Many are celebrating today the election of a gay woman as the mayor of the fourth largest city in the country. That historic event should be celebrated. But I hope other aspects of her campaign are noted and remembered by those seeking public office.
Last year many wondered whether our country was ready to elect a person of color for President. While some voters still decide based on racial prejudice the majority of voters chose the candidate they believed to be most qualified without regard to skin color. The qualified candidate who ran the smartest, most organized and disciplined campaign won.
For the last year many wondered whether Houston was ready to elect a gay mayor.
Voters make their decisions based on numerous factors and motivations. Some still vote based on race. No doubt some voters chose either candidate last night based on skin color. Some voted for the man or for the woman. Some voted for her because she is gay. Some voted against her because she is gay. Some voted for whichever candidate they know the best. Some voted against whichever candidate they know the best. Some voted because one candidate shook their hand, said hello, or knocked on their door. Some chose because they agreed with literature they received in the mail. Some voted because they were offended by literature they received in the mail. Some chose because of TV ads or newspaper endorsements, or the advice of their friends.
When the polls closed and the votes were counted last night one thing was clear about the majority of Houston voters. Houstonians choose a candidate who is intelligent, qualified and has a record of exemplary public service who ran a clean, smart, aggressive and disciplined campaign. She turned out her base and won over independent voters. Her army of volunteers worked tirelessly. They did the work. All of it. Much of campaign work is not fun. Those who are willing to do all of it win. There is a price to win an election. I am not just talking about money. Too many candidates and campaigns think they can get the job by paying a discounted price.
The opposition candidate at a minimum, allowed others to use his campaign as a vehicle for hate, fear, oppression and bigotry. Houstonians rejected those tactics.
If you want to win public office you have to run a smart, aggressive and disciplined campaign. Do the work. All of it. Be prepared to pay the full price. It is worth it.
Judge Susan Criss
If you want the absolute most up-to-the-minute results along with 140-character commentary from all sorts of Houston people, follow the hashtag #HouMayor.
Final Update 10:18 PM: With 100% of precincts reporting, Mayor-Elect Annise Parker wins, with 52.8% of the vote. Campaigning on her experience and qualification for the job, Parker wins, and in the process makes history. -- Katherine
Update 10:13 PM: As Gene Locke concedes, it's clear that Controller Annise Parker will be the next Mayor of Houston, the 4th-largest city in America. Parker, Houston, and Texas all make history. It's a proud day for the Space City, and a proud day for all Texans. Congratulations, Mayor-elect Parker! -- Katherine
Update 10:01 PM: The Houston Chronicle calls it for Annise Parker. Houston becomes the largest American city to elect an openly gay mayor. Here in Austin, the 10:00 PM news on KVUE is also reporting that Parker has won. -- Katherine
Update 9:53 PM: MSNBC was the first to call it for Annise Parker, back with 68% reporting. Now with 89% reporting, Parker holds a 52.7%-47.3% lead over Locke. -- Katherine
Update 9:42 PM: Annise Parker is pulling away. Now with 68% of Election Day precincts reporting, 7,250 raw votes separate Parker from Locke; Parker now has 52.7%. Looks like Houston will become the largest American city to elect an openly gay Mayor. A big step forward for equality in the making. Texans should be proud to see it happen in our state's largest city. -- Katherine
Update 9:35 PM: In other races, At-Large Pos. 1 remains close, with less than 2000 votes between Costello and Derr. In At-Large Pos. 2, Lovell has a healthy ~8,000 vote lead over Burks. in At-Large Pos. 5, Jones is up by almost 6,000 over Christie. And in the Houston ISD Trustee #1 run-off, only 102 votes separate Anna Eastman from Alma Lara. Either way, that last race will see a victor with a four-letter name beginning and ending with the letter "a." -- Katherine
Update 9:23 PM: With 54% of Election Day precincts reporting, Annise Parker's lead grows to 4,745 raw votes, back up to 52%. With each update, Parker's lead grows. Also, for folks hitting F5 at home, there's a discrepancy in numbers between the Chron.com and KHOU websites -- seems to be that KHOU is including Fort Bend numbers? -- Katherine
Update 9:09 PM: Updates coming in fast and furious from Houston. This can only be due to the resignation of famed illegal voter-purger, former Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Betancourt. With 45% of precincts reporting, Parker increases raw vote lead to 3,869 votes over Locke; 51.7%-48.3%. Both the Houston Chronicle and KHOU are going a great job of updating their online tallies. -- Katherine
Update 9:03 PM: With 34% reporting, Annise Parker increases lead to 3,012 raw votes, but percentage drops to 51%-49%. Going to the wire. -- Katherine
Update 8:49 PM: With 21% reporting, Annise Parker increases her lead to 2,830 raw votes; 52%-48%. -- Katherine
Update 8:39 PM: As a note, the city council races I have mentioned so far are at-large races. There is also a runoff for a couple district seats, including Houston's District A, where Republican Brenda Stardig starts of with a lead over Democrat Lane Lewis in what has been a closely fought battle.
