Putting the ‘dick’ in Dixon

When an unfunny politician insists on writing a humor column, everyone suffers

Ted Hickman

Ted Hickman

The city of Dixon got shout-outs in The Hill and HuffPost early this month, but the attention online was nothing to relish.

In the June 29 edition of Dixon’s Independent Voice, the vice mayor of the Solano County city of about 20,000 wrote an op-ed calling for what he dubbed “SPAM: Straight Pride American Month” to kick off July 1.

“Hundreds of millions of the rest of us can celebrate our month, peaking on July 4th, as healthy, heterosexual, fairly monogamous, keep our kinky stuff to ourselves, Americans,” he wrote in one of the piece’s gentler moments. He ends the column, adorned with clip-art images that include a crossed-out rainbow flag and a buff bald eagle, by calling gay men “faries.” Hickman also included the edition of his weekly column, “That’s Life,” on his personal website.

A photo of the print version began circulating on social media that weekend. The Facebook page “Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA” garnered 1,000 likes in three days. On July 2, HuffPost covered the homophobic rant in its Queer Voices section. On July 3—the same day The Hill had its first piece and HuffPost ran a second opinion column—actor/activist George Takei shared a story about Hickman with his 10 million followers.

“Let them have their straight pride month—it’s going to be a hoot,” Takei said in a phone interview Monday. “I believe in people showing off their ignorance and stupidity. … We’ll make a mockery of that.”

Hickman declined a recent interview request, but defended his words to The Sacramento Bee as “tongue-in-cheek.” The newspaper reported that Hickman has also previously written columns disparaging Muslims.

The region’s LGBTQ community and supporters say he needs to face consequences for the insensitive column.

"[Hickman] tries to disenfranchise and also to make light of the fact that we have struggled for acceptance and equality,” said Thomas Bilbo, chair of the Solano Pride Board of Directors. “Words have ramifications not just for the people he tried to inflict them upon but also for himself.”

In a July 6 tweet, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg joined the growing call for Hickman to step down.

Nearly 30,000 people have signed an online petition for recall, although Heather Eckert, one of the organizers behind the recall Facebook page, said last week that their goal is for Hickman to either resign or be voted out in November. They decided against pursuing a recall because of the high taxpayer cost.

“We don’t want to cost the city any money,” Eckert said. “That $60,000 can go to a lot of other things.”

They don’t plan to change the name of the Facebook page because of the national press it has received.

Eckert was one of a couple hundred protestors who packed the July 10 Dixon City Council meeting to call for Hickman’s resignation. He again defended the op-ed as a First Amendment issue that night.

Eckert said community organizers have identified a strong candidate to challenge Hickman. Late Monday night, Dixon Planning Commissioner Jim Ernest announced on Facebook that he would run for the District 2 seat and was endorsed by Councilman Devon Minnema.

“The tactic now is to have boots on the ground in his district, canvassing night and day. All day every day,” Eckert said.

Bilbo and other Solano Pride members also attended the meeting, and distributed information about the LGBTQ-serving nonprofit. Solano Pride is one of several organizations behind Dixon’s LGBTQ+ Pride Day on July 28 in response to the op-ed.

“The Solano Pride Center is here for people,” Bilbo said. “We’re also there to help the city of Dixon with cultural competency training, and to let them know what is right and what is wrong as far as the LGBTQ community is concerned.”

“The one favor that Hickman did us, was he galvanized this community against hate,” Eckert said. “We had pastors, we had teachers, we had former representatives, a former police chief who stood up and said, ‘This cannot be tolerated.'"