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Lesbian sheriff wins Dem nomination in Texas gubernatorial race

Valdez now faces uphill battle in challenging GOP incumbent

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Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez won the Democratic nomination to become governor of Texas. (Photo courtesy Valdez campaign)

Former Dallas County Sheriff and out lesbian Lupe Valdez won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night to take on anti-LGBT Republican incumbent in the upcoming Texas gubernatorial election.

According to results from The New York Times, Valdez secured 53.1 percent of the vote in the Democratic run-off compared to the 46.9 percent won by her competitor, businessperson Andrew White. After polls closed in Texas at 7 p.m., the Associated Press called the race a few hours later at 9:37 Central Time.

Valdez, who was endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is the first out lesbian to win the nomination of a major political party and now proceeds to the general election against Gov. Greg Abbott. If successful, Valdez could become the first openly gay person elected governor in the United States, although other openly gay candidates in 2018 are seeking that distinction.

Annise Parker, CEO of the Victory Fund and former Houston mayor, said in a statement Texas “made history” by nominating Valdez to take on Abbott.

“While bigoted state legislators in Austin continue to divide the state and target our community, Texans are voting for LGBTQ candidates because we are authentic, values-driven leaders who deliver on promises,” Parker said. “That is why Lupe won, and we will work hard to expose Gov. Abbott’s cynical politics of divisiveness and showcase Lupe’s positive agenda for Texans over the next five months.”

Valdez is set to take on a governor of Texas who has built a substantial anti-LGBT record. Abbott has signed an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” adoption bill into law, urged the Texas Supreme Court to undermine the 2015 ruling for marriage equality nationwide and called a special session of the state legislature to pass anti-transgender bathroom legislation, which lawmakers ultimately rejected.

But Valdez faces an uphill battle in challenging a Republican incumbent in a “red” state. The new Democratic nominee must overcome a 10-point gap in the polls and Abbott’s $40 million war chest.

In an interview with the Washington Blade earlier this month, Valdez said she’s prepared for the challenge.

“Ten points is the closest we’ve been in over 10 years,” Valdez said. “The prior people that have run have not gotten that close, and we haven’t even started running against him. We’re not even calling him out or going to him on anything.”

Already sexual orientation has become an issue in the race. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Abbott’s re-election campaign launched a new website that blasts Valdez as “wrong for Texas,” and indirectly notes she’s a lesbian.

The 30-second ad shows a photo of Valdez and cites this quote from her on abortion rights in late January: “My partner is a very strong, independent chiropractor. For me to try to tell her what she should do with her body, she would tell me what to do with my mouth.” The quote is a reference to Valdez’s partner, Lindsay Brown.

Asked by the Dallas Morning News if the Republican incumbent was trying to reinforce that Valdez is gay, Abbott spokesman John Wittman reportedly replied, “The quote is a way to remind people that Lupe Valdez is anti-life, pro-abortion.”

In a written response to the ad, Valdez told the Dallas Morning News she’s a Texas native, a product of Texas public schools and a former Army reservist and law enforcement officer.

“I know first-hand the importance of looking out for all Texans not just corporations and well connected CEOs,” Valdez is quoted as saying. “The ‘New Texas’ that I’m fighting for is one where all Texans have opportunities to succeed. There is nothing too liberal about that.”

Valdez wasn’t the only candidate to face a primary Tuesday night. Texas, Georgia, Kentucky and Arkansas each had elections.

• Also in Texas, out lesbian Iraq war veteran Gina Ortiz Jones clinched the Democratic nomination in a run-off against Rick Treviño in her bid to represent Texas’ 23rd congressional district in the U.S. House. Jones will challenge Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) in what is rated as a toss-up race.

• In Kentucky, former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray came up short in his primary to win the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S. House in his state’s sixth congressional district. In a six-way race, Marine Corps veteran Amy McGrath won 48.7 percent of the vote compared to the 40.5 percent won by Gray.

• Also in Kentucky, David Ermold, one of the gay men who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis after she refused to give him a marriage license, came up short in his bid to obtain the Democratic primary to challenge her for her position. Winning the nomination instead was Elwood Caudill Jr., who works just across the hall from Davis as a 20-year veteran of the Property Valuation Administrator’s office. According to the Associated Press, Caudill ran a low-key campaign and promised not to make same-sex marriage an issue.

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The White House

White House says U.S. made clear WNBA’s Griner ‘unjustly detained’

The U.S. government “is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” the White House said

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Air Force One arrives at Torrejón Air Base outside Madrid, Spain June 28, 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube VOA)

MADRID, Torrejón Air Base, Spain – White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday he has spoken in the last few days with the wife of Brittney Griner as part of a larger effort within the Biden administration to secure the release of the Out lesbian basketball player in Russia whom supporters say is being unlawfully detained.

