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HGLBT Political Caucus

Runoff watch: Judicial races

There are three District Court race runoffs on the Democratic side, and two Court of Criminal Appeals runoffs for the Republicans. There are also a few Justice of the Peace runoffs, but I’ll deal with them in another post.

11th Civil District Court – Democratic

Kristen Hawkins

Kristen Hawkins

Kristem Hawkins led this three-candidate race by a wide margin, coming within 1000 votes of an outright win. Runnerup Rabeea Collier finished just 170 votes ahead of third-place candidate Jim Lewis. Given the narrowness of that margin, I’m actually a bit surprised there hasn’t been a call for a recount, but as far as I know there hasn’t been one.

Hawkins’ Q&A is here, and Collier’s is here. This race is fascinating because there’s no clear reason why it went the way it did. All three candidates were busy campaigners, and all three won endorsements from various groups, with Lewis getting the nod from the Chron. Hawkins was first on the ballot, but doesn’t appear to have been a major factor overall. Hawkins would seem to be a clear favorite in the runoff based on her near-win in March and commanding lead in vote total, but as we know this runoff is going to be a low-turnout affair. Anything can happen.

61st Civil District Court – Democratic

This three-way race saw a much more even split of the vote than the 11th did. Frontrunner Fredericka Phillips had 38%, with second-place finisher Julie Countiss scoring 35%. In third was Dion Ramos, who won a partial term for the 55th District Court in 2008, but lost it in the 2010 wipeout.

Countiss’ Q&A is here; Phillips did not send me a response. Countiss’ campaign was by far the most visible, at least to me, and she collected most of the group endorsements. Phillips is the Vice Chair of the Texas Democratic Party as well as a past candidate for the 387th District Court in 2012 in Fort Bend, under her maiden name of Petry. The Chron endorsed Ramos for March, so they’ll have to revisit this one; the same is true for the 11th, where Lewis was their initial choice. I see this race as a tossup.

215th Civil District Court – Democratic

Easily the most interesting of the judicial runoffs, and the one with the most backstory. In 2012, District Court Judge Steve Kirkland was the only incumbent judge to face a primary challenge, from attorney Elaine Palmer. Palmer’s campaign was lavishly funded by attorney George Fleming, who bore a grudge against Kirkland, and that animus made this an ugly, divisive race that Palmer ultimately won. Palmer went on to win in November, and now in 2016 she is the only incumbent judge facing a primary challenge. Three candidates filed against her, with JoAnn Storey leading the pack into overtime.

Judge Palmer’s Q&A is here, and Storey’s is here. Palmer led all the way but was never close to a majority, ending up with 43% to Storey’s 27%. If there’s a judicial race that will draw out voters, it will be this one, as Kirkland supporters, in particular the HGLBT Political Caucus, have a shot at avenging that 2012 race. Storey got most of the group endorsements for March, which in itself is remarkable given that she was challenging an incumbent, though the Caucus went with Josh Verde in Round One. I expect that will be handled for the runoff, and that I’ll be hearing from them as attention turns towards the vote. As for Palmer, if Fleming is still financing her it’s not apparent – the only report I can find for her is the January filing, for which she reported no contributions for the period. Again, this one could go either way, but I feel like Storey has a slight edge.

Court of Criminal Appeals – Republican

There are two Republican runoffs for the CCA. I’m just going to quote Grits for Breakfast about them.

Grits suggested before the primary that I’d “be watching the Sid Harle/Steve Smith race on the Court of Criminal Appeals to see if Texas GOP voters have flat-out lost their minds.”

Short answer: They have.

Judge Harle, who arguably was the most qualified and well-respected jurist on the ballot, didn’t even make the runoff to replace Cheryl Johnson on the court. Instead, a lawyer named Scott Walker who according to press accounts had “chosen not to campaign,” led the field with 41%. He’ll face Brent Webster, who ran on an anti-abortion platform unrelated to the activities of the Court of Criminal Appeals and garnered 20.45% of the vote.

Steve Smith ran third with 19.6%, with Harle trailing at 4th with 18.5%

Walker was popular because he shares a name with the Wisconsin governor who at one point appeared to be a presidential frontrunner before the Trump phenomenon erupted. Webster, presumably, benefited from his (irrelevant) pro-life bona fides, though so little is spent on these elections I suspect most people who voted for him knew nothing at all about him.

In the race between Mary Lou Keel, Chris Oldner, and Tea Partier Ray Wheless, Keel and Wheless made the runoff. Keel led, barely, but Wheless’ base is more likely to turn out in the runoff. Keel and Oldner have disparaged Wheless, whose background is mostly in civil law, as unqualified, although Rick Perry appointed him to a district court seat.

Voters in the GOP primary clearly didn’t have a clue about these CCA races. They may as well have drawn lots for Johnson’s seat. These races are so underfunded for a state the size of Texas that candidates can’t meaningfully get their messages out and voters have no way to know anything about them.

The Walker/Webster runoff is the strongest argument in my adult lifetime for appointing judges instead of electing them. What an embarrassment.

So there you have it. As a reminder, there are Democratic candidates in each of these races. I admit, that’s unlikely to matter, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway.

Endorsement watch: Bell for King

As the headline notes, this came as a surprise to many.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Former Congressman Chris Bell publicly backed fiscal conservative Bill King in the Houston mayoral runoff Tuesday, a move that could bolster King’s efforts to make inroads with progressive voters.

Bell’s endorsement came as a surprise to many political insiders expecting the progressive former mayoral candidate to support King’s rival, Democrat Sylvester Turner.

Bell cited King’s focus on pension reform, public safety, road repair and flooding as reasons for his endorsement, as well as the businessman’s thoughtful approach to policy issues.

“It might come as a surprise to some because of my political persuasion, but it really shouldn’t,” Bell said alongside King in Meyerland. “Truth be told, we agree much more than we disagree. As far as the major principles of his campaign, we’re in complete agreement.”

If you say so, Chris. From my perspective, the main area of overlap between the two campaigns was an enthusiasm for bashing Adrian Garcia. On a number of issues I can think of, from HERO to the revenue cap to ReBuild Houston to (yes) pensions, there seemed to be little in common. It’s easier for me to see agreement between Steve Costello and Sylvester Turner than it is for me to see concurrence between Bell and King. Perhaps it’s in the eye of the beholder, I don’t know. But really, on a broader level, it’s that Bell positioned himself quite purposefully to Sylvester Turner’s left, with his greater purity on LGBT equality being a main point of differentiation. Though he missed out on getting the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement – amid a fair amount of grumbling about Turner buying the recommendation via a slew of last-minute memberships – Bell had a lot of support in the LGBT community; a couple of his fervent supporters courted my vote at the West Gray Multi-Service Center by reminding me of an old Turner legislative vote against same sex foster parenting. This is why it’s hard to believe his claims about there being so much in common between him and King, and why this announcement was met with such an explosion of outrage and cries of betrayal. It’s not a partisan matter so much as it is a strong suspicion that either the prior assertions about being the real champion of equality were lies or that this endorsement had to come with a prize. If Chris Bell honestly believes that Bill King will be the best Mayor, that’s his right and his choice. But no one should be surprised by the reaction to it.

Does this help King? Well, he needs to get some Anglo Dem support to win, and that was Bell’s base. Of course, speaking as someone in that demographic, I’ve seen very little evidence that any of his erstwhile supporters were impressed by this. Quite the reverse, as noted above. I guess it can’t hurt, I just wouldn’t expect it to do much.

In the meantime, various organizations have been issuing new and updated endorsements for the runoffs. A few highlights:

– As previously noted, the HCDP endorsed all Democratic candidates with Republican opponents. That means Sylvester Turner for Mayor, Chris Brown for Controller, Georgia Provost, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, Sharon Moses, Richard Nguyen, and Mike Laster for Council, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jose Leal for HISD Trustee.

– The Houston GLBT Political Caucus added Georgia Provost and Karla Cisneros to their list of endorsed candidates. Turner, Brown, Edwards, and the incumbents were already on there. They did not take action on Moses and Leal.

– The Meyerland Democrats made their first endorsements in a city election: Turner, Brown, Provost, Robinson, Edwards, Nguyen, and Laster.

– Controller candidate Chris Brown sent out another email touting endorsements, this time from five previous Controllers – Ronald Green, Annise Parker, Sylvia Garcia, George Greanias, and Kathy Whitmire. As you know, I’m glad to see Green support him.

– As noted here, the Harris County GOP Executive Committee endorsed Willie Davis in AL2, though it wasn’t exactly unanimous.

– The Log Cabin Republicans transferred their endorsements to Bill King and Mike Knox, and reiterated their support for David Robinson, Jack Christie, and Steve Le. Guess being staunchly anti-HERO has its drawbacks.

– A group called the Texas Conservative View endorsed the candidates you’d expect them to – King, Frazer, Knox, Davis, Roy Morales, Christie, Steve Le, Jim Bigham – and one I didn’t, Jason Cisneroz. All of them were repeats from November except for Morales; they had previously endorsed Jonathan Hansen.

– Finally, the Houston Association of Realtors gave Bill King an endorsement that does mean something and makes sense, along with Amanda Edwards.

I think that catches me up. I’m sure there will be more to come – in particular, the Chron has a few races to revisit. They need to pick a finalist between Brown and Frazer, and make a new choice in AL1 and AL5. I’ll let you know when they do.

UPDATE: The line I deleted above about “being staunchly anti-HERO” was a reference to Willie Davis not getting the LCR endorsement in At Large #2. It made sense in my head when I wrote it, but I can see now that I didn’t make that clear at all. And given that the LCRs endorsed David Robinson in November, it doesn’t make sense even when I clarify who I intended that to be about. So, I take it back. Sorry for the confusion.

Endorsement watch: The score so far

We’ve had a slew of endorsements for municipal races this past week. I’ve been keeping track of them as best I can on my 2015 Election page. This isn’t always easy to do, because some groups are not very good at posting their endorsements anywhere. I gather, for example, that the HPFFA has made endorsements, based on these tweets, but so far no official list appears to be visible. Groups whose endorsements I have added to the page so far:

AFL-CIO
Houston GLBT Political Caucus
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats
Houston Area Stonewall Democrats
Democracy for Houston
Harris County Tejano Democrats

Log Cabin Republicans
Houston Police Officers Union
Houston Building Owners & Managers Association

I’ve separated the traditionally Democratic/progressive groups from the rest. There are still a lot of groups out there to endorse – HOPE (they have endorsed Sylvester Turner for Mayor but I’ve not seen anything else from them as yet), SEIU, Houston Black American Democrats, Houston Association of Realtors, Houston Contractors Association, the C Club, Texas Organizing Project, and the firefighters if they ever produce a list. Things may change as more endorsements come in, but here are my initial impressions on what we’ve seen so far.

Sylvester Turner has done very well so far. I had thought some endorsing organizations might want to keep their powder dry in this crowded field, but Turner has stood out with his ability to collect support from different groups. Given all the competition for the LGBT group endorsements, snagging two of them is an accomplishment. Stephen Costello nabbed the other two, with the nod from the Stonewall Young Dems being a bit contentious. Adrian Garcia got on the scoreboard with the Tejano Dems; I’m sure that won’t be his last endorsement. Chris Bell has impeccable credentials for some of these groups, but he’s come up empty so far. You have to wonder if they’re getting a little discouraged over there, and you have to wonder if their fundraising is taking a hit. Ben Hall is getting Hotze support; I’ll be interested to see if he buys Gary Polland’s endorsement in the Texas Conservative Review. Will also be interesting to see if a more mainstream group like the C Club throws in with Hall or goes with an establishment choice like Bill King.

