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November 14th, 2009:

Locke’s response

So while I was out watching Rice beat Tulane, the Gene Locke campaign released the following statement regarding the homophobic attack on Annise Parker.

“As I have previously stated, I reject any association with the style of campaigning that was the subject of an article in the Houston Chronicle today. We have serious issues to deal with in our city that requires us to work together as one Houston and I trust that Houstonians will choose a new mayor based on the issues that effect our lives every day and not to be swayed by divisive rhetoric.”

That’s a lovely sentiment. I’m sure it’s sincerely spoken. It’s certainly a lot better than the snotty “I know what you are, but what am I?” response that Locke’s spokesperson gave to the Chronicle. And if it were in response to actions made by some unaffiliated group that had crawled out from under a rock, it would have been perfectly fine.

But that’s not the case. Let’s review that Chron story to see why:

[Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council] said he had “no doubt” there would be numerous independent advocacy efforts urging voters not to choose Parker, most of which would involve mail.

[…]

[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.

He appeared at the Pastor Council’s annual gala last Friday and was encouraged several times by State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a featured speaker, to stand for conservative values.

Locke has also met with and sought the endorsement of Dr. Steven Hotze, a longtime local kingmaker in conservative politics and author of the Straight Slate in 1985, a coterie of eight City Council candidates he recruited who ran on an anti-gay platform.

The slate was formed to oppose eight incumbents who supported measures aimed at protecting homosexuals from discrimination in city government. The measures were resoundingly repealed by the voters in a referendum, but none of the eight council members lost their seats.

Republican consultant Allen Blakemore, a longtime Hotze associate who spoke on his behalf, said he is considering mailing out a slate of endorsed runoff candidates, and Parker’s sexuality is a “key factor” in his decision.

In other words, before these folks crawled out from underneath their rock, Locke got down there with them to ask for their support. Some acknowledgement of that is necessary for his statement to mean anything. If he’s not actually disavowing Welch and Hotze and Blakemore but merely tut-tutting about the sins he expects they will commit on his behalf, it’s not the least bit penitent of him. He chose to associate himself with them. He shares responsibility for what they do. He has not admitted his responsibility. It’s as simple as that.

Putting this another way, when Welch and Blakemore follow through and send gay-bashing mailers to however many voters with a message to vote for Gene Locke, will he continue to “reject any association” with that style of campaigning? Or will he gladly reap whatever electoral benefit he may get from that because he thinks he’s covered now?

(See here for an example of Blakemore’s work from last year’s election. If someone whose endorsement Annise Parker had courted sent out a similar mailer on her behalf that was aimed at Gene Locke, do you think a statement like the one Locke made here would suffice to distance herself from it?)

So color me unimpressed by Gene Locke’s statement. When he says something meaningful – something that calls out the bad actors by name, owns up to his association with them, and specifically tells them he does not want any of this kind of “help” from them – then we can talk. Stace has more.

And here comes the nastiness

I really thought that we’d make it through this election without there being any nasty anti-gay stuff. I guess I was naive to think so, because here it comes.

A cluster of socially conservative Houstonians is planning a campaign to discourage voters from choosing City Controller Annise Parker in the December mayoral runoff because she is a lesbian, according to multiple ministers and conservatives involved in the effort.

The group is motivated by concerns about a “gay takeover” of City Hall, given that two other candidates in the five remaining City Council races are also openly gay, as well as national interest driven by the possibility that Houston could become the first major U.S. city to elect an openly gay woman.

Another primary concern is that Parker or other elected officials would seek to overturn a 2001 city charter amendment that prohibits the city from providing benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.

“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,” said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, numbering more than 200 senior pastors in the Greater Houston area. “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.”

I don’t know what election Dave Welch has been following, but that’s not at all how Parker has run her campaign. She’s run on her years of public service, her vast experience and knowledge of the issues, and her sterling qualifications for the office. Unless you think that simply by being gay she’s made her sexual preference a central part of it. Which says a lot more about Dave Welch than it does about Annise Parker.

