Democrat Jeffrey Payne launches his `outside the box’ candidacy for governor.

 

Good Monday Austin:

On Saturday night, Jeffrey Payne kicked off his campaign for governor of Texas in his hometown of Dallas.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Greg Abbott, the man he hopes to unseat, addressed his campaign’s first Hispanic Leadership Conference, where he appeared less worried about his re-election – that’s pretty much a given – and more concerned about who the next governor after him will be.

From Svitek:

SAN ANTONIO — Greg Abbott may not have a serious opponent for re-election yet, but he is already running against one group in particular: those who say Texas’ Republican governor can’t make further inroads with the Hispanic community in the era of Texas’ “sanctuary cities” ban and Donald Trump.

Abbott made that much clear here Saturday as he addressed his campaign’s inaugural Hispanic Leadership Conference, rallying the Republican crowd against Democrats looking to unseat him — and laying the groundwork for a longer-term push for Hispanic GOP support.

“What we know is whoever they drum up to run against me, we are going to run against and we’re going to defeat,” Abbott said. “But what I want you to know is that far more important than running this race and running to win this race, we are running to win the next generation.” 

Does Abbott have anybody in mind?

Svitek noted that, Most recently, Hispanic Republicans have won election to statewide positions including land commissioner (George P. Bush) and state Supreme Court justice (Eva Guzman).

Bush would seem the obvious guy, though that may depend, as I wrote Sunday, if  he can survive the Alamo and his last name and family brand.

From the Texas Tribune report:

“What we know is whoever they drum up to run against me, we are going to run against and we’re going to defeat,” Abbott said. “But what I want you to know is that far more important than running this race and running to win this race, we are running to win the next generation.”

I wasn’t at Abbott’s appearance in San Antonio Saturday, and I was not in Dallas for Payne’s announcement that evening, but I did talk to him earlier in the week.

Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Payne said his husband would introduce him at the rally.

His husband’s name is Sergio Saragoca.

They were legally married in Texas early this year.

JP: After four years of dating. I finally got him to say yes.

Here’s how they met, from their wedding page:

On February 15, 2013, Jeffrey stopped in at Starbucks on a very cold afternoon to get a coffee. Upon arrival, standing in front of him, was a young man named Sergio. Jeffrey said, “Hello” and Sergio said, “Hello”. They each ordered their coffee and due to seating be limited inside of Starbucks, they decided to share a table.

Thus began the greatest love story ever to be told!

Payne has lived  in Dallas for 12 years.

He was In New Orleans for three years before that, and before that in Baton Rouge. He grew up in North Louisiana, in Ruston, in an orphanage, the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home.

What brought you to Texas?

JP: The hurricane (Katrina). You lose your house, your job and everything that goes along with it. I loaded up my two dogs into my car and what possessions I could fit in my car and decided to head to Dallas to start over.

Why Dallas?

It was quite random to be honest. I wanted to move to Texas, but Houston was overwhelmed at the time with the people who had evacuated from New Orleans. Dallas had a lot of people here but not as many as Houston. I thought I would have a better chance at housing here, so I moved to Dallas.

Got a job as an admin assistant with a flooring company here. Stayed with him about four years, then took a year off and started by own court reporting firm, which is what I do during the day. Then I bought into the Dallas Eagle, which is a nightclub here, and since that time bought out the other owners so I’m the sole owner now, which makes decision-making a lot easier, when you don’t have the other partners.

From About The Dallas Eagle:

The Dallas Eagle was founded by Matt Miller and Mark Frazier. In 1995, Mark came up with the idea of opening a leather bar in Dallas because he felt there was a need in the DFW Leather Community. Dallas had a bar that many from the Leather community frequented, but that bar had decided to change to a more progressive atmosphere. The Leather Community was offered a small stand alone building located by the current club.

xxxxxx

The Dallas Eagle developed respected reputation in contest circuits. For ten consecutive years the Dallas Eagle sponsored contestants ranked in the top twenty at International Mr. Leather including two winners of IML, Stephen Webber and Jeffrey Payne. The Eagle’s reputation in the Drummer and Leather Sir/boy contests were equally respected and had nine top three finishers over a twelve-year period

The Dallas Eagle is now located across the parking lot from the original site. The Eagle boasts a larger venue and a huge outdoor patio area. The Eagle continues to be the premier Leather bar in Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth and participate with other organizations in supporting the community through service and fund raising. Likewise, the Eagle continues to be the home of the founding club, Leather Knights along with NLA:Dallas, Discipline Corps, Lone Star Cigar Men, Eagle Bears, United Court of the Lone Star Empire, Dallas Bears, Texas Gay Rodeo Association along with newer groups like DFW Leather Corps and Dallas Diablos. The bar is anchored with the leather shop “Eagle OutPost”.

JP:

Then we started a retail clothing store. And then we started this year a land holding and a property management company. So a lot going on. Dallas has been very good to me. Texas has been very good to me.

Does he do any of the court reporting himself?

No. I have 80 percent hearing loss so I would not be the perfec person to do court reporting if I had to ask people to repeat themselves. We have about 22 court reporters that we work with and we handle pre-trial, depositions, trial work., and the appeals process. Mostly Dallas County.