My initial reaction to Chris Brown’s dominance in Controller endorsements so far was surprise, but on reflection it all makes sense. He’s really the only viable Democrat running – Carroll Robinson has Hotze taint on him, and Jew Don Boney doesn’t even have a campaign website. Frazer got the Log Cabin Republicans, and I expect him to sweep up the other R-based endorsements. Keep an eye on what the realtors and contractors do in this one, if they get involved at all rather than waiting for the runoff.

Lane Lewis has crushed it so far in At Large #1, not only sweeping the Dem/progressive endorsements over three quality opponents, but also picking up support from the police, firefighters, and BOMA, who didn’t endorse in any of the other three open citywide races. He won’t win any Republican endorsements, of course – I assume new entrant Mike Knox will, if he can get his campaign organized in time to do whatever screenings are needed – but at this point I’d make him a favorite for most of what’s left. Amanda Edwards has impressed in AL4, though Laurie Robinson has split a couple of endorsements with her and will be a threat to win others. Not clear to me who will take the Republican support that’s available.

I expected more of an even fight in the two At Large races with Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents, but so far Doug Peterson and Philippe Nassif have taken them all. As I understand it, Durrel Douglas hasn’t been screening for endorsements – this can be a very time-consuming thing if you are doing a solo campaign – so Nassif has had a clear path and has taken it. As for AL3, I get the impression that Peterson is considered the more viable candidate against CM Kubosh. I though both he and John LaRue were good interview subjects, for what it’s worth. CMs Kubosh and Christie have gotten the “friendly incumbent” endorsements so far, and I expect that will continue. CM David Robinson has gotten those and the Dem/progressive nods. I’ll be interested to see if HBAD backs Andrew Burks; I expect Gary Polland to give Burks some love for being a HERO opponent, but I don’t know if groups like the C Club will join in with that. Burks is doing his usual thing campaign-wise (which is to say, not a whole lot), so anything that requires an organized response is probably beyond his grasp.

Not a whole lot of interest in the District Council and HISD/HCC races. I’m a little surprised that Karla Cisneros hasn’t picked up any endorsements in H, but there’s still time. Ramiro Fonseca has done well against Manuel Rodriguez, who is deservedly paying for the rotten things his campaign did in 2011. Jolanda Jones still has some game. Beyond that, not much to say.

So that’s where things stand now. As I said, they may look very different in a month’s time. And as with fundraising, a good showing in endorsements only means so much. Plenty of candidates who have dominated the endorsement process have fallen short at the ballot box. So consider all this as being for entertainment purposes only, and take it with a handful or two of salt.

UPDATE: Corrected to reflect the fact that HOPE and SEIU are no longer affiliated.

Defending HERO

It’s a big job, but we can get it done.

RedEquality

“We’re going to do everything we can to win HERO at the ballot box,” [Houston GLBT Political Caucus] president Maverick Welsh said.

It would be Houstonians’ third time voting on protections or benefits for gays, which they rejected in 1985 and again in 2001.

Then, too, the caucus threw its political weight behind the efforts – first to a resounding 4-1 defeat and then to a slimmer margin of three percentage points, or some 7,500 votes.

In recent years, the group formed in 1975 to support gay-friendly candidates has continued to regain the traction it lost in the 1985 election, when no one seeking city office sought its endorsement. This year, more than two thirds of the mayoral contenders are striving for the caucus’ backing, now seen as a stamp of approval for progressive voters.

Only 2013 runner-up Ben Hall and former Kemah mayor Bill King declined to participate in the pre-endorsement screening process, though King responded to the group’s questionnaire.

“Everybody wants to dance with us right now,” Welsh said. “The fight that we’ve been fighting for 40 years is now very mainstream, I think, for most voters.”

According to the Kinder Institute’s recent Houston Area Survey, support for gay rights in Harris County, which includes Houston’s more conservative suburbs, has increased consistently since the early ’90s.

Between 2000 and 2014, support for homosexuals being legally permitted to adopt children grew to 51 percent from 28 percent among Harris County survey participants, while support for giving the same legal status to homosexual and heterosexual marriages increased to 51 percent in 2015 from 37 percent in 2001.

[…]

Welsh, caucus president, said he expects the group to be involved in any campaign for HERO, adding that caucus mailings undoubtedly will include pro-HERO information.

However, political observers said the ordinance may present a turnout problem for the caucus, which has established its sphere of influence primarily in low-turnout elections.

“They have shown the ability to motivate a fairly decent share of the vote when you get less than 200,000 people voting,” University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said. “But if the turnout goes up, then you expect the caucus-influenced vote probably declines as a fraction of the total electorate.”

The city’s last open-seat mayor’s race in 2009 drew just 19 percent of about 935,000 registered voters. On the other hand, more than 28 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls in 2001, when the ballot contained a proposed charter amendment barring the city from providing unmarried partners of the same or opposite sex with employment benefits.

Given that the caucus’ progressive base already consistently shows up at the polls, political observers questioned whether the group would be able leverage its organizational strength and volunteer capacity to appeal to new portions of the electorate.

“It’s a risky vote for them,” Murray said.

Couple things here. First of all, if I have learned anything from studying recent electoral history in Houston, it’s that interesting ballot referenda drive turnout in a way that elections without such referenda do not. Go read that post I just linked to about Houston elections in the 90s and you’ll see what I mean. The 2003 election, which everyone points to as the pinnacle for 21st century turnout in Houston, was greatly aided by the Metro referendum. (This is why the Republicans in the Legislature put the tort “reform” constitutional amendment on the ballot in September – they didn’t want Houston turnout affecting the outcome.) Given all this, I do expect turnout to be higher than usual. Our past history, the stakes of the election, and the amount of attention that will be focused on it all point to that.

Is that an advantage for the anti-HERO crowd? Not necessarily. We know there’s a strong correlation between age and opposition to equality – the younger you are, the more likely you are to favor it, with older folks often being the only group opposed. I’ll have more details on this in a future post, but take my word for this: Houston’s electorate in most municipal election years is already pretty darned old. A strong plurality of voters are over the age of 60. These are the reliable regular voters. There will be more of them in a year like this, but there are a lot more people younger than that who have at least some voting history who are available to turn out. This is – or at least it damn well better be – the first priority for the HERO defense effort. Get out every voter you can under the age of 40. Hell, under 50 is likely to be good enough.

But younger people don’t vote in local elections, I hear you cry. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story. As you can see at that link, one reason why younger people don’t vote in local elections is because they are often fairly new to the city where they are registered to vote. They don’t know the local landscape, they don’t know who represents them in local government, and they don’t feel the same connection to local issues as they do to national ones. (They also tend to not get contacted by the campaigns, since they aren’t reliable voters. It’s a bit of a vicious circle.) But a referendum like the HERO repeal vote is tailor made for them. They don’t need to know anything about the candidates. The issue in question is one they already have established opinions about. It strikes at why they might have chosen to live in this city in the first place – its diversity, its tolerance, its general friendliness to a young/urban lifestyle. If there was ever an opportunity to get a bunch of Presidential-year-only voters to the polls, this is it. If the HERO defenders aren’t putting a huge effort into IDing and targeting the under-40/under-50 crowd, they’re committing malpractice.

That’s the first thing. The other thing is that I don’t believe this election will be about gay rights, per se. I think even hammerheaded jerks like Dave Wilson and Steven Hotze and the rest have begun to figure out that direct homophobia is a losing tactic these days. Strong majorities approve of the Obergfell decision. Gay culture is all around us, and nobody but them objects. Their mostly-fraudulent petition effort was based on the idea of “no unequal rights”, but nobody outside their small group of signatories buys into that. No, what this election will be about is bathrooms and fevered lie-driven fears of sexual predators. You can already see and hear this in the rhetoric of some campaigns and candidates – see Ben Hall for Exhibit A – and I’ve heard it in a couple of interviews so far. Given the character and morals of the people that will be pushing the repeal campaign, you can expect to be soaking in this kind of hateful and dishonest rhetoric once things begin in earnest.

The good news about that is that I don’t think a lot of people have yet given much thought to this issue. Oh, they’re vaguely aware of it, in the way that most people are vaguely aware of most local issues, but it’s not locked in their consciousness yet. For these folks, a different kind of outreach is needed. They will need to hear, from voices they like and trust, why voting the right way on the HERO referendum is something they should do. For that, HERO defenders – and here I’m looking at Mayor Parker, who needs to be the one to make most if not all of the requests I’m about to suggest – should reach out to high-profile Houstonians in sports, music, business, and religion to deliver a message about Houston being the kind of place where everyone is treated equally and respectfully. Given the support of the major sports leagues and the individual teams for equality and non-discrimination ordinances, I’d move heaven and earth to get JJ Watt, James Harden, Jose Altuve, and Carli Lloyd to do a PSA-style ad in which they say something like “My league supports equality. So does my team, and so do I. The Houston we love is open and accepting to all. That’s why I’m [voting the right way] on [whatever the ballot proposition is called], and I ask you to do so, too.” I can’t think of anything the haters could do to counter a message like that, coming from people like that.

There are plenty of other people that could be plugged in to a spot like that, with the script modified to fit them. Bill Lawson. George and Barbara Bush. Beyonce. The members of ZZ Top. Former newscasters Ron Stone and Dave Ward. UH President Renu Khator and Rice President David Leebron. You get the idea. Sure, some may say No for whatever the reason, but I bet many would say Yes, especially if Mayor Parker asked them personally. The key here is to get those spots out quickly, before the haters get their mail and whatever else going. You don’t have to spend much on TV for this – buy a few slots during the evening news and stuff like that, but the real value will be in having them on YouTube. This is about good will, coming from good people. It’s worth a lot, and we should take full advantage of it, because the other side can’t touch it.

So that’s my plan to defend HERO. Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I don’t think it’s unsound. Gear up a ground game to turn out younger voters, and spread a positive message about what makes Houston the city we love to everyone else. I’ll take my chances with that.

Seeking GLBT support in the Mayor’s race

In a crowded field where a small number of votes could be the difference between making the runoff and not, endorsements will be of greater importance. One endorsement that several Mayoral candidates would really like to have if the endorsement of the HGLBT Political Caucus.

Houston’s mayoral candidates are angling for the GLBT Caucus’ coveted support, with state Rep. Sylvester Turner’s campaign purchasing dozens of memberships and others urging supporters to sign up ahead of the group’s August endorsement meeting.

In the last month, caucus membership jumped by about 200 people, from 325 to 525, leaving some longtime members, particularly supporters of former congressman Chris Bell, concerned that this year’s endorsement already may have been bought.

Caucus President Maverick Welsh, however, said the campaigns’ efforts will not be enough to tip the scales.

“We know campaigns actively try to push as many people into the room as possible, and that’s why we’ve strategically tried to grow our membership over the last year and a half,” Welsh said. “I don’t think any candidate has enough members to be able to buy an endorsement.”

