And it’s John Cook, outgoing Mayor of El Paso.
Former El Paso Mayor John Cook will seek the Democratic nomination for Texas land commissioner in 2014, he told the El Paso Times Wednesday night.
“I think it’s an embarrassment to the city of El Paso, being one of the largest cities in the United States, that we’ve never had a candidate elected to a statewide office,” Cook said after attending a talk at the Wyndham Hotel by the Rev. Barry Lynn of Citizens United for Separation of Church and State.
There’s a brief video clip at the link, in which Cook adds that other than Judge Bill Moody, there have basically been no candidates for statewide office from El Paso. I’m glad he has decided to change that. Among the things Cook was known for as Mayor of El Paso was passing a domestic partner benefits ordinance, which led to a recall effort against him and two other Council members that he ultimately survived after a court threw out the petitions. The HuffPo had a great story about Mayor Cook and the fight he led for domestic partner benefits in El Paso.
Deep in the heart of Texas, Cook has taken a stance on rights for gay and lesbian couples. And the former Catholic seminarian and Brooklyn native is arguing with his opponents in the words of a man who’s unafraid of a fight.
“To me this was always about bigotry,” Cook said. “Intolerance is bigotry.”
The path toward the recall efforts began in 2009, when the city council approved benefits for domestic couples — both gay and straight. Religious leaders quickly caught on, and in the ensuring firestorm they proposed a referendum to ban those benefits. It passed with 55 percent of the vote in 2010. But Cook wasn’t done just yet — with the help of most of the city council, he had a different partner benefits ordinance approved.
Cook said he is willing to fight — and in terms that might surprise some. He noted that “all of my education in New York City, all the way up through Saint Francis College, was in Catholic school.” He even spent a year in seminary after college.
“I read the Bible every day,” he said. “I’m challenging the argument that the other side is using, which is trying to make this a moral and spiritual issue. And if they want to argue on that basis, I’m very capable of doing that, too.”
More than 50 percent of El Pasoans do not have health coverage, he noted, and it would violate everything he stands for if the number of people who do have coverage decreased. And the government, he added, has no business enforcing an Old Testament moral code on its citizens.
“Where do I stop?” he asked. “Do I all of a sudden say … when you call 911 when you’re divorced, committing adultery, you ain’t going to get no ambulance or fire truck? And don’t expect me to pick your trash up, because that would be condoning sin?”
“It’s time for elected officials to start taking what they believe in and make it popular, not taking what’s popular and making it what they believe in,” Cook said.
I don’t know about you, but I could sure get behind that. Cook would of course be running against Republican cover boy/dynast George P. Bush. I wish Mayor Cook all the best and hope that he soon has plenty of company on the ticket. Texpatriate has more.