Other LGBT candidates run for Houston City Council seats, college board positions in Nov. 5 election
HOUSTON — When a well-known lesbian politician ran for mayor of New York City, not even a majority of the LGBT community voted for her in the September primary.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker doesn’t have that problem. Her opposition in the Nov. 5 election has its work cut out if it wants to unseat the twice-elected mayor.
Parker had a well-established track record when she first ran for mayor, having served six years on the city council and six years as comptroller. Now she faces re-election for her third and final term as mayor of Texas’ largest city.
She’s running on a strong record. Throughout the recession, Houston created more jobs than any other city in the United States, and more people have relocated there than anywhere else in the country. Crime is down. The budget has been balanced. Taxes haven’t been raised, and Parker made advances in flood control, a serious problem on the city’s south side and a major issue since her first campaign.
Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith called it a competitive race with seven challengers.
Parker is running a strong get-out-the-vote campaign to avoid an expensive runoff.
While the attack ads from both sides have been nasty, her sexual orientation isn’t an issue in her ninth city-wide race.
“The fact that she’s a lesbian is not a surprise,” Smith said.
Equality Texas field organizer Daniel Williams said the question is whether she will avoid a runoff in a crowded field. Her strongest opponent is Ben Hall, a wealthy attorney who has self-funded his campaign. Parker has hit him hard in ads for consistently paying his taxes late. He’s paid more than $100,000 in late fees on his taxes and, when asked, he told the local CBS television affiliate, “It’s just my way of dealing with it. I don’t have a good reason.”
Parker campaign spokeswoman Sue Davis said she’s feeling pretty good about the campaign.
“Her favorables are high,” Davis said.
Some of the issues that have emerged involve city infrastructure. During the drought, the ground shifted and streets suffered, Davis said. She said they’ve fixed water leaks and have been working on roads.
Davis also said Parker has been asked about the recent San Antonio nondiscrimination ordinance for its city employees. That issue, divisive in San Antonio, is one Parker said she would address in her third term, and she has a majority of city council support to get it passed in Houston.
Hall, who is a Democrat, said he opposes same-sex marriage, opposes a nondiscrimination ordinance and didn’t fill out a questionnaire for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
Davis said Parker loves being mayor and wants to serve beyond her third term, but the Houston charter allows elected city officials to serve only three two-year terms in any one office. After serving out her third term if she’s reelected, Davis said to look for her to run for another office.
The LGBT community is well represented in other Houston races. Transgender city council candidate Jenifer Rene Pool has five opponents for an at-large seat. Poole has the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Pool’s run for an at-large seat in 2011 was unsuccessful. She is now a self-employed consultant in construction management and permitting and served as a member of Houston’s Buildings and Standards and Police Advisory commissions.
Pool said early-voting turnout has been good in areas where she’s campaigned hard. She has received a number of endorsements, including ones from former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell and former gubernatorial candidate Sissy Farenthold. While she hasn’t raised as much money as two of her competitors, Pool raised money from more donors than either of her prime opponents. She said she’s expecting a runoff.
Gay Councilman Mike Laster is running unopposed for re-election to a second term.
In another open city council race, Robert Gallegos is running with Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund backing. The GLBT Political Caucus has endorsed another opponent, however. Also, three out candidates are running for Houston Community College Board seats.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Houston is the only city in Texas that holds municipal elections in November rather than May.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 25, 2013.