Update 8:33 PM: The first batch of votes have been counted. With about 13% of Houston's precincts in, Annise Parker has extended her still-small lead a little bit, now leading by 1,896 votes. Ronald Green and M.J. Khan pulled about even with those votes, leaving the Controller race about the same. Stephen Costello, though, has pulled to a slight lead over Ms. Derr for City Council, but that race is about as neck-and-neck as you can get. Also, incumbent Democratic City Council Members Jolanda Jones and Sue Lovell have started with leads in their respective runoffs.
Update 8:05 PM: There are a couple other things of note in the other city races. The race for City Controller, Houston's second highest office, is between Democrat Ronald Green and Republican M.J. Khan. Green has a respectable, well over 3,000 votes.
There also happens to be one race that is closer than the mayor's race, at least at the start. With absentee and early voting, Karen Derr is leading Stephen Costello by only 255 votes for City Council's Place 1. Derr is an active Democrat, and Costello has no official affiliation. Costello has helped out Republican causes in the past, but he has Democrats working his campaign and he is an engineer, giving him a message of unique and useful experience that has probably appealed to many Houston voters.
Original Posting: The Burnt Orange Report unanimously endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor, but a few of us might now be worried: this election is pretty darn close. After absentee and early votes from both Harris and Fort Bend counties, it is a statistical tie.
And a difference of just 523 votes. Interestingly, Gene Locke received over 90% of the vote in the Houston part of Fort Bend County, but very little of the vote comes from Fort Bend. The race is still pretty close in Harris County.
Houston Races The Houston mayoral race will feature a runoff between Annise Parker and Gene Locke, who received 30.5% and 25.9%, respectively. Peter Brown received 22.4% while Republican Roy Morales received 20.2%. It seems that, although Brown led in some late polls, his supporters really were soft. A handful of them went and voted for Locke or Morales, apparently.
In the Houston Controller Race Democrat Ron Green has reached a runoff with Republican M.J. Khan.
NY-23 Rick Perry broke from his Republican Party and endorsed Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman. With so much "Republican" support going to Hoffman, the Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava chose to leave the race in its final days. So, with almost 50% of the vote, Blue Dog Democrat Bill Owens prevails. The aftermath of this race should be interesting for Republicans to parse...
Houston Mayor and potential U.S. Senate Candidate Bill White has made a practice to stay pretty neutral in city elections throughout his tenure at City Hall. During the build up to tomorrow's elections, his voice was barely heard at all. He was too busy running the city and running for Kay Bailey Hutchison's office.
But in the past week, as the campaigns finally took a negative turn, he's spoken a couple times in regards to some new political attacks. It seems he wants to clearly communicate to the candidates: Campaign to the finish line with maximum integrity, or I might call you out.
First, Bill White raised his voice after Peter Brown accused Annise Parker of missing some deadlines as Controller. His criticisms made clear the audacity of Brown's attack: The delays were caused by technical changes openly discussed in city council, and the criticism was unfair.
Yesterday, those who follow Bill White on Facebook and/or twitter might have seen him comment on a robo-call he had received from an unknown source. The call attacked City Council Member Ron Green, the only Democrat running for Annise Parker's current job, city controller. White said,
I just got a recorded call urging Democrats to vote against Ron Green for City Controller because he would hurt D's. Who paid for this? I am neutral in the race, but it does seem to me that if another candidate or party paid for it, they should say so upfront.
Still, he is not endorsing another candidate, but he clearly implies that he received a robo-call implementing a silly attack that doesn't make much sense. Rumors state that the Pam Holm camp might be involved, but no one has yet taken responsibility.
I'm glad to see the mayor putting a good word in for integrity. As outgoing mayor, he shouldn't fight for any particular candidate, but he knows the city will be in good hands if the politics are good, and that's what he's advocating in these final days.
(I resurveyed the staff just to check and we unanimously endorse Annise Parker for Mayor of Houston in this Saturday's runoff. The following endorsement is what we printed in her first round of the election. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)
Burnt Orange Report endorses Annise Parker for Mayor of Houston because she is an experienced candidate and committed grassroots activist we can trust to put the people of Houston first.
