Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hotze Endorsement In Houston Mayoral Race Draws Fire

A recent public endorsement for the Gene Locke for Mayor campaign has brought about some delicate fence straddling. The endorsement bringing local buzz is that of Dr. Steven Hotze and his group, Conservative Republicans of Texas.

Gene Locke, Houston attorney, is running against Annise Parker, current City Controller, in a runoff for Mayor of Houston. There is very little difference in policy statements from these two candidates, generally speaking. Hotze mailed out literature over the past weekend in the form of a voter's guide with his organization's endorsements in the run-off elections. Besides the mayoral race, there is also a run-off for City Controller, and city council races.

This endorsement causes problems for Locke, in particular, because of his opponent, Annise Parker. I continue to fail to understand why some Republicans in the city of Houston rally around Gene Locke. It would appear for only one reason - Annise Parker is a lesbian. She was the first openly gay candidate to win a city council race in the city of Houston and she has gone on to be City Controller. Hotze's endorsement literature specifically notes that all seven of his endorsements are for the candidate NOT "endorsed by gay lesbian political action committee."

This turns my stomach.

Local Republican business groups have thrown support behind Locke all along. That was bad enough, especially when a conservative was in the race. Publicly endorsing a liberal Democrat over a conservative Republican in the race for mayor in the primary election was unacceptable to me and others working within the party to strengthen the Republican party in Harris County. We know that Houston would elect a Democrat as mayor but that did not stop us from supporting a Republican in the primary election.

Let's remember who Gene Locke is - an attorney who has extensive ties with City Hall through contracts and contacts. He was city attorney in a previous administration and is credited with the affirmative action policy in place. His law firm has benefited mightily from city contracts. Political activists from the Obama campaign came into the city to lend a hand to Locke and guide his campaign, according to local reports. Locke is reported to have sought the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, too.

According to a Houston Chronicle article, Kris Banks, president of the GLBT Political Caucus, said, "He came to us seeking our endorsements, saying he thinks same-sex couples should have legal recognition and the city should have domestic partnerships. I cannot believe he has not repudiated this piece yet. It's very disappointing and makes us question his ability to treat all Houstonians with respect."

Locke sought the support of Hotze, too. He met with him prior to the November 3 election, according to the same article, and said he would refrain from "divisive campaigning and asked his supporters to follow his lead". "I am not going to go into issues of race, issues of sexuality", said Locke.

Writing and implementing the city of Houston's affirmative action policy goes into the issue of race and city employment. As for issues of sexuality, Parker states she supports "the ordinance for city employees and supports gay marriage, not just civil unions. But she said a citywide anti-discrimination law and requirements for contractors are "not on my agenda at this time", as stated in the Houston Chronicle article.

Parker is a woman of her word. That is a key factor in my support for her. This goes back to a forum sponsored by three Republican women's clubs before the November election. Locke, Peter Brown and Parker all agreed to be a part of the panel of candidates. At the last moment Locke and Brown did not show. Parker kept her word and participated. She was warmly received because she was open and honest in her answers. She spoke with all who wanted a word with her after the panel. She brought up the fact that she was raised by Republican parents and has her strong work ethic thanks to them.

Peter Brown personally called the President of our club to apologize for not participating, though he did pawn off his excuse to miscommunication with his staff. Locke only apologized two weeks ago at another gathering of Republican women as he was seeking support and touting Republican business community support. It is also to be noted that Locke and Brown decided not to participate in all the forums previously agreed to after activists from the Obama team came into the city and began helping Locke.

A candidate only has his or her word. Character is about trust and personal ethics. If a candidate is breaking his word before he is even in office, how is he to be trusted in office?

Parker has a strong business background, having been in the oil and gas industry for 20 years and has proven to be a fiscal conservative as City of Houston Controller. Her choices in her personal life have not altered her core belief in watching over tax dollars.

The Hotze endorsement was sparked out of a hateful agenda. This agenda reduces a person solely on another's beliefs. In this case, we are to believe Hotze is a "good" Christian, a member of the Christian right wing of the Republican party. It would appear that the local Republican business community has fallen for the trap. That is a pity.

Houston is our nation's fourth largest city. We are diverse and welcoming. Our city benefits from all of our people working together, not driving us apart in the name of religion. An organization with the name "Conservative Republicans of Texas" doesn't deserve the support of other Republicans as long as the number one issue is a religious social issue - that of the pro-life community.

On the web site of Hotze's organization, there is a test to take to determine if the visitor is a "conservative Republican". The first question is "Are you pro-life?" Next, "Are you pro-family?" Followed by, "Are you a supporter of Free Market and Free Enterprise economics?", "Do you believe the U.S. should secure our borders?" and "Do you support lower taxes and less regulation?". For many of us in the Republican party, this is the wrong order of priorities. Fiscal conservatism trumps social issues.

Gene Locke is not the best choice for Republican support. It appears the reason for this support is based on a social issue and that is wrong. Perhaps those "conservative Republicans" more concerned about criticizing another for a very personal decision, in the name of political philosophy, would better serve our city in another capacity. Perhaps the time that such narrowly focused and polarizing endorsements has come and gone.

Also noted in the Houston Chronicle article is the fact that the Hotze endorsement was not sought or welcomed by some on the receiving end. City Council candidates Stephen Costello and Jack Christie both said they did not welcome the endorsement and the others endorsed thanked Hotze for the endorsement but said they disagreed with some of his views. Costello said he specifically asked otherwise. One City Council candidate, Brenda Stardig, could not be reached for comment.

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