Through the first week of May, the Dallas City Council race in downtown, Uptown and Oak Lawn was relatively quiet. Incumbent Philip Kingston had easily won reelection in 2015 and 2017. The Dallas Morning News had endorsed one of his opponents, David Blewett, but that was hardly a shock. The paper's editorial page could've talked itself into endorsing Stalin over the happily combative Kingston, who's spent his six years on council advocating for ideas the paper thinks are too progressive for Dallas.
That changed May 4. Blewett upset Kingston in the first round of Dallas' municipal election, racking up more than 47% of the vote. The two headed to a runoff, thanks to pro-Confederate statue spoiler candidate Warren Johnson. Over the last couple of weeks, as the District 14 electorate has gotten to know Blewett, battle lines have been drawn. Kingston's supporters, led by the Oak Lawn LGBTQ community, have gone after Blewett as unsuitable to represent their community, while Blewett and a band of online defenders have dug in, determined to hang onto their five-point first-round advantage.
Scrutiny of Blewett has increased, along with his chances of being elected. As he's made his case, he's struggled to convince his potential LGBTQ constituents that he'll represent them as fiercely as Kingston has during his six years at City Hall. Take Back Oak Lawn — an LGBTQ-focused advocacy group that's never endorsed a political candidate — crystallized the community's concerns about Blewett in what it called a "ballot warning."
"We have long maintained a policy of not weighing in on electoral politics, but when the outcome of an election presents danger for our community, a roadblock to progress in Oak Lawn, LGBTQ issues, and the possibility that the LGBTQ community will find itself without an ally in half of the gayborhood, we feel we must speak up. This candidate has behaved in ways that we find concerning and believe deserve deep scrutiny," the group said in the warning.
"Blewett refused to fill out the Stonewall Democrats questionnaire, he views attending Pride as an embarrassing political requirement, he failed to adequately address (or understand) the issues facing trans people in Dallas, and he dodged many many requests and pleas from the LGBTQ community to hold an open public forum where the community could ask direct questions or see him engage in a debate with the incumbent," Take Back Oak Lawn co-founder John Anderson told the Observer on Friday via Facebook Message. "Maybe he doesn't think he needs the LGBTQ vote? He was certainly very vocal about his resistance to renaming schools named after Confederate figures in 2017."
Blewett hopped into the comments following Take Back Oak Lawn's warning being posted to Facebook.
"I am 100% committed to supporting and advocating on behalf of LGBTQ issues," he wrote. "Every point in this post is out of context or shaded. My hope is that I can prove to everyone that I would be a representative that you can count on when tragedies like Mahlaysia (sic) Booker's murder occurs or even when general violence occurs against anyone vulnerable in our communities. I look forward to productive engagement and will be a true friend to the LGBTQ community. Please email me if you have any specific questions or if I can arrange a happy hour to address any concerns. Thanks. David@Blewett.com."
He didn't explain what exactly was shaded or out of context about the group's claims, so the Observer reached out to talk to Blewett about his relationship with Dallas' LGBTQ community, the state of the election and how he feels about attending Pride.
"Let's be clear (when I'm at Pride), I'm going to be wearing my campaign shirt. I don't like doing that because I do think some of these events should be non-political," Blewett says. "(I believe) they should just be community oriented, but I'm going to be there and I'm going to be wearing a political shirt. We're going to have political beads, for God's sake ... I think I need to do a little bit more outreach — a lot more outreach — to the LGBTQ community, so I want it known that I'm there. Does that make it political, yeah. Do I like (that it's political), no."
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Being in a campaign forces him to consider different things when making decisions about how to spend his time than he would otherwise, Blewett says.
"In my world, I have lots of things going on all the time, so you make decisions on 'Do I go to my son's football game or do I go to the Pride event?" Blewett says. "There are trade-offs, but I'm in a campaign right now so I don't want to get into the rabbit hole of saying that it's only political. No. There's no absolutes here.
"You know what they're doing. If you look at the raw numbers — me and my mouth, right? You know me well enough — the only way Philip beats me is if he radicalizes Oak Lawn. That's it. So, they're going to come at me with everything in the Oak Lawn area. Everything. They're going to scare people and tell them all kinds of B.S. because that's the only reservoir of votes that he can find. You want to talk politics, that letter from Take Back Oak Lawn is 100% politics."