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 Chicago.

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 mailer.

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.