One of the reasons why I had hopes that this election would steer clear of this hatemongering is because I believed Gene Locke to be a better person than that. I may have to re-evaluate that assumption as well.

[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.

He appeared at the Pastor Council’s annual gala last Friday and was encouraged several times by State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a featured speaker, to stand for conservative values.

Locke has also met with and sought the endorsement of Dr. Steven Hotze, a longtime local kingmaker in conservative politics and author of the Straight Slate in 1985, a coterie of eight City Council candidates he recruited who ran on an anti-gay platform.

The only decent and proper thing to do with Steven Hotze is to stay as far away from him as possible. I’d heard these rumors about Locke courting Hotze for weeks now, and didn’t want to believe them. Once again, clearly I was wrong. It’s simply not possible for Locke to have sought out these people without knowing who they are and what they do. For shame.

The irony, of course, is that it’s Locke who is on record supporting a referendum to provide same-sex benefits to City employees, which is something that Parker herself says she has no current plans to do. So one wonders what everyone involved in this sordid little affair will make of that.

Former Harris County Tax Assessor Collector Paul Bettencourt, another Republican close to Hotze, said that if Locke wishes to unite a strong African-American base with social conservatives, they will need his assurance that he will not seek to overturn the charter amendment.

Responding to the same debate question as Parker last month, Locke said same-sex benefits allow governments and businesses “a competitive advantage” and said he “would favor that,” although it would not be the first thing on his plate.

“That’s not going to motivate us to come out and vote for somebody,” Bettencourt said of social conservatives. “You cannot get the positive good conservative turnout if you’re trying to undo charter amendments. It’s a line drawn in the sand. You just can’t have it both ways.”

In other words, what Bettencourt is saying is if you want these folks to vote for you, you’ve got to bring the hate. It’s what they care about, and they’re very clear on that point. So the choice is yours, Gene Locke. Do you want to win so badly that you’ll abandon this position, which your supporters have been touting – in that blog post I linked to above, Grace Rodriguez says Locke would be stronger on gay rights issues than Parker would be – so that you can motivate these people to vote for you? You knew what you were doing when you sought out Steven Hotze. Your spokesperson may claim that you want to be Mayor for all of Houston, but that’s not what Steven Hotze wants. What will you do to win his approval? Martha has more.

Let’s make this a bad year for Don McLeroy

Don McLeroy is a wee bit concerned about losing one of his allies on the SBOE.

State Board of Education former Chair (and current member) Don McLeroy wasn’t too concerned about losing Democratic swing-vote Rick Agosto. At least not at first.

“The big impact will be if I depart,” McLeroy said over the phone.

[…]

But an hour later, McLeroy called back with some different news. Agosto’s abstention on the math book, which McLeroy dismissed initially, was actually essential, he said. “We never could have done that without him,” McLeroy said in a voice message.

“He did a lot of thinking on his own,” McLeroy explained in the recording. “He was not a rubber stamp for anybody.” For those unfamiliar with McLeroy, not being a rubber stamp is high praise.

Why the change? Perhaps McLeroy realized the danger the conservatives on the board would face without Agosto.

If that’s not a good reason to be happy about Agosto’s departure and get behind the candidacy of Michael Soto, I don’t know what would be. Even better is the news that State Rep. Brian McCall is endorsing McLeroy’s primary opponent, Thomas Ratliff. And we’ve got some good Democratic candidates lining up to take aim at some of McLeroy’s other buddies. If we can make 2010 a bad year for Don McLeroy, it will be a very good year for Texas and all of its students.

A view from inside the sausage factory

Ever wonder what it is that lobbyists do? Jim Grace and Luke Ledbetter, respectively a partner and an associate with Baker Botts LLP who do lobbying work for the firm, give us the scoop about how they go about their business and how to be successful at it. Some of their points can be seen as basic life lessons. It’s a good read, so check it out.