Have you ever run for office before?

No sir, I have not.

So why in the world would you do this?

I got to the point where I’m tired of seeing what’s happening in Texas, the discriminatory policies, the way people are being treated, the way we are dividing people instead of uniting them.

Originally, I thought we would be doing this in four years, and then when Trump came into office, and I saw that fiasco, and then turned around and saw the special session, where they’re spending $800,000 to a million dollars on a special session to basically promote a bathroom bill. This isn’t where we should be spending our money and our time.

Meanwhile, our property taxes are going up, people are losing access, or never had access to proper health care, women’s rights have been trampled when it comes to their health care. And in all honesty, my husband came home one night and said, “You’re thinking about doing it now and I agree.”

If he didn’t support me running now I would not do it. I mean you have to have your family behind you, first and foremost. He said, “Now is the time to do it.”

Payne said he had planned to run for governor in 2022.

We can’t wait. Now is the time. We need to find the common ground and build from there. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party. Let’s get everyone together.

Socially, I’m very liberal. When it comes to business and fiscal responsibility, I’m quite conservative to be honest with you. I don’t run up debt in my business. I won’t run up debt for the state. You can’t do it.

One budget saving:

Get rid of the Staar Exam. We’re spending $300 to $400 million on that test and we can do away with it, and then we can repurpose that money.

Property taxes.

They’re going up and up and up and up, and yet we’re receiving less for it.

That’s where our energy needs to be spent. Not on bathroom bills and trees, you name it.

We need to prioritize what we’re doing for the benefit of all and not for the benefit of just a few.

We have to get everyone together.

We can’t be making a naughty list of people who don’t agree with me. We’re not serving the public when go around making lists of people that don’t agree. That’s not helping anyone. That’s just further dividing who we are.

No one person has all the answers, so you bring everybody in, not just your friends. Also people that don’t agree with you, bring them in and see what they have to say.

Why start out running for governor?

I understand the question. My answer, we need a gatekeeper who’s not just going to rubber stamp everything coming through the Legislature.

His choice of office, he said, was also  a process of elimination.

Payne said he likes Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Like his city council member.

This wasn’t just I woke up on Tuesday morning and said, “Oh, wouldn’t this be cool.” Believe me, it’s far from that. It was well-thought out. I have the leadership skills. I have the business mind.

Is this campaign more in the nature of making a statement?

No. We’re going all the way. We’re going all the way to Austin.

We know it’s a hill to climb, don’t get me wrong. We’re not ignorant, but we also know that it is possible.

We need to rile the base. There’s usually a hugely low turnout during off-year elections.

Next week we start on a six or eight week travel schedule. Then in January we do another eight weeks.

We believe we have a path to actually winning.

When he filed the paperwork to run in July, the same day that Abbott announced his candidacy for re-election, Payne promised to lend his campaign up to $2.5 million. He said he will do so as needed.

I doubt we’ll reach – what does (Abbott)  have – a $41, $43 million war chest. But we can do a lot more with less. We are getting donations. We are not accepting PAC money or special interest money. Our average right now is like $37.50, which is great.

Payne said he believes, if elected, he would be the first openly gay man elected governor in the United States.

Jim McGreevey was elected governor of New Jersey in 2001, and came out as gay in 2004, and immediately said he would step down as governor.

He was elected, for lack of a better word, as a straight man, and came out on a Tuesday and resigned on a Wednesday. But, I believe I’d be the first openly gay, from the git-go.

Wouldn’t it seem unlikely that Texas would be the path-breaking  state to elect the first gay governor?

If i was on the outside looking in, I’d probably say yes.

The reception we have seen so far at every single meet and greet and forum we have had, every time I have spoken, I have not received any resistance about it. In fact, I actually had someone say, “OK, you’re gay. What are your policies? That’s what we care about.”

They don’t care who I go home and sit across the dining room table from at the end of the day. They want to know what are you able to do for Texas. That’s all they care about.

I believe the stigma of being gay is not – it will resonate with some people, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that some people won’t have an issue with it. I realize there are some people who do. So we take it as it goes, but I do believe, Texas will elect its first governor, who’s also gay.

In your case it’s also the distinction of being  International Mr. Leather, 2009.

It’s basically just a pageant for guys. There’s interviews. There’s formal wear. Honestly, I thought I was about the last person who would win. It surprised me, to say the least.

But, by winning, I was able to travel around the world, I went around the world twice. Went to five different continents. Did a lot of fund-raising. Philanthropy is huge in my life. I believe you pay it forward. You hold fundraisers for those who are less fortunate than yourself and I’ve been very fortunate. And so you pay it forward.

So that title enabled me to learn about different cultures, as well as to fund-raise for organizations around the world.

I wouldn’t change that aspect of my life, ever. It was eye-opening, learning about the different cultures around the world.

The title paid for part of it. They paid for the fist $5,000 of my travel. The rest of it I paid for. The $5,000 didn’t last the first 60 days. Of the 53 weeks I held the title, I traveled 50 of them.

It was something I thoroughly enjoyed and would do it again, but right now I don’t have the time.