When we at Burnt Orange Report write about local city races, we normally focus on Austin -- simply because that's where most of us live. However, the City of Houston -- which is both the fourth largest city in the country, and the third fastest-growing city in the country -- will, in one week, select a new mayor to replace the long and respected tenure of Bill White.
We believe the most qualified candidate to be Houston's next mayor is Annise Parker.
Annise Parker is a strong Democrat who has separated herself from the rest of the field with her positive campaign for progress in Houston. Her twelve years of experience in Houston city politics -- she was on the Houston City Council for six years, and is now at the end of her sixth year as City Controller -- stand out as examples of her delivering results, and not just talking about, the issues that matter to the city of Houston.
Parker came into politics through neighborhood activism, a path of determination and sacrifice that resonates both with our own personal experiences as well as with the values we champion throughout the BOR community. Her recent profile in the Houston Chronicle discussed some of her most impressive grassroots work:
Parker hasn't budged from Houston since returning here in 1974 to attend Rice University. Her involvement in gay politics began in 1979, the year after she graduated, when she helped organize a gay student group at Rice.
After college, Parker went to work using new computer software to do economic modeling in the oil and gas industry. In her free time, she plunged into community involvement, joining the boards of gay and lesbian organizations and riding in Houston's first Pride Parade in 1979.
Many of her nonworking hours are devoted to community activities. It was a desire for something new, Parker said, that prompted her to move from gay activism to the next chapter in her life.
“I was bored with gay stuff,” she said. “I threw myself just as hard into 10 years of neighborhood activism.”
A rash of arson fires near her home prompted Parker and a neighbor to create the East Montrose Civic Association in 1990. Five years later, she became president of the Neartown Association, a coalition of Montrose-area civic clubs, making connections that would help her in her campaigns for public office.
When we take away all the campaign attacks, and television ads, and look at this Houston mayoral race closely, we find that Annise Parker is one of us, and she is someone we can trust. In times like these, trust counts.
Despite what our current Governor would have everyone believe, Texas -- and especially the city of Houston -- is facing challenging economic times. At a time when the specific policies of the mayoral candidates are, by most accounts, broad and indiscriminate, we find ourselves searching for the candidate we can identify with and trust the most.
Parker is the most experienced candidate for mayor, and as she said in one debate, "I'll always tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it." I personally know her to be smart, loyal, and an extremely hard worker. From day one, the City will be run effectively and efficiently.
In a community, you trust your neighbors that work hard and share your values. Burnt Orange Report endorses Annise Parker for Mayor of Houston because she is an experienced candidate and committed grassroots activist we can trust to put the people of Houston first.
The Houston Chronicle paired with Zogby International to release this poll that was held last week.
"It's close, a lot of voters are undecided, and there appear to be three legitimate contenders," said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, which conducted the poll for the Chronicle. "Brown has spent the most money and has the greater name recognition, and that's been enough to put him in first place. But you could make the argument that he could be a little disappointed in these results, because whatever lead he has is hardly commensurate with what he spent."
According to the poll, Brown leads the field with 23.8 percent of the vote, followed by Parker with 19 percent, Locke with 13.1 percent, and Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales with 6.7 percent.
The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
That leaves 36% undecided, so any of the three leading Democrats can make a runoff. But with an election so close, the candidates are fighting not only among themselves, but also against "stay behind at home."
Brown was behind in many older polls, but his deep pockets and many paid advertisements seem to be paying off. The poll also asked one-on-one contests between these three leaders. Brown wins against both Parker and Locke, but he finds himself in a statistical tie with Parker, leading only 35.3% to 34%. Parker beats Locke in that match-up.
Nany Sims gives solid analysis. She thinks everything points towards a good future in Houston, as she finishes:
Here's the bottom line: We have a field of outstanding, qualified candidates and people are just not concerned that one is significantly worse than the others. Shouldn't we be celebrating this fact?
In our modern democracy, people tend to be more driven to vote "against" someone than "for" them. When you have a collective of qualified individuals, the voters are stumped.
I say "YEA" for a democracy that is actually working as it should. You may have to work a little harder than normal to pick the candidate you like the best but be happy that you don't have to threaten to leave the city if one of these folks wins.
But the Houston Chronicle thinks one of those three candidates might be worth voting against. And it is the man their poll places as the front-runner, Peter Brown. Their editorial board has co-endorsed Annise Parker and Gene Locke, but Muse tells us what it really intended: "Anybody But Peter Brown." Problematically, though, the Chronicle fails to enumerate their problems with Brown, leaving voters without reason to actually cast that vote against him and for someone else.
