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Houston Mayoral Candidate Faces Anti-Gay Opposition

(HOUSTON) The Mayoral election in Houston is heating up as candidates approach the December 12 run-off election.

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that a cluster of socially conservative Houstonians and Ministers are planning a campaign to discourage voters from choosing City Controller Annise Parker in the December mayoral runoff because she is a lesbian, citing the group’s concern about a “gay takeover” of City Hall. The concerns have mounted due to two other openly gay candidates running in the five remaining City Council races.

Dave Welch, Executive Director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, whose members include more than 200 senior pastors in the greater Houston area, told the Chronicle, “The bottom line is that we didn't pick the battle, she did, when she made her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign. National gay and lesbian activists see this as a historic opportunity. The reality is that's because they're promoting an agenda which we believe to be contrary to the concerns of the community and destructive to the family.”

The Chronicle went on to state that Parker’s opponent, City Attorney Gene Locke, has made recent efforts to court some of the staunch social conservatives who are either actively planning on attacking Parker's sexuality or strongly considering it.

“I am very disappointed in my opponent for forming a desperate alliance to divide our city. I had hoped he would join me in uniting Houstonians to keep our city moving forward, not working to divide us. Houston is better than this,” said Parker following the news story’s release.

Locke fired back, dismissing the claims.

"As I have previously stated, I reject any association with [that] style of campaigning,” he said. “We have serious issues to deal with in our city that require us to work together as one Houston and I trust that Houstonians will choose a new mayor based on the issues that affect our lives every day and not be swayed by divisive rhetoric."

The Victory Fund, an organization which helps hundreds of openly LGBT candidates with their political campaigns, claims the attacks against Parker’s sexuality are occurring because it looks like she can win.

“She is by far the most experienced, most able candidate in the race, and that worries the anti-gay right. This is all they have left, so they're going to spend a lot of money trying to scare Houston voters,” said Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund President and CEO, in an email to supporters. “We need to match them dollar-for-dollar so Annise can respond to their lies.”

The notion that Parker will win the upcoming election was supported by a poll released on November 17. Lake Research Partners surveyed likely voters in Houston and their polls show that Parker holds a strong lead over Locke, by a margin of 47% to 34%

“We’ve got a long way to go to Election Day,“ said Parker’s campaign manager Adam Harris, “but the message of this survey is that more and more voters are learning that Annise Parker is the one candidate in this race they can trust to keep our government focused on the basics, so we can hang on to more of our hard-earned tax dollars.”

Besides groups like Victory Fund, Parker also recently received the endorsement of former opponent Peter Brown. Although Locke referred to the endorsement as one for “mismanagement and new taxes,” Parker’s campaign sees the endorsement as another step towards victory.

As the election date draws near, the campaign for Houston’s Mayor is sure to draw national attention. Parker would be the first openly gay Mayor in the nation. Whether her opponent's campaign will elaborate on that issue remains to be seen.