[…]

Former congressman Chris Bell has been actively encouraging supporters to join and show up for the August meeting, while City Councilman Stephen Costello has pursued what his campaign described as a “low-key effort” to get people to join the caucus’ ranks.

Turner, on the other hand, opted to write the group a $3,040 check two weeks ago – enough for at least 76 memberships, according to spokeswoman Sue Davis.

“It’s something that’s done every year,” Davis said.

All three candidates, as well as former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, are seen as contenders for the caucus endorsement.

I wouldn’t want to try to guess who will come away with it. Based on what I’ve been seeing in my inbox and Facebook feed, we should start seeing a bunch of endorsements come down in the next few weeks. There’s a lot of races, not just the Mayor’s race, where those decisions aren’t going to be easy. I’ll be tracking them on the 2015 Election page as I see them.

Counting votes on the non-discrimination ordinance

From the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Facebook page:

Members have asked for the responses on our questionnaires to the questions below. The President of the Caucus, Maverick Welsh, has asked me to post the information. As the chair of the Screening Committee, I have reviewed the questionnaires from 2013 and below is the result:

Mayor–We asked:

Question: If elected, would you be willing to introduce a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?

She answered:

Annise Parker: Yes

City Council–We asked:

If elected, would you publicly advocate for and vote in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?

They answered:

Jerry Davis: Yes
Ellen Cohen: Yes
Dwight Boykins: Yes
Ed Gonzalez: Yes
Robert Gallegos: Yes
Mike Laster: Yes
Larry Green: Yes
Steve Costello: Yes
David Robinson: Yes
C.O. Bradford: Yes
Jack Christie: Yes

There’s been a lot of speculation about who may or may not support the ordinance that Mayor Parker has promised to bring before council. As yet, there is not a draft version of the ordinance, and that seems to be the key to understanding this. As CMs Bradford and Boykins mention to Lone Star Q, without at least a draft you don’t know what the specifics are. Maybe it’ll be weaker than you want it to be. Maybe it’ll be poorly worded and you will be concerned about potential litigation as a result. It’s not inconsistent for a Council member to say they support the principle and the idea of the ordinance, but they want to see what it actually says before they can confirm they’ll vote for it.

Nonetheless, everyone listed above is on record saying they would “vote in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation”, and they will be expected to do exactly that. If they want to make arguments about making it stronger, that’s fine. That list above is more than enough to pass the ordinance, so there should be no waffling, no fretting about vote counts, and especially no fear of a backlash. When the time comes, everyone needs to keep their promises. Now would be an excellent time to call your Council members and let them know you look forward to seeing their vote for this NDO.

Enforcing non-discrimination

In her annual State of the City address, Mayor Parker put a long-awaited item on the table.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday said she would create a human rights commission to review violations of anti-discrimination laws, saying just talking about equality in the nation’s most diverse city is not enough.

“We don’t care where you started your life, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or who you choose to love,” Parker told the audience at the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual State of the City luncheon at the Hilton Americas. “Yet Houston is the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents.”

[…]

Parker said she has made an effort in recent months to speak with groups concerned about the proposal, including the Greater Houston Partnership, which sponsored the State of the City address.

“Their concerns were generally, ‘Why would you even want to bring something like this up? Things are going so well in Houston, and our international reputation is so good. You will bring the crazies out. It will make Houston look bad,’ ” the mayor recalled from a meeting with President and CEO Bob Harvey and Chairman Paul Hobby last month. “But that’s never a reason not to do things and, until they actually have an actual ordinance in front of them to attack, it is what it is.”

Parker said it was the second time she met with Partnership leaders to avoid “surprising anybody” as she works to transform the idea into a written ordinance. She said she hopes to have an ordinance ready for a City Council vote in May.

The Mayor did talk about other stuff, but this is what dominated the stories. While the usual suspects did the usual whining about this, Mayor Parker also got pushback from some reliable allies.

Maverick Welsh, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said he thinks Parker’s fear is that if the ordinance includes private-sector employers, it won’t have enough votes to pass the council. However, Welsh said the Caucus supports an ordinance that includes citywide employment protections.

“If you favor an ordinance that does not include private sector employment, you’re siding with the right of employers to discriminate,” Welsh told Lone Star Q on Friday. “My opinion is, put the right ordinance on the table, let the council vote on it in the open. Let them vote on it in the open, so the community can know, and hold people accountable. I don’t see any reason for us to compromise on this issue. Discrimination is discrimination.”

Welsh added that the Caucus will still support the proposed ordinance if it doesn’t include citywide employment protections. “I don’t think the perfect has to be the enemy of the good,” he said.

[…]

Welsh said the argument against citywide employment protections is that they would amount to over-regulation that hurts business. But Welsh said citywide employment protections would actually make Houston more competitive.

“If we have these protections in place, we’re going to attract the best and brightest talent,” he said.

Welsh said some also believe that if the ordinance includes citywide employment protections, opponents will gather enough signatures to place a recall on the ballot — a relatively simple process in Houston. But Welsh said he expects that to happen no matter what.

“She’s going to take all the political heat for this anyway,” Welsh said of Parker. “We compromise against ourselves, and they still go crazy.”

The Mayor had previously come under fire for not being quicker about bringing this forward. The Houston GLBT Caucus did issue a statement in support of the proposal, but the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen so far suggests the grumbling will continue for awhile. If Mayor Parker does bring this to Council on May 7, it will be on the heels of the Uber/Lyft ordinance, so I think it’s fair to say things are about to get interesting at City Hall. Personally, I agree with Maverick Welsh – I see no reason not to go full monty on this. You may wind up where the proposal is now as a reasonable fallback, but aiming for that position from the beginning was never going to calm the haters or keep the hand-wringers from wringing their hands. It’s what they do, so you may as well budget for it. We’ll see how it goes with Council. You can see a full copy of the State of the City address here, and Campos has more.

Endorsement watch: Kim Ogg for DA

The Chronicle gives a ringing endorsement to Kim Ogg in the Democratic primary for District Attorney.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

Ogg has experience as a board-certified felony prosecutor, but she also has the broad view that comes from serving as director of Houston’s first anti-gang task force. After overseeing a 40 percent drop in gang violence, Ogg went to work as executive director of Crime Stoppers, where she helped unite community resources to solve thousands of unsolved crimes. With this experience, Ogg knows that it isn’t merely about racking up prosecutions but setting countywide policy that is directly connected to reducing crime. She points to creative use of civil law to prevent crime before it happens. Harris County has used nuisance injunctions to keep gang members away from schools and apartments, and Ogg wants to expand that strategy to fight people whose businesses act as fronts for sex trafficking.

[…]

Ogg also will put people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana where they belong: along our bayous performing community service, rather than in jail at taxpayer expense.

But like the heroine in a bad horror movie sequel, Ogg has to defeat a sad soul who keeps coming back: Lloyd Wayne Oliver. Just when you thought it was safe to vote in the Democratic primary, he’s on the ballot again for the free publicity. Primary voters should give Oliver the thrashing he deserves for making a mockery of our elections. And they should give Ogg a place in the general election come November.

We all know what the stakes are here. Either we nominate Kim Ogg and have ourselves a real candidate to support who can drive a real debate about the DA’s office and its direction, or we punt the race for the second time in two years. Given that we’re basically going to punt the County Judge race, since the only qualified candidate on the ballot is incumbent Judge Ed Emmett, that’s a lot of dead weight at the top of the county ticket. While I don’t think that will be a drag on Wendy Davis and the rest of the statewide ticket, it certainly won’t help. It’s up to Ogg and her team to do the heavy lifting of voter outreach, but we can do our part as well. Vote for Kim Ogg, and tell everyone you know to vote for Kim Ogg.

On the same page, the Chron did a series of endorsements in contested House primaries. Of interest to us:

District 131: Alma Allen

We endorse Allen, the incumbent, because of her familiarity with the Legislature and her 10 years of seniority there, and because her position on the education committee and long history as a school principal enable her to promote better state funding for public schools. Those serve her south Houston district well. But her energetic challenger, 27-year-old Azuwuike “Ike” Okorafor, is a promising newcomer. We hope to see him run for other area offices.

District 145: Carol Alvarado

In the House, Alvarado has a strong record of fighting for Democratic causes, such as education funding, women’s health and Medicaid expansion, without alienating the Republican colleagues she needs to get things done. She and her staff are notably visible and accessible, providing a high degree of constituent services in a heavily Hispanic district that stretches from part of the Houston Heights southeast to Beltway 8. She’s the clear choice in this race.

No surprises in either one, and I too would like to see Azuwuike Okorafor run for something else if he doesn’t win this time. On the Republican side, they endorsed Chuck Maricle in HD129, Ann Hodges in HD132, Rep. Sarah Davis in HD134, and Rep. Debbie Riddle in HD150. Maricle was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the only Republican who screened with them for this primary; Hodges was endorsed by the Texas Parent PAC; Rep. Davis was endorsed by Equality Texas, the first Republican to get their recommendation. So they have that going for them.

Ben Hall comes out against LGBT rights

I can honestly say I’m not surprised by this.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Mayoral candidate Ben Hall spoke to KUHF this morning and (finally) spoke publicly regarding issues of equality for the LGBT community. Hall not only came out staunchly against introducing and implementing a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, but also in repealing the Executive Order 150.

Unfortunately for Hall, he had previously sent in the municipal candidate questionnaire to the Harris County Democratic Party in which he answered he would support a non-discrimination ordinance for all Houstonians, including those in the LGBT community.

“If we can’t trust Ben Hall to decide where he stands on issues of fairness and equality on the campaign trail, how can we trust him to make the hard decisions as the Mayor of Houston?” Brad Pritchett, President of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said. “Hall’s inability to take a principled stand on a basic Democratic issue just underscores why Mayor Annise Parker is the right choice for the City of Houston.”

Hall neglected to sit down with both the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus when the organizations were screening municipal candidates.

The audio, from the Houston Matters show, is here. The reason I can say I’m not surprised by this is because in the interview I did with Hall, I asked him (as I asked everyone) if he would support an effort to repeal the 2001 charter amendment that forbids the city from offering domestic partner benefits to its employees. His response was a flat No; if you listen closely, you can tell that I wasn’t expecting that answer. That may be because as John Coby notes, Hall had previously expressed support for a more comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance. I don’t know what prompted Hall’s reversal, but it’s unfortunate whatever the cause. Discrimination is wrong, and you would think Ben Hall would know better. Texpatriate and Texas Leftist has more.

Endorsement watch: GLBT Caucus and HSYD

We are entering the part of the election cycle where groups are making their endorsements. One of the first out of the box is the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which held its endorsement meeting on Saturday night. Here’s their press release, sent late Monday night:

150 members of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus met on Saturday to consider endorsements in the November 5, 2013 Houston municipal races and races for Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College System.

Mayor Annise Parker and 25 other candidates attended the four-hour meeting, during which candidate qualifications, campaigns, and support of equality issues were discussed and debated at length. All eligible candidates previously completed an extensive candidate questionnaire and sat for an interview with members of the Caucus Screening Committee.

“As always, our members engaged in spirited and passionate debate over which candidates are best equipped to serve Houstonians and the GLBT community.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. “It is a very difficult process when you have so many great candidates competing for our support.”