Personally, I, too, am shaking my head at that co-endorsement. It makes little sense to me, and it only adds confusion in a race nearing the finish line. I tend to agree with Nancy, too. The reasons to vote for these three candidates supersede reasons to vote against them. Annise Parker probably still has the most inside track to the runoff, but the candidates' combined strength provide the possibility for any combination of these three to battle one-on-one after November 3.
Only three weeks remain until polls open in the city of Houston for voters to choose a man or woman to succeed Bill White as mayor of one of this country's largest cities. Yet, of the voters who even realize Bill White will soon vacate the office, many surely remain undecided still. Sure, many activists are aligned somewhere due to various loyalties, but the general voters have been given little differentiation to work with in order to make a good decision.
It's no wonder, too. Of all the candidates, only three are active with a strong pulse. Annise Parker, Gene Locke, and Peter Brown are all also Democrats whose policies compare closely. If you are an absolute stickler for Democratic credentials, you might back Annise Parker, but all three are just as Democratic as their predecessor. If you particularly care about a certain policy area, you might support someone else.
Really, voters need every available method to distinguish the candidates. So, I thought I would discuss a method I once used to decide between candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Each candidate, while similar on policy, probably will be significantly different in their potential styles of governing.
For the task of painting a picture of these candidates' styles, I will look at two different sources. First, I will review basic biographical information for each of the candidates. Then, I will also look at the great Insider's Looks into the Campaigns from Mayoral Musings with Nancy Sims.
With Annise Parker, I first noticed that she really cares about Houston government. She ran for City Council twice unsuccesfully before finally winning a seat in 1997, and the current City Controller has served in elected Houston office ever since. She is the only candidate for Mayor who can say she has served constituents in Houston government for more than a decade. Although that might be the most important piece of biographical info, the most known might be that the candidate is openly lesbian. Her activeness in the LGBT community might not show us much regarding how she leads, except she probably ran into a few problems along the way that might translate into toughness. Finally, Parker worked in the oil & gas energy for two decades -- at the very least, she has knowledge of the industry, which could prove helpful in any clean energy initiatives she could attempt as Mayor. She also has a powerful public record of fiscal responsibility, which is probably buffered by that business experience.
And from her journey to get elected to the city's highest office? Nancy Sims gives these thoughts:
So, what does this team and organization tell us about how Parker might manage the city? Volumes. I predict that she will seek expertise where she needs it. She will be loyal and true to the voters that elect her and will likely stand by her promises. She will be a leader and inspire those who work for her to perform to the best of their abilities. She is willing to trust others to accomplish their jobs without telling them what to do every step of the way. If Parker's campaign team is a reflection of her leadership style, Houston will be run as a finely-tuned machine.
Annise Parker's supporters can be confident that city government would be an efficient cog under a Parker administration. She was successful in business, and her campaign is being run like one. So would the city of Houston. I am confident Houston's economy would likely thrive under Parker, but my only concern is how many risks she would take with the city. Will Annise Parker bring the city into another level of prestige, or will she only keep it chugging along at the same level that Bill White has brought it to?
Gene Locke's life is also one of challenges. He worked through law school as a steelworker, but after his JD, his rise became quick. He went to Washington, D.C. to work as chief of staff for Congressman Mickey Leland. In 1995 Bob Lanier appointed him as City Attorney. Under the Lanier Administration, Locke led the negotiations for Minute Maid Park, Reliant Park, and the Toyota Center, the three prominent sports arenas for the city's three prominent professional sport teams. He currently practices law with Andrews Kurth LLP, but he has served as Special Counsel to Houston METRO and the Port of Houston Authority. Locke, though, has heard a fair share of criticism for the way he has conducted a lawyerly proceedings.
While a law career tells little about one's management style, a campaign can, and Nancy concludes this about his campaign:
What does this team tell me about how Gene Locke will govern? Lots! He will look for the best and brightest. I can envision Locke picking staff and department leaders that have experience, commitment and heart. He is a listener and will trust the experts to do their jobs well. His staff and department heads will trust him and believe in him. He will set clearly-defined goals for his team and for the city. He and his staff will all be working from the same page to keep Houston running. Based on early campaign changes, I would say Locke is willing to make hard decisions, even when it may not be popular to do so, if it is in the best interest of the city. If Locke's campaign is a reflection of the way he will govern, we can count on smart, dedicated leadership that keeps Houstonians top of mind.
