The owner of a Dallas gay bar has thrown his hat in the ring for the Texas governor’s office.
Jeffrey Payne, owner of Oak Lawn’s landmark leather bar the Eagle, has filed as a Democratic candidate, challenging Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in the 2018 race. Payne, who was crowned International Mr. Leather in 2009, plans to use $2.5 million of his own money to fund his campaign.
“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 addition to the Eagle, Payne launched a jewelry business, a court-reporting firm, and the Sharon St. Cyr Fund, which assists people in obtaining hearing aids and sign-language interpreters for public events. After the loss of his mother at age 3, Payne spent much of his childhood in foster care. He’s been a Dallas resident since 2005.
Governor Abbot has high approval ratings but has drawn criticism for pushing for a North Carolina-like “bathroom bill,” that would ban trans people from using facilities that match their gender identity. According to a June poll, most voters feel such measures are unnecessary and unenforceable.
In addition, 51% of Texans oppose religious-freedom exemptions from state anti-discrimination laws.
Still, Payne, who got married in April, has a tough road ahead: The last time the Lone Star State had a Democrat in the governor’s mansion was 1991, when Ann Richards won. She was eventually voted out of office in 1994 by future president George W. Bush.