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Last word on Louie Welch

Retired political consultant George Strong offers his view of late former Mayor Louie Welch.

It was the fall of 1985 and I was working as a political consultant for the Louie Welch for Mayor campaign against my old dear friend Kathy Whitmire. Whitmire had decided that I was bad news for some reason (I guess I said something that she did not like to the Houston Post) and later when I tried to get on the City’s lobbying team I was told, by an assistant, that no way in hell would the Mayor ever hire me for anything. So, the Welch folks approached me to help them in their campaign. And I was ready for a little revenge. By 1985 I had elected a few folks to City Council and had 12 years of experience in city politics so I joined Bob Heller, Jim Edmonds, George Shipley and a few other experienced folks to see if we could elect Louie.

Welch had not been involved in a political campaign for about 15 years and things had changed. There were TV cameras that used tape and not film for the news casts. Louie had been used to TV stations having to quit “filming” early in the afternoon so they could go back and develop their film. Not any more, they could edit tape in a very short time, day or night. He was not in tune with the new ways of using TV for political purposes.

And the AIDS epidemic was in full swing in 1985, and many voters were asking Louie what should be done. Some of his more conservative right wing friends wanted quarantines and blood tests for many occupations. If you had HIV you would not be employed. Louie was not in favor of such methods and so he developed a more moderate 4 point plan which he was prepared to announce at the TV station.

And he was ready to do a live broadcast with Heller at the studio and that is when he said the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “Shoot the queers” when he was just joking around with the crew and did not know that the camera was live and that the station was taping the broadcast. I have always blamed his conservative buddies for the “queer” jokes they told him for him saying those remarks even in jest.

Louie didn’t think that his comments would do any real harm to his campaign. I did and I told him and his team that not only would the Gay community take offense but that women voters would also not like him saying that anyone should be shot. And after all we were running a campaign against a woman Mayor. Well Louie did apologize for his remarks and we took a poll which showed we lost some voters and momentum and the rest is history, Kathy went on to win not only the 1985 race but also two more elections.

As I said before, it’s the attitude that led him to oppose gay rights in the earlier referendum that to me is the serious sin, not so much the joke. I appreciate that Welch did good things, and that there was a lot more to him than this, but it’s still not something I can’t lightly dismiss. Be that as it may, at least now I feel like I have a better picture of the man myself.

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One Comment

  1. Baby Snooks says:

    If it was a joke, he obviously thought it was funny when he said it. Not realizing the camera was on.

    Why is it that politicians always use that excuse when they get with their foot in their mouth? “I didn’t realize the camera was on.”

    That excuses what they said?