You can see the individual endorsements announced on their Facebook page. Here’s their slate for 2013:

Mayor – Annise Parker (I)
Controller – Ronald Green (I)
At Large #1 – Stephen Costello (I)
At Large #2 – David Robinson
At Large #3 – Jenifer Pool
At Large #4 – C.O. Bradford (I)
At Large #5 – Jack Christie (I)
District A – No endorsement
District B – Jerry Davis (I)
District C – Ellen Cohen (I)
District D – Assata Richards
District E – No endorsement
District F – No endorsement
District G – No endorsement
District H – Ed Gonzalez (I)
District I – Graci Garces
District J – Mike Laster (I)
District K – Larry Green (I)
HISD District 1 – Anna Eastman (I)
HCC District I – Zeph Capo7

Note: (I) = Incumbent.

You can see a photo of their slate here. There are no major surprises on that list. Looking back to 2011, candidates in that election who did not receive the Caucus’ endorsement include Ronald Green (no endorsement in the Controller race that year); David Robinson (they endorsed Jenifer Pool on AL2); and Jack Christie (they endorsed then-incumbent CM Jolanda Jones). First-term CMs Davis, Cohen, Laster, and Larry Green were Caucus-endorsed as candidates.

On Tuesday, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats announced their endorsements, which you can see here. They mostly overlapped with the Caucus; the only instance in which HSYD made an endorsement that differed from the Caucus was in At Large #3, where HSYD went with Rogene Calvert.

Like I said, endorsement season for groups and organizations is beginning in earnest. I’ve also seen announcements this week about Democracy For Houston and the Tejano Democrats. I expect plenty of others to follow soon. I generally wait to see a press release or some kind of web announcement before I update the Endorsements list on my 2013 Election page. If you’re aware of some endorsement announcement that I’ve missed, please send me the release or link or whatever, and I’ll update appropriately. Thanks very much.

Endorsement watch: GLBT Caucus for Sylvia

From the inbox:

Sylvia Garcia

The Caucus membership met Wednesday evening to consider endorsement for the vacancy in Senate District 6 created by the passing of Senator Mario Gallegos. Members had to make a very difficult decision between two amazingly qualified and pro-equality candidates, former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Carol Alvarado. After a lengthy round of thoughtful and in-depth deliberations, members voted to endorse Garcia. Prior to the meeting, Garcia and Alvarado completed a thorough questionnaire and met with an eight-member screening committee.

“Sylvia Garcia’s strong record of public service and personal experiences supporting and defending members of the LGBT community will make her a strong advocate for the interests of our community in the Senate.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. People interested in volunteering time to help our election efforts can email us at volunteer@thecaucus.org.

I’m sure that was a tough decision for the screening committee to make, and if my limited experience with Caucus meetings is representative, that discussion was very spirited discussion as well. This is the kind of election where this sort of endorsement matters, as it can serve as a tie-breaker for anyone who might be otherwise on the fence, and with turnout likely to be low, every vote really matters. The last big endorsement to look for will be the Chron’s, which I presume will be any day now since early voting begins on Wednesday. I’ll have my interviews with Commissioner Garcia and Rep. Alvarado up on Monday and Wednesday of next week, respectively.

Speaking of early voting, via Campos here are the early voting locations:

Harris County Administration Bldg., First Floor
1001 Preston
77002

Holy Name Catholic Church – Gym
1912 Marion St.
77009

Ripley House
4410 Navigation
77011

H.C.C.S. Southeast College, Learning Hub – Bldg. D
6815 Rustic
77087

Galena Park Library
1500 Keene St.
Galena Park, 77547

Hardy Senior Center
11901 West Hardy Road
77076

Baytown Community Center
2407 Market Street
Baytown, 77520

And via Stace, you can see a Google map of these locations here. For my fellow residents of the Heights who are still in SD06, the admin building and Holy Name Church are the closest early voting locations to you. Early voting runs from the 9th through the 11th, the resumes again on Monday the 14th and continues until the following Tuesday the 22nd. There is no early voting that first weekend, the 12th and 13th. Early voting hours are 8 to 4:30 on the 9th through the 11th, and 7 to 7 all other days except Sunday the 20th. Yes, it’s a bit confusing. See Harris Votes for more.

The truth is out there on the Ministers for Keryl email

In response to my previous post about the homophobic “Ministers for Keryl” email, a couple of commenters said that we didn’t have enough evidence to determine whether or not the email was genuine or spoofed. So, based on that feedback I’m going to provide as much information as I can to see what we can learn.

The starting point for this kind of investigation is always the full headers of the email in question, as that’s how you can tell where the email originated, what path it took, and whether there’s anything bogus in there that would point to some kind of skulduggery. Different email clients have different ways of exposing this information to you. In Gmail, you click the dropdown menu next to the Reply button, and choose Show Original:

It opens the result onto a new webpage. Here’s what I get for the header information (it also includes the full HTML and Java code for the body of the email, which I will omit here) for the infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email:

Delivered-To: cakuffner@gmail.com Received: by 10.182.14.138 with SMTP id p10csp103284obc; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received: by 10.224.98.3 with SMTP id o3mr10492149qan.62.1333996438456; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id a8si13886738qao.49.2012.04.09.11.33.58; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.125; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) smtp.mail=bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass header.i=MinistersForKerylDouglas=3Dyahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; i=MinistersForKerylDouglas=3Dyahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net; bh=Sr1KnAmgb/3XEASAZvhocc4+cHA=; b=e8rsMzkHmbg1qzZiRx3SVuTNq5fJ+NWjB9WsTd3YN9fjRK993EOa0se1P/HqnGMUrZo7TDF89H1P s/qbDgg95CMhYHYNMTdiTNVadBsT1jwdiuD27q8aiV19GoCpnVNAfRNEHBzWwHS3YgGcKTPm8QQY l6NzRMBaP+rqmgGZB38= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; b=cSuqm0G7Gnm0HemlKLpwfQT4dJyqIgwcVV31ziTnSK/G4jsWl8OlFm47bvAh7AmNkLTdCrZyH7mX gOMZ8an++wh/JMBIdozWwfDEzTCcjXn+BfIqOqe/88wB3xHP+qhGdPAWgUGbzEvxjfzJJGrv90cv c/2qL94pTDyNSTyRlYE=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail125.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id hgclpc11djob for cakuffner@gmail.com; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 (envelope-from bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?Support=20Keryl=20Douglas=20for=20Harris=20Democratic=20Chair?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= MinistersForKerylDouglas@yahoo.com Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= MinistersForKerylDouglas@yahoo.com To: cakuffner@gmail.com Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 Message-ID: 83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc65e3510466.20120409182858@mail125.us2.mcsv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID03a4f8c00a65e3510466** X-Campaign: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a X-campaignid: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a x-im: 38509-03a4f8c00a X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=03a4f8c00a&e=65e3510466 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:unsubscribe-83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc-03a4f8c00a-65e3510466@mailin1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=0c4af39c85&e=65e3510466&c=03a4f8c00a>\ Sender: "Rev. Willie J. Howard" MinistersForKerylDouglas=yahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1217078024" MIME-Version: 1.0

That may look like a lot of gobbledegook if you’re not a techie, but there are a few important things to highlight. Where it says “Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125])”, the key things are that “mail125.us2.mcsv.net” appears to be a MailChimp server – “mcsv.net” resolves to http://mailchimp.com/about/mcsv/ if you plug it into a browser – and that 173.231.139.125 is indeed the IP address for mail125.us2.mcsv.net – open a command prompt and do “ping -a 173.231.139.125” to see for yourself. We can therefore say that the email does appear to have originated with MailChimp, which as Noel Freeman noted in that Dallas Voice story was what the GLBT Political Caucus used to make the accusation that the email came from Keryl Douglas’ campaign.

That’s not enough for a conviction. As commenter Paul said to me in an email, it would be nice to be able to compare these headers to those from an email known to have come from a campaign via MailChimp. As it happens, I have several of those from the Keryl Douglas campaign in my mailbox. Here are the headers from the most recent one, dated January 23.

Delivered-To: cakuffner@gmail.com Received: by 10.182.81.230 with SMTP id d6cs32291oby; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:06 -0800 (PST) Received: by 10.224.168.84 with SMTP id t20mr7916103qay.2.1327309445041; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Return-Path: bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net Received: from mail120.us2.mcsv.net (mail120.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.120]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id d10si4311876qcx.187.2012.01.23.01.04.04; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.120; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) smtp.mail=bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass header.i=KerylDouglasforHCDP=3Dgmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; i=KerylDouglasforHCDP=3Dgmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net; bh=ntfeE12aE8Vd8ky8gyVOZYlgy90=; b=Al+GShpwJsaGcDiox+RHHVKr5LzftL/sSCdd0QZU0cx5LSN4DfPotIhBZYHDdziUBgtQMuUFWxpD /REnpk1Yrbj0Gz1kHdwFP1zwbluQEtuLmF6rT/YxtyyEvxZ0Mhm+RBIhos6HK8CIIk6vdYim6eZH otqd3xPJvpYJYeJ6e0E= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; b=Bfe7MCVMbSbZ19eaGOTOAUNNM6I4j/GcRXpswVR8oRDBH9Q9LOBDgF46wxn2bwl5Rx0Ngp+dV0Os Qb/K1+ZpYiaVrBSnmcqS82b5ojXxvPcnnM/u9cn7ai9b8vu1QAW+u5LYeX4/G6qQOqKl9y2paef/ /BUOIjno3/IXcKSQAjM=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail120.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id h3kh8811djoh for cakuffner@gmail.com; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 (envelope-from bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?You=20can=20repeat=20history=20in=202012=21?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= KerylDouglasforHCDP@gmail.com Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= KerylDouglasforHCDP@gmail.com To: cakuffner@gmail.com Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 Message-ID: d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd05f508aea06.20120123090345@mail120.us2.mcsv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID0160311a9e5f508aea06** X-Campaign: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e X-campaignid: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e x-im: 38509-0160311a9e X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=0160311a9e&e=5f508aea06 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:unsubscribe-d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0-0160311a9e-5f508aea06@mailin1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=7151477e83&e=5f508aea06&c=0160311a9e Sender: "Keryl L. Douglas Campaign" KerylDouglasforHCDP=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1410715978" MIME-Version: 1.0

They look more or less the same; the IP address and mail server in the “Received from” match up as before. The main difference I see is in the “List-Unsubscribe” line; where the Douglas campaign email has “http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”, the Ministers for Keryl email has “http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com”. (Those addresses also resolve to the MailChimp domain, by the way.) I wondered what that might mean, so I checked a couple of other MailChimp campaign emails I have. There’s one from the Elaine Palmer campaign dated February 6 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://ElaineHPalmerforJudge.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe”, and one from the Andrew Burks for City Council campaign dated December 22 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://andrewburksforhouston.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”. Seems pretty clear to me.

