While the Conservative-controlled media has been obsessing over the Governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, and asking what a Democratic loss in each state would tell us about “President Obama’s popularity” (according to voters, the answer is “absolutely nothing“), there was one race that slipped in under the radar: the Houston (Texas) Mayor’s race.

Due to term limits, three-term Democratic Mayor Bill White is leaving to run for the Senate in 2010, leaving his seat up for grabs with no incumbent. Even though “Party affiliation” is never given in local races here in Texas, the candidates were (for all intents & purposes) two Democrats (Annise Parker & Gene Locke), one “Independent” (Peter Brown) and one self-described “the only Conservative in this race” Republican (Roy Morales).

Turn-out was low, suggesting that most Houstonians didn’t consider this race to be any big deal, but when the dust cleared, the two Democrats were left in a run-off (Parker: 30.5% and Locke: 25.9%). If she wins, Parker would be the first openly gay mayor in Texas history (and Houston’s second woman mayor). Locke would be Houston’s second black mayor (following Lee Brown 1998-2004).

(CORRECTION: Parker is not Texas’ first openly gay mayor. That honor goes to Matt Ganssle, Mayor of Kemp, Texas. Houston is still the largest city in the U.S. to elect an openly gay mayor. Thanks for the correction Matt.)

I do not wish to make much of an issue over City Councilwoman Parker’s sexual orientation, but if an openly gay woman Democrat running for mayor can’t motivate rabid Republicans to the polls following a Summer of nasty town halls and anti-Obama protests, then maybe all that Conservative bluster we keep hearing about on TV is really just a lot of hot air. Republicans aren’t really “outraged” over Democratic policies, and while Conservatives use the “homosexual dog whistle” to rile up its frothing mad base into a frenzy in Maine (where “Prop 1” sadly lost), it appears most of them couldn’t be bothered to get their butts up off their sofa to vote against Ms. Parker in favor of “the ONLY Conservative in this race”.

Of the third & fourth place candidates, Peter Brown spent $3 million dollars of his own money ($5 million total) and was the early front runner. But three HORRENDOUS mayoral debate performances later, Brown fell rapidly in the polls (22.4%). Morales, who ran as “the only Conservative in this race” only raised $15,000 for his entire campaign and ran NO ads on TV, coming in fourth with just 20.2% of the vote.

On my local news election night, the Conservative pollster they brought on to critique the election results actually said:

“Despite raising only $15,000, and doing no TV advertising at all, Morales was still able to draw 20% of the vote, almost equal to Peter Brown who spent $3 million of his own money on television advertising, thus proving just how much more Conservative Houston really is than most people realize.”

Really? Coming in fourth and raising only $15,000 proves that Houston is Conservative? Like Morales, Parker likewise ran almost no TV advertising. And the only two candidates in next months run-off will be Democrats seeking to replace the current three-term Democratic Mayor Bill White who replaced the three-term Democratic Mayor Lee Brown in 2004. Houston has not elected a Republican mayor since 1996. Tell me again how Morales’ 20% turnout “proves” Houston is Conservative?

Lots of people think of Texas as a deep-red Republican stronghold. It hasn’t voted Democratic in a presidential race since it voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976. And of course it inflicted its Republican Governor George W Bush upon the world in 2000. But that same year, VP Al Gore won Houston (within the city limits, but not the suburbs), and in 2008, Barack Obama received 40% of the Texas vote.

And now, Houston will elect it’s third Democratic Mayor in a row, the previous two who were re-elected to the maximum three terms before having to step down. And there is a very strong chance Houston is about to elect its first openly gay mayor (run-off in December).

So where was that media spotlight in Houston focusing on “the Obama Effect” and how it was supposedly driving Republicans to the polls? Are Republicans REALLY despondent over “the direction of our country since Barack Obama was elected President”, or is it yet another made-up controversy spread by the increasingly Conservative media out of touch with the voters?



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