Have you talked to the state Democratic Party about your candidacy?

Yes, right after I filed my paperwork, I sat down and met with them. Just before the special session was to start.

They don’t endorse until after primary, which I understand.

They haven’t publicly even acknowledged that I’m running, even though I’m running.

I’ll be flat-out honest, I don’t fit into their box, and, heck, I’ll just say it. I’m a gay guy who’s married. I don’t have the political pedigree behind me. I’m not in their box. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve told everybody, their box hasn’t worked in 24 years, so maybe we need to expand our box.

You will get a lot of press because it will be International Mr. Leather against Greg Abbott.  What the state Democratic Party may be worried about is that it becomes a gag, and it’s not taken seriously, and that it’s a way of saying, look at how pathetic the Democratic Party is in Texas. So the question is can you turn that?

Any time we have a community forum or an interview, I talk about IML – International Mr. Leather – and explain what it is and what it does, and what it did for me and how it helped me to grow as an individual, and then people get it. I have to explain what it is. Most people don’t know what it is. Then when I explain it, it’s “OK, so what are your policies?”

So if the press or the media or individuals make it into a joke type thing, then they are not listening to what it really is. But that’s what I have to do, that’s my responsibility to get out there and explain what IML is. And I think for the most part, people are going to listen and see what an opportunity it was. I think it would be great if everybody could travel the world for a year.

And I do understand where the Democratic Party is coming from. I understand that I am outside the box. But it doesn’t mean I’m any less viable as a candidate. I’ve proven myself. I have a brain in my head. I have run many successful businesses. And I actually run them.

For someone who came to Dallas with a car, two dogs and $2,000 I’m doing pretty well.

I understand where they’re coming from. At the same time I think they could at least acknowledge I am running, which they have not done. They just keep saying, “We’ll find a viable candidate.” What they’re basically saying is I’m not a viable candidate. At least say we have a viable candidate running, but we are looking for others. That to me is acceptable. By saying to the world we’re looking for a viable candidate, you’re saying I’m  not one, and that’s where the are making a mistake.

Tom Wakely of San Antonio, another Democrat who has filed to run for governor, will kick off his campaign on Saturday.

JP:

Yeah, basically you’ve got two viable candidates. At least acknowledge we’re running. At least say we have two people and we’re looking for others. I can live with that. But by not even acknowledging myself or Mr. Wakely, I think it s a disservice to our campaigns, and to the Democrats who supporting either myself or Mr. Wakely.

When I met with the state Democratic Party, they asked me point-blank, “If we find a viable candidate will you step aside?” And I  went, “Well, at this point no. The campaign is up and running, we’re out there, we’ve done the leg work, so no. And thanks for saying I’m not viable.”

I know the Castro brothers have both declined numerous times. and I think a couple of weeks ago, one of them finally said, “No, the answer’s no.”

I believe Mr. (Joaquin) Castro would make an excellent speaker of the House, when Democrats flip the House in 2018. I do believe the Democrats will be in control.

I believe he can do more for the United States, and Texas, as speaker of the House. He’s an incredible young man. I can say that because he’s younger than I am. I enjoy his path on-line and in the news and he is a straight shooter.

How old are you?

I am holding on at 49. In three months, I’ll be 50.

Have you ever met Gov. Abbott.

In person, no, I have never met him in person.

On immigration:

It just doesn’t make sense to put a wall up.

We do need a secure border, but this can of immigration reform has been kicked down the road and kicked down the road. We haven’t done anything and now we have 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States.

You’re not going to round them all up and send them back on a Tuesday. That isn’t going to happen. It’s too big of a task. It’s too big of a cost.

Why aren’t they working, why isn’t the federal government working toward a compassionate resolution, so that these individuals can come out of the dark recesses of the corners of our society and become productive citizens and pay their taxes and pay their Social Security? Some of them are paying taxes and can’t file a tax return for a refund, or if they owe more.

There has to be reform when it comes to immigration and it just seems like no one wants to tackle it. And it is a federal issue, I get that. But as governor (I can be) working with our U.S. representatives, and our governors and senators, in pushing this and saying we need this resolved. We need to figure out how we’re going to end this cycle and stop kicking this can down the road.

Government isn’t easy. Decision-making isn’t easy.

Luckily, I’m one of those who only needs four hours of sleep and my businesses are now to the point, I’m turning them all over, my husband will run them. When I’m governor, I’m a full-time governor. That’s how serious we are about this.

This is not just about making a statement and then we’ll go home next November with our tails between our legs. No. That is not what this is about. This is a truly a campaign for me to become the next governor of the state of Texas. We’re very serious about it. We take every day seriously and that’s what we are going to work toward, to get our message out there so people understand.

Payne said he had thought about running for U.S. Senate or lieutenant governor, but he likes U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Ted Cruz, and Mike Collier, who is running for the Democratic nomination to oppose Dan Patrick.

“I believe he’s the man for the job,” Payne said of O’Rourke. He said he hopes to meet him soon.

Of Collier, he said, “I like him and saw no reason to run against him.”

In 2019, he said, “I will be working with Mike Collier when we are sworn in.”

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