Polling gives openly lesbian Annise
Parker a slight edge in her quest to become Houston's 61st mayor, but
the outcome of Saturday's election remains uncertain.
If voters approve Parker, Houston
would become the largest city in the nation to endorse an openly gay
mayor. With a half-million residents, Portland, Oregon currently holds
the title of largest city with an openly gay mayor, Sam Adams.
Houston, however, only trails behind New York, Los Angeles and
Chicago, and with its booming energy industry might soon outshine
Parker faces Gene Locke, also a
Democrat, in the mayoral runoff which might prove historic. The two
candidates were the two top vote-getters out of a field of seven in
November. Parker's sexuality and long history of gay activism was a
non-issue before winning a top spot in the runoff.
But as the campaign tightened, several
groups have attempted to make it an issue and Locke opponents have
accused him of coordinating an anti-gay attack on Parker, a claim
Locke has denied. Coordinating efforts between a political
campaign and PAC is illegal under Texas campaign finance laws.
A mailing produced by gay foe Steven
Hotze urged voters to reject Parker and several other candidates
because they were “endorsed by a gay lesbian political action
committee.” The Houston
Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus endorsed the
candidates. The Gay
& Lesbian Victory Fund, a group that supports gay and
lesbian candidates, has also endorsed Parker for mayor.
Hotze's political action committee,
Conservative Republicans of Harris County (CRHC), paid for the
In its December
4 Texas Ethics Commission filing, CRHC lists a $20,000 donation
from Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke's campaign. James
Dannenbaum, who is on Locke's finance committee, contributed another
$20,000. The two contributions occurred in late November or about a
week before the mailing went out.
CRHC has been active since the 90's and
is known for supporting anti-gay candidates and opposing gay rights.
A second flier produced and bankrolled
by Dave Wilson, a 62-year-old sign company owner, featuring Parker
being sworn into office as city controller while her partner of 20
years, Kathy Hubbard, looks on with the caption, “Is this the image
Houston wants to portray?” was sent out to voters in November.
Wilson has said Parker should not be mayor because “homosexual
behavior leads to extinction.”
Parker and Hubbard are raising two
adopted daughters and have also raised a foster son, who is now 32.
Whether the anti-gay attacks will help
or hinder Locke in red-meat Texas remains to be seen. That's because
while the state remains tightly under Republican control, large
metropolitan areas like Houston are increasingly turning Democratic and
moving away from conservative social issues.