Sullivan made the comments speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One during President Biden’s trip to Europe in response to a question about efforts within the Biden administration to bring Griner home ahead of her expected trial in Russia.

“So first, Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained, and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan said. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

Sullivan added he — as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have spoken with Griner’s wife Cherelle, to “convey our very deep sympathy, to convey that, you know, we just can’t even begin to imagine what the family must be going through, what Brittney — what Brittney must be going through.”

Griner, a professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury within the Women’s National Basketball Association, was detained in February by Russian Customs on allegations that cartridges of hashish oil were found in her luggage. Griner had gone to Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season.

Sullivan said the U.S. government “is actively engaged in trying to resolve this case and get Brittney home,” but added he’s constrained in what he could say because of confidentiality about the sensitive issue.

“But I will tell you it has the fullest attention of the president and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team,” Sullivan said. “And we are actively working to find a resolution to this case, and will continue to do so without rest until we get Brittney safely home.”

The Biden administration, Sullivan added, is additionally working to return all unjustly detained Americans and hostages being held overseas,” including detainees in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Venezuela, and China.

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the State Department for a readout on Blinken’s role in the Biden administration’s talks with Griner.

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Illinois

Chicago mayor exercises her 1A at Pride, vid-clip viral in right-wing spaces

Gregory Pratt, the Chicago Tribune reporter whose beat includes covering Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Hall tweeted a video of the mayor

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Photo Credit: Twitter/Mayor Lightfoot

CHICAGO – Speaking to attendees at the Windy City’s Pride festivities this past weekend, Out Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spotted a man wearing a pink tank-top that read, “Fuck Clarence Thomas” and incorporated the phrase into her remarks on stage.

Gregory Pratt, the Chicago Tribune reporter whose beat includes covering Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Hall tweeted a video of the mayor which according to Pratt has now gone viral in right-wing spaces.

In another tweet Pratt clarified the incident:

Mayor Lightfoot on Monday afternoon after the Tribune article and Pratt’s tweet were active posted her take on Twitter:

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Congress

House passes resolution demanding Brittney Griner’s immediate release

Detained WNBA star’s trial to begin on July 1

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A participant in the Capital Pride parade parade in D.C. demands Brittney Griner's release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — In a resolution passed on June 24 by the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers called on Russia to immediately release detained WNBA star Brittney Griner. 

Griner was first arrested in Russia in the days leading up to its invasion in Ukraine. Authorities have charged her with drug trafficking after claiming that she attempted to pass through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while in possession of cannabis oil. 

The House’s resolution, introduced in May by U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Colin Allred (D-Texas), made multiple demands of Russia, including that the country “immediately release Brittney Griner,” provide her with consular access and humane treatment and that the U.S. “raise the case of Brittney Griner and to press for her release” in all its dealings with the Russian government.

“This legislation insists on our embassy personnel having access to Ms. Griner and restates our commitment to freeing her now,” Lee said in a statement after introducing the resolution. “We continue to pray for her family and we will continue to work together as three members of Congress, along with others, to spread the message that she is held wrongfully and must be freed now.”

The resolution also expressed support for both Griner’s family and for “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.”

Allred, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, took to Twitter following the passage of the resolution.

“I’m proud the House has spoken in passing our resolution and calling for Brittney Griner’s swift release,” Allred wrote. “Every day an American is held abroad is a lifetime, and I will keep working with @POTUS to do all we can to bring home every American detained abroad.”

Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, welcomed the House’s passage of the resolution this past weekend.

“[Rep.] Stanton and many others are continuing to work with the White House, State Department and Brittney’s family to secure her safe return home,” the team wrote on Twitter.

The resolution comes after reporting revealed missteps on the part of the U.S. government in handling communication related to Griner’s detention. 

According to past reporting, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow failed to connect Griner with outside phone calls permitted by the Russian government when Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, attempted to call her. Cherelle Griner reportedly called 11 times on June 18 on the couple’s fourth anniversary but was unable to reach her wife due to what the State Department claimed to be a “logistical error.”

While the resolution is being heralded by its supporters, it contains no provisions intended to enforce the House’s demands for the release and humane treatment of Griner and others held by Russia. With less than one percent of criminal defendants in Russia being acquitted, it is unclear whether the resolution will do anything to persuade the country’s courts to permit Griner’s release.

Griner appeared in Russian court on Monday for a preliminary hearing prior to her trial that has now been scheduled to begin on July 1. It was also confirmed by Griner’s attorney on Monday that her detention had been extended for six months pending her trial. 

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

“We must keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and make clear to the White House that her release should be one of the highest priorities for our government,” Cherelle Griner said in May.

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