This AP story about the Mayoral runoff election contains a paragraph you won’t see very often.
Houston became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, with voters handing a solid victory to City Controller Annise Parker after a hotly contested runoff.
Several other U.S. cities, including Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., and Cambridge, Mass., have openly gay mayors, but none are as large as Houston.
Outside of Randal O’Toole’s obsession with Portland, you’ll almost never see Houston mentioned in the same breath as those other cities. As I said last night, I believe people’s perceptions of Houston are going to change, and that’s a good thing.
Houston chose Ms. Parker, the city controller, over Gene Locke, a former city attorney, with 53 percent of the vote. Yet, in the past, Houston has voted against extending benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian members of the city government. And Texas has outlawed gay marriage.
The distinction neatly sums up the American mood. As gays and lesbians become broadly accepted in society and politics, that acceptance is marked by a firm boundary beyond which voters do not yet appear willing to cross: same-sex marriage.
In some respects, Harris County – which includes virtually all of Houston – does not align perfectly with typical Texas politics. In the 2008 presidential election, it gave Barack Obama 19,000 more votes than Sen. Jon McCain – this in a state where Senator McCain won by 950,000 votes. Moreover, both candidates in Saturday’s nonpartisan election were Democrats.
Harris County is, of course, about twice the size of Houston, which as we also know is strongly Democratic. I don’t really expect the nationals to grasp this, but I included that paragraph mostly because it makes me happy to see Harris’ Democratic trend noted like that.
Much like last year’s Presidential election, Parker’s election is historic and brings with it a lot of hope for a lot of people. And much like that election, I think a lot of that hope is sooner or later going to run into the reality of the economy, and the fact that like Barack Obama, Annise Parker is much more of a pragmatist who will try to solve the problems in front of her than a crusader who will try to advance an agenda. The former is what I think we need right now in each case, and I believe that in a few years we’ll look back and see that they have accomplished much, and along the way done a lot to make things better as well. At least Parker gets to say what gets done, and only has one majority vote to overcome to get it done. The challenges are there, but so I believe is the path forward. I feel good about where we’re going. Nancy, Martha, Erik, Stace, and South Texas Chisme have more.