- Views & Opinions
HOUSTON — Deep in the heart of Texas, voters elected openly gay candidate Annise Parker in a runoff election for mayor.
Houston is now the largest city in the United States to elect an openly lesbian mayor.
Parker, in a statement released after she learned she had captured 53.6 percent of the vote in the Dec. 12 runoff with former city attorney Gene Locke, said, “This election has changed the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, just as this election is about transforming Houstonians’ lives for the better.
“Let us begin from this moment to join as one community, united in the goal of making Houston the city it could be, should be, can be and will be. That’s what this city will be about under my administration.”
Parker, a businesswoman and neighborhood leader, served six years on the city council and five years as city controller. She had worked 20 years in the oil and gas industry before entering public service.
She ran a campaign that focused on bringing jobs to Houston, improving neighborhoods and promoting “hometown values.”
Locke, in his concession speech, said, “Don’t let past disappointments, past anger, past frustrations guide us into the future. Let’s unite and work together.”
Locke and Parker had emerged from the four-person Nov. 3 contest with the highest number of votes. In that heat, Parker’s sexual orientation had not been made an issue.
In the fourth week of the runoff race, however, social conservatives mounted a campaign against the candidate, offering Locke their endorsement and attacking Parker’s “homosexual behavior” in mailings to voters.
LGBT rights activists celebrated the victory over the weekend.
“Her election today makes Houston the largest city in the country to be governed by an out LGBT person — and is another reminder that being authentic with one’s constituents is a winning strategy,” said Michael Mitchell of Stonewall Democrats, whose organization made 10,000 calls to voters on Election Day.
“This is an important milestone for our country, but it’s equally important to know voters in Houston chose Annise even after a flurry of anti-gay campaigns designed to divide and distract voters,” said Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe. “This time the extremists failed. Houstonians rejected their tactics and voted for the most experienced and competent candidate to lead this city forward.”
Parker will take office Jan. 1.