Parker leads field in mayoral race

Posted on 05 Oct 2009 at 7:42pm
By David Taffet | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Lesbian candidate pulls in 30% of vote, will face Locke in runoff; Spiller falls short in school board run


HEADING FOR THE RUNOFF | Annise Parker earned more votes than the other three candidates in the Houston mayoral race, although she spent less money campaigning. If Parker defeats Gene Locke in the Dec. 12 runoff, she will become the first openly gay or lesbian mayor of a top 10 city. (Dalton DeHart)

Annise Parker will face Gene Locke in a mayoral runoff on Dec. 12. Parker received 31 percent of the vote to Locke’s 25 percent, almost 10,000 votes more than the second place candidate.

Peter Brown, a self-financed candidate who spent more than $3.5 million, placed third with 23 percent of the vote.

Roy Morales, the only self-described conservative and the only Hispanic in the race, received 21 percent of the vote.

In Dallas, gay candidate Linus Spiller fell short in his campaign to win the District 1 seat on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Parker spent about $1 million on her campaign. Although she was third in the amount of money spent in the election, she was first in number of individual donors. Those donations translated into votes and volunteers.

While the other candidates resorted to negative campaigns in the last days before the election, Parker said she remained focused on the issues.

After her Tuesday night victory, she appeared on stage with her partner, Kathy Hubbard, and their two children.

She said the race is about "who do you trust to lead our city through these tough times and give our children the future they deserve."

Parker described her operation to Dallas Voice as "a really good mix of a longtime campaign team, some seasoned professionals and some new people who have special skills like social networking."

She credits some of her media team and consultants who are working with her for the seventh time with the smooth operation.

On Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, Parker campaign spokesperson Jeri Brooks said, "This morning we’re just trying to regroup. We’ve got to get out the vote, and we’ve got to raise money. We need to get everyone who made a contribution to commit to get five, 10 more people to make a contribution."

Parker described ratcheting the campaign up to an intense level.

"In five weeks we need to bring in over $1 million," she said, the same amount raised in the previous nine months.

For purposes of campaign donations, the runoff is treated as a separate election.

Those who contributed the maximum amount in the first race may legally donate again.

One accusation leveled at the Parker campaign was that it accepted quite a bit of out-of-state money. However, reports filed show that 85 percent of her donations came from Texas.

Brooks said the campaign would continue to focus on the issues. She said that people who are not in Houston can show their support by donating and by joining the Annise Parker Facebook fan page or following her on Twitter.

In the runoff, the campaign will rely on its strong volunteer base.

Brooks said, "We’re not paying phone bankers. We have people who care on the phones."

Former Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley, who came close to being the first openly gay mayor of a top-10 city but lost in a runoff to Tom Leppert in 2007, said this week he feels that in some ways, he "broke the glass ceiling." 

Oakley said he hopes Houston voters will choose their next mayor based on qualifications and issues, rather than on sexual orientation. But he noted that many of the anti-gay attacks against him didn’t begin until after he had advanced to the runoff against Leppert.

"I think she’s earned the right to be mayor of Houston," said Oakley, adding that he’s met Parker a few times over the years. "I think she’s an excellent leader, and I’m really pulling for her."

The Parker campaign noted that she has already been elected citywide six times — three times to an at-large city council seat and three times as city controller.

As controller, Parker led the city through a tough economy. Although Houston had a 3 percent budget shortfall, she is credited with avoiding any layoffs or major cuts to city services. By comparison, Dallas laid off more than 800 employees and slashed services including AIDS funding.

Parker is credited with the city’s weathering the recession better than most other major cities. But she credits her good working relationship with the mayor, a relationship that is usually contentious there, with Houston’s mild downturn.

Polling by Lake Research Partners accurately predicted Parker’s first place finish and was only 3 percent off the actual results. That same firm found that of the other candidates’ supporters, Parker was overwhelmingly their second choice. A Belo poll, released the week before the election, predicted Parker would finish second with half the percentage she actually received.

Dennis Dison, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said, "Her first place finish was a tremendous shot in the arm."

He said that he didn’t expect the Locke campaign to make an issue of her sexual orientation.

"He would probably be shooting himself in the foot," Dison said.

Victory Fund advises candidates to be honest about themselves and stick to the issues. He said, voters understand, "If she’s going to be honest about that, she’s going to honest about everything."

He called Parker the poster child for how their organization recommends a campaign be run.

Victory Fund endorsements
This election cycle, Victory Fund endorsed 79 candidates. Of those, 50 won their contests. Six others, including Parker, advanced to runoffs.

Dison characterized the Houston mayoral race as the most prominent this November.

Other notable wins in the LGBT community include Charles Pugh, the first openly gay person elected to the Detroit City Council. The top vote- getter in the city’s council races becomes the council president. Pugh received the most votes.

In Georgia, Simone Bell is in a runoff for a seat in the state House of Representatives. If she wins on Dec. 1, she will become the first African-American lesbian in a state legislature.

Dallas ISD races
In Dallas, gay candidate Linus Spiller faced an incumbent and two other challengers in the Dallas Independent School District election for the District 1 seat.

Edwin Flores, the incumbent, won with just over 50 percent of the vote.
Four-way races in Districts 3 and 9 are headed for runoffs. District 9 includes portions of Uptown. Bernadette Nutall will face Sally Cain, wife of former Sen. David Cain who represented Oak Lawn in the 1990s.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.

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