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Jerry Simoneaux

Here come the LGBT candidates

Keep your eyes on these folks.

Fran Watson

At least four Houstonians are among the numerous LGBTQ Texans eyeing campaigns in 2018 and 2019. One of the Houston candidates has formally announced, and three others are strongly considering runs.

“People are fed up, and they want a better Texas,” said Fran Watson, who’s considering running as a Democrat in Texas Senate District 17, which covers parts of Harris, Brazoria, and Fort Bend counties. That district is currently represented by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston).

“Texans deserve leaders who have the everyday issues of Texans in mind, rather than focusing on who uses what bathroom,” said Watson, an attorney who serves as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Huffman voted in favor of Senate Bill 6, the anti-transgender “bathroom bill.”

“There are people in the district who are hurting, and I know how to identify with these people,” Watson said. “I also have the skill set to draft legislation to help them.”

[…]

Other potential LGBTQ candidates are eyeing Houston City Council races in 2019. Ashton Woods, the founder of Black Lives Matter: Houston, said he may run for either the District K or an at-large seat. District K is represented by Council Member Larry Green, who will be term-limited in 2019.

“We have to stand up and fight back,” Woods said. “People are being left behind and treated as nonexistent. People have basic human needs—if they are missing a meal, they can’t think about fighting back. We had Donald Trumps before there was a President Trump. They are in our backyards and in elected offices. We need to fight the Trumps in our backyards.”

Nelvin Adriatico, who owns a Sugar Land real-estate firm, is considering a run for the District J seat held by openly gay Council Member Mike Laster, who is also term-limited.

Adriatico has been involved with the highly successful back-to-school backpack program in District J. He said he wants to focus on education, small business, and combatting domestic violence.

“If you have a voice, it can be magnified by serving in an elected office,” Adriatico said, adding that he watches the news every day and is troubled by what Trump is doing.

“I have friends who are minorities and immigrants,” said Adriatico, who would be among the first openly LGBT Asian-Americans elected to public office in Texas. “We’ve got to raise our voices and make a change.”

Watson is no longer the President of the Houston LGBT Political Caucus; she stepped down a few days ago, presumably in advance of announcing her candidacy. I could try to summarize the things she has done in recent years, but better for you to read this OutSmart profile and this Girls Like You And Me interview with her to see just how impressive she is. I know of at least one other person looking at this race, but Watson would be a formidable candidate if she does run.

As for Woods and Adriatico, I hope they have to wait till 2019 to actually run for Council, but I’m glad they’re thinking about it now, just in case. Let’s just say there’s more than a bit of anxiety about the possibility of a mad sprint for candidates this November. The other person mentioned in the story, the one who is already a candidate, is Jerry Simoneaux, who is among the Democratic judicial hopefuls. He’s running for Harris County Probate Court #1, and has a primary opponent. He also happens to be Watson’s law partner. There are a few non-Houston LGBT candidates in there as well. We’ll need to revisit the topic after the filing deadline.

Endorsement watch: Probate courts

The Chron makes its endorsements for Probate Courts, and as they have done recently stayed mostly with incumbents while having nice things to say about the challengers. The one Democrat they recommended out of the four races was as follows:

Jerry Simoneaux

Harris County Probate Court No. 3: Jerry Simoneaux

A former probate court staff attorney, Democratic challenger Jerry Simoneaux is the right choice for this bench. A certified mediator who has practiced probate law for 13 years, Simoneaux, 48, graduated from the South Texas College of Law.

Incumbent Republican Judge Rory Robert Olsen has presided over this court since 1999. With a law degree from Duke University, an LLM from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada, Olsen, 65, has become an expert on the bench when it comes to mental health issues in probate. A prolific writer on the topic, he has recently worked on an assisted-outpatient treatment program with the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County. However, Olsen’s energy has begun to fade, and he has developed a reputation as an inconsistent judge. Voters should thank him for his years of service and send him out on a high note.

