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Chron Mayoral profile: Ben Hall

This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the top candidates running for mayor in Houston.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

His dedication to accomplish whatever he sets out to do – regardless of public reaction – has jumped out for friend and foe during [Ben] Hall’s second mayoral run, as he vies to break in with the frontrunners by distinguishing himself as the candidate who opposes Houston’s controversial equal rights ordinance, whatever the repercussions may be.

The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church and a friend for more than 25 years, said Hall is taking a risky stance against HERO based on principle. “He believes in the end that principles outweigh practicality,” Caldwell said. “He’s bet his legal career on it, for better or for worse. The position he has taken not only singles him out in the entire field of mayoral candidates – if voters say no, his practice as a lawyer going forward is arguably in jeopardy.”

Part of that gamble involved rubbing shoulders with Dr. Steven Hotze, a powerful GOP operative and Christian activist at a public forum. Hotze lauded Hall’s position on HERO at a faith and family rally in August, introducing Hall to a standing ovation from a partially filled hotel ballroom.

By welcoming such attention, Hall, a socially conservative Democrat and ordained minister, aligned himself with a constituency that is “so fringe, they’re crazy,” said Maverick Welch of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus: “The people he is playing footsies with are tantamount to Klansmen.”

Some who see Hall, a lifelong NAACP member, as a champion of equal rights are confounded. “I’m surprised at his view on the ordinance,” said former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington, a Democrat who represented the 18th Congressional District. “It is incongruent with what I know his view to be on civil rights in general.”

The equal rights ordinance bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity – the flash points for critics – but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status. The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting.

To Hall, HERO boils down to a poorly worded legal document that jeopardizes women’s safety by letting heterosexual men use restrooms and locker rooms under false pretenses.

“I am clearly for no one discriminating against anyone. And I have to immediately say this ordinance is not the way to do it,” said Hall, 59. “I’m concerned about being right. I’m concerned about being just. I’m concerned about being true and authentic.” He said his position on the Nov. 3 HERO ballot proposal, which asks voters if they favor the ordinance, is firmly in line with traditional black voters.

There’s more to the profile, but none of it really matters. Hall’s candidacy is about opposition to HERO, and he’s grabbed it with both hands. More to the point, he’s bought into the lies about HERO. I mean, look, he’s a lawyer. He knows what the ordinance actually says. As a litigator, one presumes he is aware of the fact that the “danger” he warns of has not materialized in any other city around the country that has a similar ordinance. He knows, but he saw an opportunity to turn a floundering campaign that had nothing to build on after his disaster in 2013, and he took it. I can’t express the contempt I feel in strong enough terms.

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12 Comments

  1. Katy Anders says:

    Hall’s transformation into this guy is the most surprising thing about the mayoral race so far.

    He’s “not for discrimination.” He just knows that there are probably votes to be had among those people who are.

  2. Paul kubosh says:

    I haven’t personally done any polls but word on the street is that hero is losing. Maybe someone somewhere did a poll and maybe its losing 2 ro 1. Anyone hear anything different.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    What can the mayor do about HERO? It’s up to the voters, and the new mayor can oppose it or not, but the voters will have decided.

    The reasons to oppose it have nothing to do with hating anyone. The reasons are that even though the ordinance makes it illegal to discriminate against someone who is straight, let’s face it, the straight guy who says he faced discrimination would probably not get any credibility and would be ridiculed. The other reason is that this ordinance would signal that Houston is “open for business.” The last thing that Houston needs is more handouts and tax abatement for corporate behemoths who want to come for cheap labor.

    But Katy, of course I am not naive enough to believe that there aren’t some people who are “for discrimination.”

  4. Steven Houston says:

    PK, I probably run in different circles than you or Charles but the buzz I’m getting leans in favor of it passing, maybe 60/40. As always, your mileage will vary depending on voter turnout

  5. Paul kubosh says:

    Steven…ok its a bet. Don’t know what the wager is going to be. Fyi…mike was in ft.bend county (you know the ten boxes) and they are not voting for hero. At least that is my take.

  6. Steven Houston says:

    A bet? Hmmm, I’m not really sure that any of our small groups are representative of the masses who may or may not vote but sure, I’ll but that the measure passes (without a point spread). Shall we make it a “Trading Places” bet of $1?

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    Love it. It is a bet.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    I guess I secretly hope the HERO passes, so I can park in the pregnant mother parking spots at the grocery store. Why should I be discriminated against because I am not pregnant? This injustice will not stand!

  9. Manuel Barrera says:

    Bill King stated that his polls showed 2-1 NO, Ben Hall’s polls show 3-1 NO. Some candidates are now becoming anti HERO must be hearing the same message as Paul.

    Bill King must believe his poll as he has shifted his maybe pro HERO to against HERO. His reasoning is convoluted but there is merit to the argument that it does away with affirmative action.

  10. Steven Houston says:

    MB, I have no doubt King and Hall believe there is merit to their little straw polls, though without access to their methodology, such polls are as statistically worthless as rolling dice. If they were based on the smaller subset of the population likely to vote for a more conservative candidate, I’d even say they were under representing the “no” votes, but I think it really comes down to who gets out the vote.

    The results of the vote won’t directly impact most people no matter how much some run around chanting it’s the end of the world (from either side), making it a shame that will all the real concerns facing the city, so many are focused on the “slight of hand carnival show” this has become. But whatever happens, best of luck with your campaign for office.

  11. Manuel Barrera says:

    If the HERO supporters thought the polls favored them they would be publishing them. I am sure there are plenty of polls out there, there are only two candidate who are supporting NO those are Hall and King, none of the other candidates would have reason to say what I support is losing.

    I will go with 60% NO and 40% yes, maybe Battleground Texas will come and get out the vote;-)

  12. Steven Houston says:

    MB, we’ll see but given the sheer number of mayoral candidates and only one firmly favors repealing while one other is lukewarm at best, using your own logic of these pandering politicians going where the votes are would suggest more jumped on the anti-HERO campaign.

    If the ordinance is as big a deal to voters as some of you think it is, a neutral or wishy washy answer would signal the death of their chances from either side of the aisle. At best, a few have figured out that taking an adversarial view of HERO might be their only way to make the run off, catering to largely right leaning conservatives while the others split up votes in support of the matter. Yet, in a runoff, the same uptick in voters some expect for HERO opponents will be unlikely to vote, making the runoff “victory” short lived.

    It might not pan out that way at all but it sure seems like it.

    In other matters, I could find no polls at all linked to Hall or King on HERO opposition, neither candidate having the balls to mention it on their websites (I apologize if you find it on some obscure or hidden part but I’ve read them all). Do you really think King will go against HERO given his Greater Houston Partnership supporters have announced their support for the measure?

    For that matter, going to Hall’s website, we find he will make such wide sweeping changes like end use of pension bonds to fund pensions and stop the single-highest-pay-period-method for figuring pensions; both swell ideas except that both were stopped long before he ran the LAST he tried for office. How many years has it been since Parker stopped White’s pension bond scheme, 5 years? And that single highest check method was stopped early in White’s administration some 10 years ago? Yeah, with such intimate knowledge of pensions as that, he should be a swell choice to lead the city (sarcasm intended).