Again, not enough for a conviction, but nothing that would lead to an acquittal, either. I think we’re at the limit of what I can tell from the emails, but we can certainly get closer to the truth than this. Since everything indicates that the Ministers For Keryl email did come via MailChimp, then the next step is to ask them to check their logs to see what they can say about where it originated. I doubt they’d turn that information over without a paid account or a subpoena, neither of which I have. Not that it really matters, since I don’t have the bandwidth to pursue this any further, but there are surely other parties who ought to be able to. Keryl Douglas, who according to Noel Freeman claimed at her press conference that her account had been hacked, would presumably be interested in ferreting out the truth if she really has been victimized. Having formally accused her of being responsible, the GLBT Political Caucus might want to get an answer. And of course, a professional reporter might want to take advantage of the resources that a professional newsgathering organization could bring to bear on the matter. My point is that this isn’t another he-said/she-said dispute, and it should not be treated as one. There’s an objective answer to this question, and while we may not be able to answer it definitively, we can at least narrow down the objective possibilities. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Non-discrimination ballot referendum coming

I’ve been waiting for this.

they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

Activists are preparing a petition to put a referendum on Houston’s November ballot, calling for a ban on discrimination against gays and permission for the city to grant health insurance benefits to the unmarried partners of city employees.

If organizers collect the 20,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot, the measure again would take the temperature of Houstonians who have voted against both proposals in separate measures in the past 27 years and could make Houston the focus of national attention as the latest political battleground over gay rights.

“Discrimination exists everywhere. It’s really hard to determine how big the problem is,” said Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, who said he expects to submit petition language to the city secretary as early as the end of the month. A local law is necessary, Freeman said, because gays and lesbians who want to press claims of discrimination currently must undertake costly litigation in state or federal courts.

Houston voters rejected two initiatives in 1985 that would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in city employment. In 1998, Mayor Lee Brown issued an order banning discrimination against gay city employees. It survived a three-year legal challenge from Councilman Rob Todd.

[…]

Todd supports Freeman’s referendum.

“I believe that everyone has a right to be loved,” said Todd, a Republican. “And everyone has a right to gainful employment and to be able to support their loved ones, and if those aren’t bipartisan values, then I don’t know what is.”

The former councilman explained that his objection to Brown’s order was parliamentary – that such a change should come from the voters or Council, “not some wave of the wand by the executive branch.” Todd said he believes this referendum has a chance of passing where others have failed because of a new generation of voters, an influx of newcomers and changed attitudes among long-time Houstonians.

I got a similar response from former Council Member Todd when I asked him about it after the city of San Antonio extended domestic partnership benefits to city employees. I too believe that a referendum like this – we don’t have the exact wording yet – should have a better chance of passing than previous ones had. The 2001 charter amendment that denied domestic partner benefits in Houston received 51.52% of the vote, not an overwhelming mandate. It won’t be an easy fight, and a lot will depend on how the issue is framed and who lines up with whom, but it’s a fight worth having and a fight that needs to be won. I’m looking forward to it.

Sometimes an apology isn’t enough

That’s what we tell our kids when they do something particularly egregious. It’s what I would tell Manuel Rodriguez, too.

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca’s “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”

[…]

“I’m glad he finally did this,” [Trustee Juliet] Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

Fonseca was not impressed by Rodriguez’s words.

Fonseca said he was waiting for the final vote tally, which would count outstanding mail and provisional ballots, before deciding his next step – including a possible request for a recount.

“I think the hurt has been deep in the community,” Fonseca said in response to Rodriguez’s statement.

[…]

Mike Pomeroy, a member of the GLBT caucus, said he thought Rodriguez’s statement was insufficient, and he plans to join others – including an HISD student – in addressing Rodriguez during the public comment period.

“I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy said. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.”

I agree with all these reactions. Rodriguez didn’t admit to doing anything wrong – his “apology” amounts to little more than “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” – and didn’t say what if anything he might do to atone for his words. Talk is cheap. Rodriguez has shown us who he is, now he needs to show us – not tell us – that he intends to be better than that. He’s got a long way to go. Hair Balls has more, while K-12 Zone and Stace report from the protests at last night’s HISD meeting.

HISD Trustee Rodriguez sends anti-gay mailer

I figured there was going to be more anti-gay stuff in this election. I just wasn’t expecting it in an HISD Trustee race.

Some Houston residents are calling for the resignation of Trustee Manuel Rodriguez from the Houston school board after the incumbent distributed a campaign flyer to his constituents earlier this week that included language critical of gay people.

“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Ramiro Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.

The flyer states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flyer.)

Fonseca, an administrator for Houston Community College, could not be reached immediately today for comment.

Rodriguez said today that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.

“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview, adding that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”

Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”

The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”

You can see the flyer here. This is just sad on so many levels. It’s sad that an incumbent feels that running on his record isn’t enough. It’s sad that Trustee Rodriguez doesn’t recognize what he’s done. It’s sad that he thinks not being a parent is a disqualification for being a Trustee – would he advocate a vote against his colleague Juliet Stipeche on the grounds that she hasn’t reproduced, too? It’s a multi-faceted fail.

A statement from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is beneath the fold. I agree with their call to the Chron to reconsider their endorsement in this race. Every time I think we’re getting past this stuff as a society, I’m reminded that it never goes away, it just goes into hiding. School Zone has more.

UPDATE: Stace and PDiddie add on. And good for Juliet Stipeche, who as noted would not be considered qualified under the conditions set out by Rodriguez.

(more…)

Interview with Jenifer Rene Pool

Jenifer Pool

We now turn our attention to the last open seat for this year, At Large #2, where a diverse group of candidates are vying to succeed CM Sue Lovell. First up is Jenifer Rene Pool, a community activist and business owner who serves on the Building & Standards Commission and the Police Advisory Committee. She is a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Responding to The Response

I almost forgot that Rick Perry’s Prayerpalooza, also known as The Response, is this weekend. Fortunately, some other folks are more on the ball than I am about this.

On Tuesday, more than 50 Houston-area religious and community leaders disseminated a signed statement drafted by the Anti-Defamation League expressing “deep concern” about a prayer rally “not open to all faiths,” while the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and related organizations announced a Friday rally at Tranquility Park to protest the event. The groups that represent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals accused the American Family Association and other sponsors of the prayer event of hatred toward the GLBT community.

The ADL statement followed a June letter from the Houston Clergy Council that criticized the governor for excluding non-Christians, partnering with an anti-gay group and blurring boundaries between church and state.

“Governor Perry has a constitutional duty to treat all Texans equally, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity,” the ADL statement reads. “His official involvement with The Response, at minimum, violates the spirit of that duty.”

You can see the letter and all of the signatories here. If you agree with the spirit of that letter, then this is the event for you.

In a celebration of diversity, inclusion, and unity, the ACLU of Texas and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) welcome the Rev. William Lawson and the Rev. Barry Lynn as these two leaders join us for an evening call to action for the public good, while recognizing the vital importance of upholding the separation of church and state.

The event called “Family, Faith and Freedom” will be held Friday evening August 5 and will be open to the public. Details on the venue and time are forthcoming.

Additional speakers will include a wide range of religious and non-religious leaders from the Houston community. It will take place the evening before “The Response,” a Christian event to be held at Reliant Stadium. The ACLU of Texas has requested that Gov. Rick Perry and other public officials disclose the amount of taxpayer dollars and other state or local government resources used to promote the prayer event, “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis,” set for August 6.

“Gov. Perry’s decision to sponsor a ‘Christians-only’ prayer rally is bad enough. That he turned to an array of intolerant religious extremists to put it on for him is even worse,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This event unites us in our conviction that government should have no favorite theology and that it must always strive to ensure that all citizens – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and others – are full and equal partners in the public square.”

“Americans of many faiths, and of no faiths, love their country and want to see it prosper,” said Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “Government promotion of an exclusive Christian event implies that our government views certain types of people as more caring about the well-being of our country than others, and also implies that our government views Christianity as the only way to approach the challenges that our society faces. We don’t see it that way, and thought somebody ought to host an event that welcomes all faiths and traditions.”

Here’s information about the venue and time of the event:

What: Family, Faith and Freedom event
Where: Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 5801 W Montgomery Rd., Houston, TX 77091
When: Friday, Aug. 5, 7 to 9 p.m.

Here’s the church’s website, and here’s a map to its location. A list of speakers is here. If you can’t make it to that one, here’s an alternative:

LGBT Texans and allies from around Texas and other states will gather at Tranquility Park Friday evening at 7:00 pm to rally against hatred against the LGBT community. The rally was organized largely in response to the American Family Association’s (AFA) hosting of a prayer event at Reliant Arena the following day. AFA is recognized as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Another recognized hate group, Westboro Baptist Church, will also be in Houston to protest various events in the City.

“The primary existence of AFA is to demonize GLBT Americans and oppose equality.” said Houston GLBT Political Caucus president Noel Freeman. “This is a group that refers to us as Nazis, claims the Holocaust was caused by the GLBT community, and supports the eradication of people living with HIV. There is no place in Houston, in Texas or in our great nation for hate.”

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus will be joined by other organizations, including the GLBT Community Center, Equality Texas, Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Healing Out Loud, and Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church. State Representative Garnet Coleman will keynote a program that will feature anti-hate messages from political, religious and family groups.

“All members of the community and our allies are welcome to join us in rejecting hate from Houston.” Freeman said. “Together we can show hate groups that we will never give up on our mission of making this world a safe, caring, respectful place for everyone, and that masking hate with religion is never acceptable.”

Here’s the statement the Caucus put out in June about The Response and the more despicable characters that will be participating in it. You can’t go wrong by attending either of these protests. And note one more thing, from the Chron story:

Reliant Park officials have said they planned a “small arena configuration” the would accommodate about 10,000 people.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were more people at the counter-events than at the main event? You can help make that happen. PDiddie, Harold, Forrest Wilder, Equality Texas, Hair Balls, and the Trib have more.

More pushback on Perry’s choice of prayer partner

Glad to see it.

Gov. Rick Perry’s Aug. 6 day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is generating significant heat nationwide, with critics protesting the exclusively Christian focus of the event and Perry’s partnership with the controversial American Family Association, which advocates against gay rights.

Expressing objections on a variety of religious and cultural grounds, some opponents have organized a protest on Facebook, while others are urging the nation’s 49 other governors invited by Perry to boycott the event.

To host the Reliant Park event, Perry chose the Mississippi-based American Family Association, a nonprofit that operates a network of 192 radio stations with 2 million followers that has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for what the SPLC calls the dissemination of “known falsehoods” about homosexuality. The AFA also has called for numerous boycotts against companies and entities it says “promote the homosexual agenda.”

Critics also accused Perry of using a religious event to boost a possible presidential bid.

“I want to be clear that my criticism of the governor doesn’t stem from my lack of appreciation for religion, rather it comes from my deep respect for religion and from not wanting religion to be prostituted for political purposes,” said C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance. “I think the people of Texas elected him to be the governor of the state, not the pastor of the state.”

[…]

Noel Freeman, head of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said his organization did not take offense with “the event itself. If Governor Perry wants to have a prayer event, that’s his prerogative. The thing we take exception to is that his primary partner in this is an anti-gay hate group. They are primarily known for that fact. This was not a secret to either Governor Perry or his staff.”

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, rejected the label of “hate group” and characterized his organization’s position on homosexuality as representative “of a lot of people who have traditional values.”

“They want somebody to speak for them,” he said. “We try to do that. We are reaching the Christian community with the truth about what is going on in our country.”

He acknowledged that a stated purpose of the August prayer event initiated by Perry – to pray for an end to the “debasement of our culture” – refers to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality by American society.

