The predominantly red state may pose a formidable foe, but Democrat Jeffrey Payne is ready for the challenge.
Jeffrey Payne is no stranger to diversity, but it may take a little more than that to secure him a place at the governor’s office, replacing the current one, Republican Greg Abbott.
The openly gay, 49-year-old Democrat is not really worried about what others think of his candidacy; he is raring to make a change in the conservative state.
Payne was the winner of International Mr. Leather in 2009, and among his other businesses, he also runs The Dallas Eagle, a gay club which falls under the umbrella of an international system of BDSM nightclubs with “Eagle” in their titles. There is also an affiliation right here in San Diego.
His announcement came last week just before a special legislative session regarding a “bathroom bill,” in which Texans would be allowed to use the restroom of which they identify.
"Texas needs a Governor who believes in Real Texas Values, like integrity, honesty, freedom and independence,” Payne said in a statement. “We need to stop wasting our time and money on trivial legislation and start investing in finding ways to help Texans, their families, and their businesses prosper."
In an interview, Payne doesn't think Texans will concentrate on sexuality or his association with the BDSM community at the polls.
“If we don’t have compromise, and compassion for one another, we’re never going to reach a resolution,” he said in an interview.
Payne’s platform includes changes to the education system and gun safety. He would also like to focus on foster care since he was a part of that system in his youth.
“I believe it was an experience that gave me the ability to have empathy and sympathy for people who are in that situation," He told The Texas Tribune. "This would help me shape Texas' system because I'd make sure that we're not leaving any children behind — whether its in the adoption or the foster care sector — and that we're giving them every opportunity we can to succeed.”
The last time a Democratic governor was elected was back in 1991 when Ann Richards took the office. Payne is not sure why the state can’t get more Democrats to run. But, the election won’t happen until November 2018 so there is still time.
“I’m running no matter who they find,” said Payne. “This is a job I would take very seriously and would be No. 1 on my list of things to do, but it’s not my career. I believe public service is something we should do where we’re not depending on that to supplement our living. We should all have careers outside of politics and serve out of a duty and love for our state.”
The candidate is going to give $2.5 million to his campaign, but with Abbott ready to spend $41 million, that might make his prospects a little more daunting. Still, he is not worried.
“I have no doubt we’ll be able to raise quite a bit of money and we’ll use any donations we receive in a very smart and effective manner," he said.
Payne will have to compete with conservative campaigns, and they may attack him with an obvious strategy.
“I won’t be surprised no matter what they throw at me. Some may throw the ‘gay’ issue at me, some may throw out ‘he owns the bar’ or ‘he has no political experience,’ plus whatever someone decides to invent," he said. "It’s politics and all I’m going to do is go out there and show them exactly why I’m the governor for all the people of Texas and that’s what I’ll concentrate on."
The candidate is ready for the challenge and eager to move forward the best he can.
"They’ll throw everything and the kitchen sink at me," he said. "And I welcome it."