Jeffrey Payne says it’s time for change in Texas, which is why the openly gay Dallas democrat is making a bid for governor.
“I think the ones who are gonna clutch their pearls, have already clutched them,” Payne said. “Some people think I woke up on a Tuesday and just decided to do it. But that is very far from the truth.”
Payne contemplated the run for nearly a year, finally deciding to file the official paperwork this month.
His journey to Austin won’t be an easy one: Payne is running against Gov. Greg Abbott – one of the most popular, and well-funded incumbents in state history.
Abbott, who has been governor since 2015, launched his re-election campaign in San Antonio just days before the start of the special legislative session.
“Yes, (Abbott) has a big war chest,” Payne said. “But I believe I have a war chest coming on that is made up of Texans.”
Born in Maine, Payne lost his mother when he was 3. He spent his childhood at a Methodist orphanage in Louisiana before entering foster care at 15.
“I had a roof over my head. And I had food in my stomach. I had clothes on my back. And I went to school,” he said. “You pay it forward, and that’s what I learned.”
His first order of business once in Austin, he said, is education.
“That’s the only thing I will not bend on, is the voucher system,” he said. “What we need to do is make sure that we fully fund education, so that top notch schools exist in the public school sector, then we don’t need the voucher system.”
When it comes to Sanctuary Cities, he said local governments should decide how they need to handle their cities. He favors all couples, whether gay or straight, being allowed to adopt, and supports transgender men and women being allowed to serve in the U.S. Military.
“I believe people are inherently good,” he said. “There is just so much hate right now, and, divisiveness, and I want to bring out the best in people.”
Payne moved to Dallas in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in New Orleans. He arrived in North Texas with $2,000 and his two dachshunds.
The 49-year-old owns five businesses — including his court reporting firm and popular gay nightclub the Dallas Eagle.
Still early in the election cycle, the Texas Democratic Party has yet to announce a nominee. The party’s spokesman Tariq Thowfeek said in a statement: “There are over 27 million Texans. A majority of whom are looking for real leadership, not more of Greg Abbott’s failed policies and hateful agenda. Mr. Payne is one of those people.”
Payne said, his time is now.
“Yes, I could have written a check, I could have held a fundraiser, I could have joined more protests,” he said. “But, we need a leader. Texas needs a leader.”