Dixon recovers after controversial vice mayor voted out

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The small town of Dixon is recovering from a gay-bashing controversy after the vice mayor who called for a "straight pride month" lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. 

Over the summer, Vice Mayor Ted Hickman called for a "Straight Pride American Month" and referred to gay people as "tinker bells" and “fairies” in a column for the town's Independent Voice newspaper.  

“We ARE different from them…We work, have families, (and babies we make) enjoy and love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like faries (sic) and prancing by the thousands in a parade in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world,” Hickman wrote. 

The column angered residents in the 20,000-person Dixon community and out-of-towners alike. It also sparked protests at City Council meetings, moved a group of people to launch a Facebook page to remove Hickman from office and created outrage from business owners, who posted signs in their windows declaring that people of “all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, genders” were welcome in Dixon. 

The controversy drew nationally attention as well. 

Equality California, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, called for Hickman's resignation, as did an online Care2 Petition, which gathered more than 25,000 signatures from supporters.

But, Hickman’s term was nearly up and he remained in office. Residents made their wishes known on Election Day when just 28 percent of voters cast their ballots for Hickman. His opponent, Dixon Planning Commissioner Jim Ernest, earned 72 percent of the vote. 

“Dixon is moving forward. Hickman’s loss proves that. It’s time for Dixon to unite and rebuild the wonderful sense of community that makes us love the town,” said Heather Eckert, one of the creators of the Facebook page that called for Hickman’s removal from office. 

Dixon resident Tom Ruppel, a retiree who contributed $2,000 to Ernest’s campaign, said he only spoke to Ernest for 10 minutes over the phone when he decided to support him to fix “the black eye we got” from Hickman’s column, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Hickman did not return an email requesting comment Wednesday and has never publicly apologized for the newspaper column. In a Chronicle story, Hickman said “the column didn’t help, but that wasn’t the determining factor” in his re-election defeat. 

For his part, the newly-elected Ernest said in a Facebook post that “the people of Dixon chose respect over bigotry, kindness over hatred and unity over division.”

“This election shows what our community is truly about and is a huge victory we can all celebrate,” Ernest wrote. “I’m deeply humbled to earn your trust and look forward to serving all of you on the Dixon City Council. Now it’s time to get to work to build a brighter future for all of us.”