As it happens, Simoneaux is the one candidate out of four for whom I have not yet received Q&A responses. I previously published Q&As with James Horwitz and Kim Bohannon Hoesl, and will have one with Josefina Rendon next week.

In other endorsement news, the Chron also endorsed Big John Cornyn for re-election, in decidedly non-ringing fashion. Some choice quotes:

But voters should know that Cornyn is a Republican first and a Texan second. For a man who has served in elected office since 1986, Cornyn remains unfocused on issues of importance to Houston and the Gulf Coast.

Meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, it seemed as if coastal storm surge protection was a new topic for Texas’ senior senator. When asked about his position on the Ike Dike, Cornyn responded, “I don’t even know what that is.”

Discussing the nuances of exporting crude, Cornyn admitted, “I don’t pretend to understand these things.”

Way to make our alma mater proud, John. Elsewhere, the Star-Telegram joined the Sam Houston bandwagon, while the Dallas Morning News joined the chorus of Mike Collier fans. Let me quote a bit from the FWST piece, since it’s about as succinct a case against Ken Paxton as you’ll see:

The Republican nominee, lawyer and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, is undeserving of consideration.

Paxton was fined $1,000 and still may face a felony investigation.

In May, state securities regulators found Paxton sent clients to an investment firm without registering or disclosing his own paid role.

It happened three times. A 2012 violation is within the five-year statute of limitations.

Paxton should know better.

No candidate to lead “the people’s law firm” should ever have misled a client, a state board or the people of Texas.

Anyone want to argue with that? By the way, there apparently was a Ken Paxton sighting the other day, in which Paxton admitted in passive-voice fashion that he had indeed committed a crime but that he stands lawyered-up and ready to fight the charges against him when they are finally filed. If that’s not a compelling campaign story, I don’t know what is.

Finally, the DMN went red in the races for Land Commissioner, Ag Commissioner, and Railroad Commissioner, in the latter case because they valued industry experience more than not being another industry insider, in the former case because they naively think Baby Bush might somehow turn out to be Not That Kind Of Republican, and in the middle case for reasons unclear. Maybe Sid Miller was the only one that showed up, I dunno.

Reminder: GHDC District H candidate forum

The Greater Heights Democratic Club is holding a candidate forum for District H this Thursday.

Please join the Greater Heights Democratic Club for a

Candidate Forum for the upcoming City of Houston, District H, Special Election.

Place: Reagan High School HCDP headquarters, 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110 (just East of Ella).
Date: March 19
Doors open: 6:30pm
Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Mr. Jerry W. Simoneaux, Jr – Moderator

Special election is Saturday, May 9
Early Voting begins April 27

I will have all my interviews with District H candidates completed this week. As noted yesterday, they will run two per week over the next few weeks. One way or another, if you live in District H you have opportunities to see and hear these candidates. Please take advantage of them and make an informed choice in May.

UPDATE: Please note the location change for this event.

More on the Union Bar

KHOU has a story on the incident at Union Bar on Friday.

[T]he bar’s owner said it was all a big misunderstanding, and apologized for the incident.

He said since the bar opened late last fall, it has been booked solid with private parties.

The bar is small, with a total occupancy of 117 people.

The owner said private parties often fill the bar before the doors open to the public.

[…]

Owners at the Union Bar were approached about it Thursday and reserved 50 seats inside.

Word spread, and in the end, they simply couldn’t accommodate the crowds.

The bar’s owner said no one was turned away because of their sexual orientation.

“What Union Bar did was, technically, in line with the law. They had the right to do that,” [Jerry] Simoneaux said.

The bar’s owner said his establishment has always been gay friendly, and he’s willing to prove it.

He said he plans to reach out to Houston’s gay community to clear up what he insists is just a misunderstanding.

That does cast a different light on things; mostly, it sounds like a communications failure on multiple levels. At the very least, whoever was telling folks they couldn’t enter should have given them an accurate reason for the denial – that might have avoided all the fuss. I’m glad that the bar is taking this seriously, and I hope all sides can come to an accommodation in the end.