Gene Locke could be a mayor that will get things done by negotiation with different agencies. He has connection with many of them, and he has succeeded with them before. Also, if he sees an opportunity to bring an important event, I suspect he might take it on head-first: that's what habitual leaders willing to take risks tend to do, especially if they have a loyal and intelligent staff. But all of these attempts would also chance the appearance of Locke's slick ways that can always create potential for trouble.
Peter Brown's life path to this election may be the one that began the most privileged. He attended the private St. John's School and then spent much time receiving three separate university degrees. Afterwards, he spent six years in the Army's active reserve, though, showing that he has thoughts for his community even if he grew up with amenities that others lack. His first degree was a Bachelor's in French Studies followed by a Master's in Romance Languages, but his preparation for city work really began with his last one. He received a Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture, and Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Since, he has worked as an architect and urban planner, doing work in over 20 cities, including many years in Houston. In 2003 he was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the highest designation for the organization. He was actually so good that he has been able to self-finance most of his political career. In two years he would be elected to the city council.
Peter Brown's history tells us a lot about his knowledge of cities - they are high and many. Unfortunately, his career gives little indication to his ability with budgets, his political tact, or any other managerial skill. Apparently his campaign gives us a similarly hazy forecast:
What does this team tell me about how Peter Brown will govern? It's a little tougher assessment than the Parker and Locke campaigns. It's my observation that if Brown will recruit a strong leader and trust them to manage the operations, he will have a well-run City Hall operation. If not, things might be a little chaotic. We will trust that the leader will be able to carry out Peter Brown's vision for Houston. His vision is a solid one and one that is gaining interest from voters. Brown will need to say "this is how I see it" and allow a team to implement the details. It may be a little hard for people who interact with City government to master accessing the Brown administration but we know that it will be well run. There will not be much opportunity for jockeying or schmoozing - it will be a "state your business" type of team and they will follow-through on their commitments. You may rest assured that a Brown administration will have a plan and implement it!
As powerful mayors go, they can be considered the continual designers of their cities. Peter Brown would be a gifted one at Houston's head. But Brown is an architect in training and practice; he is not a builder. If you trust he can get excellent builders, he may be, by far, the best candidate in the field. If you think he will have trouble with that, he may be the decided worst. (Ok, besides from Roy Morales!)
Part 1 in this series covered Greg Wythe, David Ortez and Stace Medellin. Part 2 showcased John Cobarruvias and Charles Kuffner. For Part 3, I've got Dr. Richard Murray and Nancy Sims.
Prof13: Dr. Murray is a political science professor at the University of Houston and the Director of Surveying for the UH Center for Public Policy. He is the real deal; the rest of us are just pretenders! We count on Dr. Murray for his surveys, as well as his data analysis. His latest post included this:
For the statistically inclined, here are some numbers from representative precincts across the city in 2003 to use for comparisons this year . . .
All of his loyal readers thought, "here we go!", and we dug into his statistics about past early voting patterns.
Mayoral Musings: Nancy Sims is Senior Vice President at Pierpont Communications. Prior to Pierpont, Nancy had her own public affairs and political consulting firm for 15 years. She has definitely added an expert voice to the Houston mayoral race blogosphere. Her latest post is a gem - the first in a series - An Insider's Look Into the Campaigns. I couldn't agree with this more:
The way a candidate builds their campaign team and operations is a reflection of how they might govern.
First up is her inside look at the Annise Parker campaign, where she has this to say:
So, what does this team and organization tell us about how Parker might manage the city? Volumes. I predict that she will seek expertise where she needs it. She will be loyal and true to the voters that elect her and will likely stand by her promises. She will be a leader and inspire those who work for her to perform to the best of their abilities. She is willing to trust others to accomplish their jobs without telling them what to do every step of the way. If Parker’s campaign team is a reflection of her leadership style, Houston will be run as a finely-tuned machine.
Annise just seems to be the complete package. Her experience as Controller brings an enormous advantage considering the realities of the economy, the city budget, and the projects that need to be addressed.
(We're going to be picking up our Houston Mayoral coverage as we approach the November election. Peter Brown is one of the candidates vying to replace Mayor Bill White there. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)
Our campaign is holding a contest and we want Burnt Orange Reporters to enter! Building on our TV ad, "Blueprint" and on Peter's vision for the city of Houston, we're asking regular Houstonians to contribute your vision of Houston. If you do submit, please let us know that you saw this on BOR by including it in the subject or with the drawing. Full contest rules below, the launch video above.