Well, as we’ve seen, the AFA is going to continue to tell everyone exactly how they feel about gays and non-Christians and anyone else they consider to be undesirable, which in turn will tell us all what this rally really is about, no matter what Rick Perry may say. It would be nice, as Perry makes his national tour this week, if he were to be asked at every stop whether he agrees with what the AFA is saying or not. I don’t actually expect that to happen, of course.

In the meantime, someone might want to visit with this fellow and help him point his browser to the AFA’s website.

When it comes to hosting potentially controversial events at the Reliant Complex, SMG/Reliant Park general manager Mark Miller said each proposal is considered on its own merits — within reason.

“It’s really a case-by-case basis of who wants to come book the building and what they want to book the building for,” said Miller, whose company contracts with Harris County to operate the Reliant complex. “If any group came by that was presenting a program that we didn’t feel was in the best interest of the community, I think it would be doubtful the building would be rented to them.”

Miller said SMG has turned down events in the past, but those denials were based on the events not being in the park’s business interests – renting out for an arena football game, for instance, a Texans competitor — and not because of ethical or moral concerns.

“Whether or not somebody has categorized (the AFA) as a hate group, I didn’t have any knowledge of that,” Miller said of Perry’s event. “Somebody coming in wanting to have a prayer event for the nation doesn’t automatically raise a red flag that it’s a bad thing to do.”

The content of a proposed program matters more than the group wishing to present it, he said.

“The presenting entity would raise the level of scrutiny regarding the program and the appropriateness of the program. If somebody came in that was obviously a group that had a reputation of violence or a reputation of being anti-government or anti-whatever, then obviously we would look,” Miller said. “We wouldn’t want to rent to al-Qaeda.”

You shouldn’t want to rent to the AFA, either. Perhaps if Mr. Miller were to learn a little more about them, he’d feel that way, too.

Judge rules against Nikki Araguz

This is unfortunate.

A judge has ruled that the marriage between a Wharton fire captain killed in the line of duty and his transgender wife was not legal, an attorney in the case said Tuesday.

Frank Mann III, one of the attorneys representing family members of Thomas Trevino Araguz III, said he had received notice from the office of State District Judge Randy Clapp that the judge ruled in his client’s favor.

“It is our understanding, having read a draft order circulated by Judge Clapp, that he has ruled that any marriage between Thomas Araguz and Nikki Araguz is void as a matter of law,” Mann said in a prepared statement sent by email a few minutes after 5 p.m., when the judge’s office was closed. Mann said he had a proposed order from the judge but was not allowed to circulate it.

[…]

Noel Freeman, president of the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Political Caucus, said by phone that the news was very disappointing, given that Nikki Araguz had presented legal documents, including her reissued birth certificate, showing she is female.

“Here you have a birth certificate, a legally binding document, which the court has chosen to completely ignore,” Freeman said. “The transgender community jumps through a lot of legal hoops — records of sex changes, amended birth certificates – to try to live the same life that everybody else gets to live. This is a very frustrating setback.”

See here for some background. This will be appealed, and we’re a long way from getting any kind of resolution. The issues here are a lot more complicated than they need to be.

Steidley, representing Nikki Araguz, argued that the marriage was legal because a 2009 change in the Texas Family Code allows a person to get a marriage license on the basis of a sex change recognized by the court.

But Burwell said the 2009 change in the family code did not overturn a 1999 Texas case, Littleton v. Prange, which is typically cited in Texas as the basis for determining a person’s sex. That case held that a person’s gonads, genitalia and chromosomes determine sex at birth.

The problem with that argument, of course, is that you can’t always determine someone’s gender at birth. Some people are born with the gonads, genitalia, and chromosomes of both sexes. What has usually happened is that they have surgery while they are still infants to assign one gender or another to them. Sometimes, the surgeon who did this guessed wrong about what gender the person “should” be, and that person corrects it later in life. Others have chosen to live with it. Different approaches are sometimes taken today, but the basic point remains that gender is more of a continuum than a binary option, and it’s more of a social construct than a biological one.

Our attempt to force the social construct of gender into our laws has led to contradictions, which is why the El Paso County Clerk asked AG Greg Abbott for an opinion about whether or not it was legal to issue a marriage license to a transgender woman who wanted to marry another woman. Going by the logic of “you are the sex you were at birth”, the answer is yes, but our laws against gay marriage say no. Abbott took the easy way out and declined to offer an opinion because of pending litigation like this, but the underlying issue remains unsettled, as the Lege did not address that 2009 law this session. The simplest answer to all of this, of course, is to quit dictating who can and cannot get married to whom and just allow any two consenting adults to get a marriage license. Do that and all these thorny legal questions magically disappear. Organized religions are still free to impose their own restrictions, but the state of Texas, and every other state, should not. In the meantime, our twisted reasoning has led to a situation where transgender folks could be not allowed to marry anyone at all. I would hope that a court will eventually rule against this unconstitutional mess. It’s just a shame that people will have to keep suffering for our poor lawmaking until then.

Unfinished business

One thing that stood out to me from the Chron’s Q&A with Noel Freeman, the newly-elected president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

Q. What has changed about Houston’s GLBT community in past three decades?

A. We have branched out. People recognize Montrose as kind of the historical center of the gay community in Houston, (but) we’re much more comfortable in a lot of different neighborhoods. I live in the Heights, and on my street there are three same-sex households. I think the GLBT community is much more comfortable and more prosperous than it used to be, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a long way to go.

Q. What do you mean?

A. We still have on the books, in the city charter, a provision passed by popular vote prohibiting the extension of same-sex partner benefits to city employees. That’s just flagrant discrimination written into our charter. I think there will be a point when we can revisit that. We have a nondiscrimination policy for city employees that prohibits discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity. We would like to see that extended to people who have city contracts. There are housing issues. So there are things we need to deal with.

During the 2009 campaign, Mayor Parker avoided talking about that city charter referendum. She did so, she said at the time, because she didn’t want to be thought of as “the gay candidate” but rather as a candidate – and ultimately Mayor – for all of Houston. Fair enough, and there are certainly plenty of other things that require her attention now. But there’s nothing to stop the rest of us from taking action to right this wrong. I’d love to see a referendum that would repeal that earlier discriminatory amendment on the ballot in 2012, and I’ll support any effort to get it there and get it passed. Ten years is long enough.

Jenifer Pool announces for Council

We have another contender for the one At Large Council seat that will be open next fall, former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Jenifer Pool. From her press release, which I received late Wednesday:

Jenifer Rene Pool announced her candidacy for Houston City Council, At-Large Position 2 on Saturday, October 2 at a gathering of her supporters. In her announcement, Jenifer Pool said, “I run because I want to serve the citizens of Houston in helping to make my home, this great city, greater. I want to participate in the process of helping to find solutions to our challenges, create opportunities for all our citizens, make sure all constituents are represented, and become the most efficient and effective city government in the history of Houston.”

Appointed by Mayor Bill White, Jenifer Rene Pool currently serves as a City commissioner of the Building & Standards Commission, and appointed by Mayor Annise Parker, serves on the Police Advisory Commission. Mayor Annise Parker, today, named Ms. Pool to a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Building & Standards. She is a local businesswoman, owning a consulting company which specializes in construction permitting, licensing, and project management. Ms. Pool is a long time resident of Houston. Having moved here in 1980, she has worked in the construction industry since arriving.

Ms. Pool is also a long time community activist working with the GLBT community. She is past president of the GLBT Political Caucus, where her communication and organizational abilities brought the Caucus to the forefront of community involvement. She is also a board member of the Houston Transgender Unity Committee. She is a steering committee member and past Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee of the Human Rights Campaign-Houston.

Dr. Maria Gonzalez, professor of English at the University of Houston and past president of the GLBT Political Caucus said, “Jenifer represents the kind of citizen candidate I like to see run for our City Council. She understands the challenges this city faces and wants to work towards solutions. I look forward to volunteering on her campaign.”

When asked why she is choosing to run at this time, Ms. Pool said, “There are issues in our City that require a clear and decisive voice to get things moving for the future well being of all our citizens. We are a great city and will be an even greater city in the future.”

See here and here for some background. Jenifer is a friend of mine – I was there when she made the announcement; the gathering was her birthday party at The Big Mamou in the Heights – so I’m glad to hear that she’s running. She joins at least one other declared candidate and numerous potential ones in what ought to be a crowded field for the At Large #2 seat.

HGLBT Political Caucus issues resolution in favor of immigration reform

From the inbox:

GLBT CAUCUS COMES OUT FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

The membership of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a resolution (attached) making a strong statement in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

“We, as a civil rights movement, see the immigration reform movement in the same light,” said Kris Banks, Caucus president. “We both have a long way to go. We both have seen our communities demonized by politicians stoking fear for political gain, as we saw with the recent draconian Arizona law. And we both face laws that simply do not work.”

Currently, more than 12 million people living in the United States are in a state of limbo, unable to reach citizenship or legal residency status. The laws regulating immigration are broken, outdated and fail to address reality: Mexico is allotted the same number of visas as Iceland, making for untenable waiting lists. Families are separated as the immigrant parents of U.S. citizens wait outside the United States for visa.

“The GLBT community has also faced, and still faces, laws that simply do not work. Laws like the sodomy statute and ‘cross-dressing’ laws, and laws still in place like marriage bans. They don’t work because they don’t recognize the innate drive of human beings to seek to live to their full potential, to constantly seek their own pursuit of happiness,” Banks said. “We are proud to stand with the immigration reform movement as they seek justice and fairness.”

The GLBT community is also directly affected by immigration issues. Currently, citizens and legal permanent residents are unable to sponsor their same-sex partners or that partner’s children. The Reid-Schumer-Menendez “framework” proposed in the U.S. Senate includes language from the Uniting American Families Act which fixes that problem, uniting families.

However, the Senate framework also includes language that would create a national ID card that uses biometrics, which would make getting documents correctly identifies the gender of transgender people difficult. The Caucus opposes such a measure.

The Caucus is the South’s oldest organization for the civil rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. For more information, see www.thecaucus.org.

Nicely put. I’d like to see more clubs and organizations issue take the same action. Then maybe we could do more than just begin the work of getting comprehensive immigration reform done. For those of you who are in a club or organization and would like to emulate the HGLBTPC’s example, the resolution with all its “Whereas”es is here.

Runoff endorsement watch: DFH and HGLBTPC

There are five local runoffs for the Democratic primary, so we should expect to see updated endorsements from various groups soon. Two of them have already issued theirs. First up, wasting no time at all, is Democracy for Houston:

DEMOCRACY FOR HOUSTON met Wednesday, March 3rd to issue endorsements in the April 13th Democratic Primary Runoff. DFH members voted UNANIMOUSLY to endorse the following candidates:

TANNER GARTH – Civil District Court 234

LEE ARELLANO – Civil District Court 270

BRUCE KESSLER – Family District Court 308

BRAD MORRIS – Family District Court 311

DON COFFEY – Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Place 2

DFH is PROUD to announce that 65 0f 76 DFH ENDORSED candidates won or made it into the runoff. Please refer to the attachment for further details, including CHRONICLE endorsements, resumes and candidate websites on each of our endorsed candidates in the April runoff. It is likely that there will be a VERY SMALL turnout in April, so EVERY VOTE has a GREATER IMPACT on these judicial choices.

Phillip McNutt
Executive Steering Committee Member, Democracy For Houston

In the first round, DFH endorsed Garth in the 234th, Arellano and Charles Spain in the 270th, Kessler in the 308th, and Steve Herskowitz and Damiann Curvey Banieh in the 311th. As far as I can tell, they did not endorse in JP races for the March election.