Along those lines, the United Against Union Bar Facebook group has printed a response from the bar:

Regarding the night of Friday 3-10-2009. “The staff and management at Union Bar are very apologetic for the misunderstanding that happened at their place of business. Union Bar in no way refuses entry to any persons due to sexual orientation, race, gender or religion. We do have a capacity of 117 persons as set forth by the City Of Houston and The Fire Marshal. We follow this guild line to the letter for guest and employee safety. This was the main factor or refusing entry Friday night. Persons have booked parties 6 to 7 weeks in advance and have limited of RSVP so their guests have the right to entry first. The Guest in question was allowed to bring his 50 RSVP guest. His party showed up at 10 with approximately 200 guests and could in no way accommodate that. We offered to take all 50 guests and he demanded that we let in all. Accordance to city code we could not allow this. At no time was the staff of Union Bar rude or uninventive to their needs while inside. At 10pm we were almost at capacity and the enclosed pictures will show that (1) We were almost full (2) We had a very high numbers of male guests that were not turned away.”

We would be open to speak with the GL community on this and help prove to the G&L committee that we are a gay friendly bar!

As Phil notes, this doesn’t quite square with the initial account, at least in terms of how many people were there. Be that as it may, it is encouraging that the bar is taking steps to address the concerns. Whatever the root cause of the problem was, finding a resolution to it is what really matters. I’m hopeful that can happen. More from Equality Texas and Stace have more.

No service for gays

I’d heard bits about this last night on Twitter, but via an email from Carl Whitmarsh I’ve learned the details of a nasty little incident. The following is a press release from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

Nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were refused entry to Union Bar and Lounge in Midtown Friday while others were welcomed.

Patrons started lining up at about 9:40 p.m. and were told to wait in line and not allowed inside, even as straight-appearing people were waved through. As the line grew and patrons waited in the rain, employees at the door told those who were that they were maintaining a “ratio.” Later, the bar employees simply indicated they had the right to refuse anyone.

“I was shocked to be a victim of that kind of discrimination in a city like Houston in 2009,” said Neal Falgoust, a Houston law student. “I have never experienced anything like that before in my life.”

A patron who arrived at the bar early reported that the bar was nearly empty at about 9:40 p.m., when gay people started arriving and were stopped at the door.

Gay people continued to line up to the street and around the corner as people who appeared to be straight went to the front and were ushered in. Kris Banks, who stood at the front of the line, said the bar employees were asking the women who were entering with men if the men were accompanying them. If the men were with the women, they were allowed in.

“I arrived and heard that they were not allowing gay men in, so when I got to the door with three women I asked if we would be allowed in, and the door employee said ‘I was told to keep you out,’ ” said Lindsey Dionne. “This was supposed to be a social event, but now it’s political.”

That this kind of discrimination is still legal in Houston makes it more outrageous. A coalition of GLBT rights groups, including the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, the Harris County Impact Houston and Amicus at South Texas College of Law said Saturday that the incident is proof of the necessity of legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for public accommodations.

“Houston is the only major city in Texas without a law that prevents this kind of discrimination,” said Jerry Simoneaux, GLBT civil rights lawyer. “This incident is exactly the reason Houston should implement such an ordinance.”

The event was organized as Houston’s first “Guerilla Gay Bar,” a tongue-in-cheek event that has been popular in other cities in which GLBT individuals come to traditionally straight bars to interact with other communities. Though Guerilla Gay Bars are usually a surprise event in other cities, Houston organizers informed the bar owner in advance out of courtesy and were told they would be welcomed.

One could charitably presume that there must have been some kind of miscommunication between the bar owner and the bar staff. If so – really, whether or not this is so – some kind of apology ought to be forthcoming from the Union Bar and Lounge for its atrocious behavior. I surely hope they don’t want this incident to be seen as typical for their business.

UPDATE: Hair Balls noted the “Guerilla Gay Bar” concept a couple of days ago. There are now two groups on Facebook for those who want to register their disapproval with the Union Bar.

UPDATE: On Yelp, at least one person who was there last night is disputing this account.