A Northern California vice mayor who was heavily criticized earlier this year after writing a newspaper column that many people viewed as homophobic lost his city council seat by a landslide vote Tuesday night.
Ted Hickman was defeated for Dixon City Council District 2 by the city’s planning commissioner, Jim Ernest, who picked up 72 percent of the vote with all ballots counted.
Hickman faced widespread backlash starting in late June after publication of a controversial column he penned for Dixon’s Independent Voice newspaper.
In the June 29 column, Hickman called for July to be known as “Straight Pride American Month,” referred to gay men as “faries,” (sic) and said gay people have an “inferior complex.” A copy of the column in full can be found on Hickman’s website, where the post is referred to as edition No. 734 of “That’s Life.”
Hickman’s writing led to near-immediate criticism; the same day it was published, Dixon residents called for Hickman’s resignation or a recall election, and within a few days, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg was among those saying Hickman should resign. The column made national headlines, including in Newsweek and the Huffington Post.
Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, also called for Hickman’s resignation, as did an online Care2 Petition that ended up with nearly 30,000 signatures.
Hickman defended his writing as tongue-in-cheek humor in a phone interview with The Bee the day after the column was published. Some social media users sided with him, saying Hickman has a right to express his opinions.
“They’re gonna have a recall motion? Let them do it,” Hickman told The Bee at the time. Subsequent efforts by The Bee to reach Hickman by phone or email were unsuccessful.
A recall election was not possible due to the proximity of the November election. In late July, the Dixon City Council announced it would not strip Hickman’s status as vice mayor, a rotating position among councilmembers, citing First Amendment rights.
A group initially titled “Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA” (later renamed) quickly gained traction on Facebook and organized a protest at the first city council meeting following the release of Hickman’s column. That group celebrated Hickman’s loss on Facebook Tuesday night.
Ernest filed for city council candidacy in July, doing so partly in an effort to oust incumbent Hickman from office, Ernest said on Facebook.
“On Tuesday, the people of Dixon chose respect over bigotry, kindness over hatred and unity over division,” Ernest said a statement. “This election shows what our community is truly about and is a huge victory we can all celebrate. 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. Thank you, Dixon.”
Hickman served on the Dixon City Council for two consecutive terms, 1968 to 1976, and again from 2014 to present. His website indicates that as well as a columnist, he has served as the outdoor editor for the Independent Voice, a weekly community-run publication. He has also worked as a realtor.
Dixon, located in Solano County about 10 miles east of Davis along Interstate 80, had a population of about 18,000 at the 2010 Census. Just over 1,000 residents voted in the District 2 race Tuesday.