recipient of the 2011 Stonewall Texas Lone Star Equality Advocate Award for being a “strong ally of the LGBT community,” an obvious choice for the advocacy group and one they’d be more than excited to offer.

Bound by their own rules, the SDSA sought to suspend the questionnaire requirement preventing what would be their star endorsement, by a group vote following the six-hour forum.

However, that move didn’t get the two-thirds vote needed to pass, leaving the LGBT rights organization with the remaining Dem candidate, Davis’ primary opponent, Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal. So, what to do when your #1 pick is out of the game and you just can’t warm up to the next best thing? One approach: Take your stake out of the the playing field. SASD approved a motion to, “refrain from endorsing a candidate for Governor in the 2014 Texas Democratic Party primary election, but extend best wishes to both candidates in this race and pledge to support the nominee of the party in the general election in November.” 

In the lead up to the expected rule-suspension vote, a Stonewall Dem representative told the Current on Friday the group hoped to avoid the backlash faced (from  the media and elsewhere) when they refrained from endorsing Mayor Julián Castro last year because he similarly didn’t fill out the required questionnaire. So it became a ‘damned if they do, damned if they don’t’ situation—the SDSA could be seen as loosening the integrity of their endorsement process by striking the rules to back Davis, and on the other hand, might be viewed as abandoning an honored gay rights candidate if they didn’t get behind her.

After a “healthy and professional” discussion among members, it came down to staying true to the bylaws and is no reflection of their support for the state senator, Elena Guajardo, SDSA co-chair says. According to Guajardo’s group, as campaign policy, the Davis team did not fill out any questionnaire submitted by advocacy organizations.

“There is a lot of love for Wendy Davis in our Stonewall Democratic membership,” she says. “But plain and simple, she did not fulfill the requirements.”

“The non-endorsement speaks to the standing rules, not about how we feel about Wendy Davis,” Guarjado reiterated. “We stand for equality in all regards, and this is one of them. We have to stand by our rules and regulations and treat all candidates equally.”

The group did give their nod to U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, SA state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte and State Board of Education District 3 member Marisa B. Perez, among others. A full list of San Antonio Stonewall Democrat endorsements can be found here: SASD March Democratic Primary Endorsements.

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