Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

How Dave Wilson campaigned

From KHOU:

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson chuckles as he talks about his unorthodox political campaign.

“I’d always said it was a long shot,” Wilson says. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”

Still, he figured he’d have fun running, because he was fed up with what he called “all the shenanigans” at the Houston Community College System. As a conservative white Republican running in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats, the odds seemed overwhelmingly against him.

Then he came up with an idea, an advertising strategy that his opponent found “disgusting.” If a white guy didn’t have a chance in a mostly African-American district, Wilson would lead voters to think he’s black.

And it apparently worked. In one of the biggest political upsets in Houston politics this election season, Wilson — an anti-gay activist and former fringe candidate for mayor — emerged as the surprise winner over 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin. His razor thin margin of victory, only 26 votes, was almost certainly influenced by his racially tinged campaign.

“Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters,” he says.

Wilson, a gleeful political troublemaker, printed direct mail pieces strongly implying that he’s black. His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites — and captioned with the words “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”

One of his mailers said he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who’s also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa.

This is the story the Chron should have written but hasn’t. I can tell from my referral logs, which are showing links to that latter post from a variety of locales, that this story is going national. I want to stress that while Wilson’s campaign tactics were dishonest and cynical, they’re hardly unheard of, and they’re far from the worst things Dave Wilson has ever done. In the pantheon of campaign sins, they’re venial, not mortal. But pay attention to Wilson’s tone and the obvious pleasure he’s taking in having put one over on the voters. On top of his long history of hatred, that’s the kind of person we’re getting on the HCC Board of Trustees.

It’s easy to point a finger at the voters for being duped, but let’s be honest. Most people have no idea who their HCC Trustee is. Most of us have little reason to interact with our HCC Trustee, unlike our State Rep or our district Council member or school board trustee. It’s telling that Wilson was able to pull this off not while running for an open seat against some first-time candidate but against a 24-year incumbent, running for his fourth re-election. Bruce Austin did run a campaign, but it wasn’t enough, and he didn’t have sufficient name ID to overcome Wilson’s stealth attack. And so here we are.

The best defense against this – really, the only defense – is to be an informed voter. Don’t vote for someone unless you have at least some idea who they are. Better to skip a race than to accidentally cast a ballot for the likes of Dave Wilson. In the meantime, let’s shine a light on the other candidates that Wilson helped support and be sure to do what you can to get Zeph Capo elected in December It’s too late to stop Dave Wilson, but we can stop his friends. The Makeshift Academic and the Observer have more.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.