Next up is the HGLBT Political Caucus:

The Caucus is proud of the work we did for the 2010 Primary. For those races where no one reached more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held April 13. The Caucus endorses these candidates for that runoff. All the following races are for the Democratic Primary. We are a nonpartisan organization, but only Democratic candidates opted to screen. Click here for a printer-friendly version.

Judge, 234th District Court: Tanner Garth

Judge, 270th District Court: Lee Arellano

Judge, 308th Family District Court: Bruce Kessler

Judge, 311th Family District Court: Deborah Wright

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Place 2: Denise Graves

The Round One endorsees for the Caucus were Garth, Spain, Kessler, and Herskowitz. Again, I don’t recall them venturing into the JP races at that time. Martha has more.

I will likely track these endorsements as before, most likely on the 2010 Election page as before, but I haven’t decided how I want to do it yet, so for now, this is what we’ve got.

Endorsement watch: Going mobile

This is very cool. From the inbox:

CAUCUS PAC INTRODUCES MOBILE ENDORSEMENT CARD

Pro-equality voters in Houston are used to turning to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC endorsement card for the candidates most qualified and most ready to address the concerns of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, whether they get the card in the mail or at their polling location. Now, there’s a new way to get the card.

The Caucus is proud to debut the mobile endorsement card, which any interested voter can receive just be texting “2010” to the number 24587. The voter will immediately receive a text back with a link to the mobile endorsement card, which she or he can access on her or his smart phone.

“You can do almost anything on your phone now – why not be able to see which candidates are the best for the GLBT community?” said Kristopher Banks, Caucus president.

The mobile endorsement card lists all candidates Caucus members voted to endorse for the March 2010 primary.

“In the past, we have mailed the Caucus card to identified GLBT and pro-GLBT voters, and those who did not receive it in the mail could get it from a Caucus volunteer at the West Gray Multi-Service Center early voting location, or at any Montrose precinct on Election Day. We’re still doing that,” Banks said. “However, members of our community live all over Harris County. With the mobile endorsement card, we’ll be able to get our message to more people.”

While voters are encouraged to look at the mobile endorsement card before they vote, it is in violation of Texas Elections Code to use a wireless communication device within 100 feet of a polling location.

I’ve noted before that some endorsing organizations do a better job than others at making their endorsements known to a wider audience. This is a great example of the HGLBTPC making their endorsement more useful and worthwhile. I’d love to see more organizations do stuff like this.

Endorsement watch: HGLBT Political Caucus on non-judicial races

Fresh from the inbox:

CAUCUS PAC ENDORSES IN MARCH PRIMARIES

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC endorsed in contested races for the March 2010 primaries this week in two membership meetings.

“We are very excited about these candidates,” said Kris Banks, Caucus president. “Government officials have a profound effect on the lives of our community. The people who hold these judicial offices will decide whether we can adopt children or whether we can change our names to the gender with which we identify. Our screening committee worked hard to identify which candidates to recommend, and our members put much thought into whom they trust with these important decisions.”

All endorsed candidates went through a rigorous screening process. First, the candidates filled out questionnaires. Some judicial candidates compared the questionnaire to taking the bar exam again. Then, the candidates met with a panel of members. Finally, the membership as a whole voted on the endorsements.

The Caucus is a bipartisan organization and opened its endorsement process to both parties, however, only Democratic candidates opted to screen. The Caucus will endorse again for the general election.

The endorsements follow:

United States Representative, District 18: Sheila Jackson Lee
United States Representative, District 22: Doug Blatt
Governor: Bill White
Lieutenant Governor: Ronnie Earle
Commissioner of the General Land Office: Hector Uribe
Commissioner of Agriculture: Hank Gilbert
State Representative, District 146: Borris L. Miles
County Judge: Gordon Quan
County Clerk: Sue Smith Schechter

I edited out the judicial endorsements, which you can see here. And of course, the appropriate ones have been noted here.

Endorsement watch: HGLBT Political Caucus and judicial races

I don’t have a press release yet, but via email from Kris Banks, the President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, here are the endorsements the Caucus has made in Harris County Democratic Party judicial primaries:

113th Civil District Court
Christina Bryan

157th Civil District Court
Chuck Silverman

180th Criminal District Court
Lori Gooch

189th Civil District Court
Andy Pereira

190th Civil District Court
Jim Wrotenbery

234th Civil District Court
Tanner Garth

245th Family District Court
Janiece Horn

247th Family District Court
Clinton “Chip” Wells

248th Criminal District Court
Trent Gaither

270th Civil District Court
Charles Spain

281st Civil District Court
Donna Roth

295th Civil District Court
Paul Simon

308th Family District Court
Bruce Kessler

310th Family District Court
Judy Dougherty

311th Family District Court
Steve Herskowitz

313th Juvenile District Court
Natalie Oakes

314th Juvenile District Court
David Longoria

315th Juvenile District Court
Bill Thursland

County Court at Law No. 1
Steve Reilley

County Court at Law No. 2
Damian E. LaCroix

County Court at Law No. 3
Damon Crenshaw

County Criminal Court No. 1
Beverly D. Melontree

County Criminal Court No. 2
Mary Connealy Acosta

County Criminal Court No. 13
Dennis Slate

County Criminal Court No. 3
Judith Snively

County Criminal Court No. 9
Silvia Pubchara-Munoz

County Criminal Court No. 12
Robert “Bob” Cardenas

County Probate Court No. 2
Joellen Snow

County Probate Court No. 3
Mary Galligan

Note that these are for contested primaries only. The Caucus will make their endorsements for non-judicial races on Wednesday. I’ve updated the 2010 Election page to reflect these recommendations, and will again when the non-judicial endorsements come out. Martha has more.

Hotze endorses Locke

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, and now it’s on its way to a mailbox near you, as local hatemeister Steven Hotze has endorsed candidates in all six City of Houston runoffs and sent a mail piece out touting his preferred slate. Martha has all of the scans of the mailers. Pay particular attention to these two images, which capture the case Hotze makes for and against each candidate. He uses the phrase “radical liberal” six times – interestingly, the one candidate he doesn’t affix that label to is Annise Parker, though he does say she’s “supported by liberal Chicago labor union interests”, whatever that means – and he makes a point of noting that all seven candidates he opposes have been endorsed by the “Gay Lesbian political action committee”. I don’t think you need an advanced degree in literature to be able to read the subtext here.

The question now is whether Gene Locke will live up to his previous statement that he “rejects any association” with this style of campaigning and repudiates Hotze’s endorsement. If he does, he’ll follow the example set by At Large #1 candidate Steven Costello, who to his great credit sent out the following statement:

Today, some people received a mail piece from Steven Hotze with his endorsements in the upcoming city runoff elections. I did not seek this endorsement and I specifically asked not be endorsed by Mr. Hotze. I am running to represent all Houstonians and my door at City Hall will be open to everyone.

Now that’s how you do it. Note that Costello is a member of the Republican Leadership Council, according to the local GOP. Rejecting Hotze like this, when he’s sending mail to people who would have been inclined to support Costello anyway, took real courage, and I salute him for that. Of course, the problem for Locke is that he did in fact seek out Hotze’s endorsement, so this mailer represents him getting what he wanted. This is why Democrats – and that includes Andrew Burks – need to stay the hell away from Steven Hotze and all that he represents. No good can come from associating with him. So what are you going to do about it now, Gene?

There isn’t a story about this in the Chron yet; hopefully, they will fill in some blanks, such as how many pieces Hotze intends to mail. I don’t know if he’s required to fill out a finance report for a city election – I see some SPAC filings among the city campaign finance reports of recent years, but I’m not sure if he falls under that rubric or not. We may not know for sure what he’s up to unless he brags to a newsie about it. If you receive this mailer, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks very much.

Endorsement watch: HGLBT Political Caucus on Controller and Council races

From Wednesday night’s meeting of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

The Houston Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Political Caucus met on Wednesday evening to endorse candidates in the 2009 Houston municipal elections as well as HISD Board of Trustee elections.

Those candidates screened and then endorsed by majority vote of the membership assembled are:

  • Ronald Green Houston City Controller
  • Lane Lewis Houston City Council District A
  • Anne Clutterbuck Houston City Council District C
  • Wanda Adams Houston City Council District D
  • Michael Laster Houston City Council District F
  • Ed Gonzales Houston City Council District H
  • James Rodriguez Houston City Council District I
  • Herman Litt Council At Large, Position 1
  • Sue Lovell Council At Large Position 2
  • Melissa Noriega Council At Large Position 3
  • Noel Freeman Council At Large Position 4
  • Jolanda “JO” Jones Council At Large Position 5
  • Alma L. Lara HISD Trustee, District I

Previously endorsed for the Office of Mayor is the Honorable Annise Parker

No endorsements were given in Districts B, E, and G. I was there for some of this, though I was outside with the candidates and campaign managers while most of the debate took place. I’m told it was a fairly close vote for At Large #1, as Karen Derr had a decent amount of support. I did step inside for the debate over At Large #5. Carlos Obando had some supporters who spoke on his behalf, but Council Member Jolanda Jones had many more, and in the end she won the endorsement handily.

I have reprinted several press releases from candidates who received the HGLBTPC endorsement beneath the fold. Click on to see them.

UPDATE: Added one more press release.

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Pride

So yesterday was the annual Pride parade in Houston. It was greeted by this sweet article in the lifestyle section.

Today’s Pride Festival will celebrate the diversity of the Houston area’s thriving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

That diversity includes the determinedly domestic life that Ben Austin and Bill Thomasson have carved out with their two children in a southwestern suburb.

The walls of their roomy Sugar Land home are filled with family pictures — Thomasson is one of 11 siblings — as well as multiplication tables, maps and pennants of potential colleges. Not that Ava, 7, and Elijah, 6, are ready to think about college just yet. Elijah’s interests encompass the world of sports, while Ava is expert on all things canine.

The couple adopted the children from state authorities while living in Oakland, Calif., after taking required parent-training classes and fostering each of the children for more than a year. Ava was almost 4 when she entered the system, and Elijah was just a month old.

[…]

Austin, an adopted only child who went to Bellaire High School, met Thomasson in a gym in Oakland, Calif., in 2002. He says the two fell into domestication almost immediately and in April 2004 made it official with a domestic partnership. Both men wear wedding bands.

Both men played college baseball, which gets Elijah’s approval.

“He just thinks it’s better to have two dads because they both play baseball,” Austin says.

Gotta admit, that would be a bonus. The story made a nice and necessary counterweight to this remarkably self-loathing op-ed from Friday.

The gay parenting movement is still more evidence of the fundamental selfishness of post-Stonewall gay America. Whereas many gay couples can and do bring parentless children into their homes in an act of loving and giving, thousands of other gay couples who could have adopted use various technologies and arrangements to make babies that from the start have no mother or have no father. This cruel act — to one’s own child — is almost never criticized in the gay community, which is so focused on everyone’s freedom and self-esteem, it doesn’t seem to want to bother to notice that children are being hurt by being denied up front the right to have both a mother and a father.

The gay and lesbian community today is infected with what I like to call Equality Mania. That’s the belief that there is literally nothing more important than total equality between gays and straights, no matter what the costs. They are willing to sacrifice other good, important values in the name of gay equality — such as the religious freedom of same-sex marriage opponents, the welfare of children and (in the case of gays in the military) even national security.

I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, “Equality Mania”? Who knew a desire to be treated like everyone else was a disorder of some kind? I’m just dumbfounded. I think it’s safe to say this is an extreme minority position, one that’s in decline, but one that likely will never go away completely.

Anyway. To get the bad taste of that piece out of your mouth, here’s five great moments in Houston’s gay history, and here’s the news that the Caucus blog is back. Hope everyone had a happy weekend.

Union Bar reaches resolution with GLBT community

Via press release from the HGLBT Political Caucus, it looks like we have a resolution to the incident at the Union Bar:

Representatives from Union Bar and Lounge met with leaders from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the office of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Monday and reached a resolution that actions that led to the perception of discrimination were unintended.

“Due to a miscommunication between management of Union Bar and Lounge and the door staff, we acknowledge that actions by the door staff caused an unintended perception of discriminatory actions towards the gay and lesbian community,” said Union Bar owners. “We wholeheartedly did not want or intend for this to happen. We also acknowledge that this unintended action caused hurt and bad feeling within the gay and lesbian community towards Union Bar and it staff. We also extend this apology to all of our regular gay and lesbian customers who may have been hurt by this misunderstanding.”

“We deeply appreciate Union Bar and Lounge coming to us to clear up this incident,” said Kris Banks, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. “We accept Union Bar’s explanation that miscommunication was at the heart of the problem. We understand that there was no discriminatory intent, but circumstances led to a strong perception that we were excluded because of our sexual orientation.’

“Our community is sensitive to discrimination, an understandable sentiment given the unfinished nature of our civil rights movement. Discrimination still exists, and should be addressed with legislation like House Bill 2215. We were happy to hear that the owners of Union Bar and Lounge are 100 percent supporters of this legislation.’

“We are happy for resolution and call for the GLBT community to move on and continue working for equality. We urge the community to cease negative bombardment, especially highly inappropriate harassment and threats.”

The Union Bar and Lounge will continue to work with the GLBT community and intends to hold a fundraiser in the near future for a GLBT-specific community organization.

Glad to hear it. I’ll pass along the details of the fundraiser when I hear of them. At least one Facebook group that was started in response to this incident has said it will shut down on Wednesday as a result of the resolution. I presume the other will as well, though I haven’t heard directly as yet.

More on the Union Bar

KHOU has a story on the incident at Union Bar on Friday.

[T]he bar’s owner said it was all a big misunderstanding, and apologized for the incident.

He said since the bar opened late last fall, it has been booked solid with private parties.

The bar is small, with a total occupancy of 117 people.

The owner said private parties often fill the bar before the doors open to the public.

[…]

Owners at the Union Bar were approached about it Thursday and reserved 50 seats inside.

Word spread, and in the end, they simply couldn’t accommodate the crowds.

The bar’s owner said no one was turned away because of their sexual orientation.

“What Union Bar did was, technically, in line with the law. They had the right to do that,” [Jerry] Simoneaux said.

The bar’s owner said his establishment has always been gay friendly, and he’s willing to prove it.

He said he plans to reach out to Houston’s gay community to clear up what he insists is just a misunderstanding.

That does cast a different light on things; mostly, it sounds like a communications failure on multiple levels. At the very least, whoever was telling folks they couldn’t enter should have given them an accurate reason for the denial – that might have avoided all the fuss. I’m glad that the bar is taking this seriously, and I hope all sides can come to an accommodation in the end.

Along those lines, the United Against Union Bar Facebook group has printed a response from the bar:

Regarding the night of Friday 3-10-2009. “The staff and management at Union Bar are very apologetic for the misunderstanding that happened at their place of business. Union Bar in no way refuses entry to any persons due to sexual orientation, race, gender or religion. We do have a capacity of 117 persons as set forth by the City Of Houston and The Fire Marshal. We follow this guild line to the letter for guest and employee safety. This was the main factor or refusing entry Friday night. Persons have booked parties 6 to 7 weeks in advance and have limited of RSVP so their guests have the right to entry first. The Guest in question was allowed to bring his 50 RSVP guest. His party showed up at 10 with approximately 200 guests and could in no way accommodate that. We offered to take all 50 guests and he demanded that we let in all. Accordance to city code we could not allow this. At no time was the staff of Union Bar rude or uninventive to their needs while inside. At 10pm we were almost at capacity and the enclosed pictures will show that (1) We were almost full (2) We had a very high numbers of male guests that were not turned away.”

We would be open to speak with the GL community on this and help prove to the G&L committee that we are a gay friendly bar!

As Phil notes, this doesn’t quite square with the initial account, at least in terms of how many people were there. Be that as it may, it is encouraging that the bar is taking steps to address the concerns. Whatever the root cause of the problem was, finding a resolution to it is what really matters. I’m hopeful that can happen. More from Equality Texas and Stace have more.

No service for gays

I’d heard bits about this last night on Twitter, but via an email from Carl Whitmarsh I’ve learned the details of a nasty little incident. The following is a press release from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

Nearly 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were refused entry to Union Bar and Lounge in Midtown Friday while others were welcomed.

Patrons started lining up at about 9:40 p.m. and were told to wait in line and not allowed inside, even as straight-appearing people were waved through. As the line grew and patrons waited in the rain, employees at the door told those who were that they were maintaining a “ratio.” Later, the bar employees simply indicated they had the right to refuse anyone.

“I was shocked to be a victim of that kind of discrimination in a city like Houston in 2009,” said Neal Falgoust, a Houston law student. “I have never experienced anything like that before in my life.”

A patron who arrived at the bar early reported that the bar was nearly empty at about 9:40 p.m., when gay people started arriving and were stopped at the door.

Gay people continued to line up to the street and around the corner as people who appeared to be straight went to the front and were ushered in. Kris Banks, who stood at the front of the line, said the bar employees were asking the women who were entering with men if the men were accompanying them. If the men were with the women, they were allowed in.

“I arrived and heard that they were not allowing gay men in, so when I got to the door with three women I asked if we would be allowed in, and the door employee said ‘I was told to keep you out,’ ” said Lindsey Dionne. “This was supposed to be a social event, but now it’s political.”

That this kind of discrimination is still legal in Houston makes it more outrageous. A coalition of GLBT rights groups, including the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, the Harris County Impact Houston and Amicus at South Texas College of Law said Saturday that the incident is proof of the necessity of legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for public accommodations.

“Houston is the only major city in Texas without a law that prevents this kind of discrimination,” said Jerry Simoneaux, GLBT civil rights lawyer. “This incident is exactly the reason Houston should implement such an ordinance.”

The event was organized as Houston’s first “Guerilla Gay Bar,” a tongue-in-cheek event that has been popular in other cities in which GLBT individuals come to traditionally straight bars to interact with other communities. Though Guerilla Gay Bars are usually a surprise event in other cities, Houston organizers informed the bar owner in advance out of courtesy and were told they would be welcomed.

One could charitably presume that there must have been some kind of miscommunication between the bar owner and the bar staff. If so – really, whether or not this is so – some kind of apology ought to be forthcoming from the Union Bar and Lounge for its atrocious behavior. I surely hope they don’t want this incident to be seen as typical for their business.

UPDATE: Hair Balls noted the “Guerilla Gay Bar” concept a couple of days ago. There are now two groups on Facebook for those who want to register their disapproval with the Union Bar.

UPDATE: On Yelp, at least one person who was there last night is disputing this account.

More SJL rumors

Marc Campos stirs the pot.

Commentary votes in the 18th Congressional District so I kind of think I know what I’m talking about when I say that I don’t know if Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s reelection in 2010 would be a slam dunk deal. Discussion of her reelection chances come up in conversations with African American, Latino, GLBT, and Anglo activists. Most would likely support a viable opponent in the 2010 Democratic Primary. There aren’t a whole lot of folks that are saying they would stand with Sheila next year. One that is willing is a long time state representative. The question is who is the viable opponent? This could well be the hottest local race of next year’s Dem Primary. Stay tuned!

Of course, there are already rumors that Rep. Jackson Lee will step down to take a post in the State Department with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, so who knows what next March will look like. I can’t always decipher Campos’ oblique references, but I think the “long time state representative” in question is Rep. Sylvester Turner, whose initial reaction was “Sheila-Jackson Lee is the Congresswoman of the 18th Congressional district, if she leaves, let’s talk again”, and who now says he’d definitely run to replace her if she stepped down. Never hurts to be prepared, I guess.

For what it’s worth, I’m perfectly happy to have Rep. Jackson Lee where she is, and that I’d vote for her over any of the potential challengers I’ve heard of, and almost certainly over the ones I haven’t heard of yet. In addition, Carl Whitmarsh passed along the following from HGLBT Caucus President Kris Banks:

As president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, let me say that our community is proud to call Congresswoman Jackson Lee a faithful friend. The Congresswoman has always stood up for our community, and we appreciate that and will not forget it.

Don’t go writing her political obituary just yet, that’s all I’m saying.

Parker to announce for Mayor today

City Controller Annise Parker will formally announce has candidacy for Mayor today.

“Houstonians want a mayor who can lead the city through tough economic times, and a mayor who can continue our forward progress with jobs and neighborhoods,” she said in an interview last week.

“I have the skill set to do these things,” she added as she prepared her announcement — an e-mail blast referring voters to an online video of her speaking to voters.

Parker, 52, started thinking about running for mayor long before the nation’s economic picture grew dark. But now that, in her words, “the No. 1 issue is going to be the economy and jobs,” Parker is touting the ways she can cut city expenses. She’s also worked as an engineering technologist for an oil company and as co-owner several years ago of a feminist bookstore.

[…]

She has about $230,000 in leftover funds from prior campaigns and is announcing her mayoral candidacy on the first day candidates are allowed under city ordinance to raise money for the contest.

Councilman Peter Brown also is running for mayor, and others edging close to joining the race include former City Attorneys Gene Locke and Benjamin Hall III, former Gov. Mark White and Harris County Department of Education Trustee Roy Morales.

As with District H, I intend to keep an open mind for as long as possible about who my preferred choice for Mayor is. I like Parker and Brown, and I don’t really know enough about Locke or Hall or White to fairly assess their candidacies. (I’m pretty sure I won’t be voting for Roy Morales. Sorry, Roy.) Having said that, if the election were today, Annise Parker would get my vote. I think she’s got the best combination of skills and experiences. Still, I want to see how the campaign goes and how the candidates engage the issues. I want to hear what everyone has to say.

Parker got her start in local politics as a civic association president and leader of what is now the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual & Transgender Political Caucus.

Gay rights and the candidates’ personal lives have been broached as issues in most major Houston mayoral races of the last 30 years. About the voters’ mindset on those topics, Parker said, “Houstonians are interested in who can manage the city.”

She said that because of her previous campaigns, “Houstonians know me.”

I will say this: Any candidate who makes an issue of Parker’s sexuality, or who doesn’t distance himself from an ally who does, will be rejected from consideration for my vote. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, that’s how it will be.

UPDATE: The email announcing Parker’s entry into the race is out. Her website is here, complete with a blog and an announcement video that’s also available on YouTube. Email is reproduced beneath the fold.

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