Annise Parker is a popular elected official in Houston, and she's making a strong bid to become the city's first openly gay mayor. Parker is a past president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and represents 2.2 million people as City Controller; Houston is the fourth most populous city in the US, so a win by Parker -- and she's a frontrunner -- would be momentous, particularly in a Red State.
Parker has a proven track record serving the people of Houston for the last 11 years - first on the City Council, and for the last five years she has been the City Controller. Her campaign video:
I'm a Houstonian, through and through. I grew up in this city and attended public schools. I worked my way through college, then up the ladder in our oil and gas industry for 20 years before I went into public service. This city has given me everything I have. I love it and want to give something back.
I am running because I am the most qualified to lead our city through tough economic times - and to make sure Houston keeps moving ahead.
• I have a plan to create jobs , secure Houston's future as the headquarters for new energy development and maintain fiscal responsibility . Read the plan at my website, and offer your ideas in our Houston Speaks section.
• As City Controller, I've used tough, independent audits to uncover millions of dollars in waste due to inefficiencies, redundancies and outright fraud. That money is now funding our police and fire departments, important after-school programs and senior centers.
• I've managed billions of Houston's tax dollars - and today, Houston is in much better shape than other cities that gambled their futures on risky investments and irresponsible budgets.
I love this city. I want to make sure it stays the best place in America to live and raise a family . And in this difficult economy, our next mayor will have no room for error.
[E]veryone has an opinion about what you should wear, the amount of makeup you need, the kind of haircut you must have in order to lower the "fear factor" with potential voters -- it can be ludicrous. One interesting thing about all of the women on the panel -- they won in Red states, none of them hiding their orientation, all of them stressing the competencies that they would bring to the position -- and voters listened.
Parker later asked me about blogs, campaigns and the impact on elections. It's hard to say -- either from the bloggers or pol's perspective, what it all really means. It's clear that blogs can help -- and hurt campaigns because the turnaround is so fast, and reaches so many. There's no set of standards for blogging -- anyone can mouth off about anything, of course, but it's clear that the new medium cannot be ignored altogether. It's safe to say that over time, politicians, gay or straight, have to engage the blogosphere. There are no standards, no guidelines other than the principles of the blogger and their reputation, if one reads them over time.
Parker was re-elected to the council twice after first winning an at-large seat in 1997, and she's in her third and final two-year term as controller.
"I made a point from that first race back in '97 to put on every piece of literature that I put out that year that I was the past president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus," Parker said. "It was part of my political resume, and I wanted everybody to know who I was, and I wasn't going to talk about it. I was going to talk about the needs of the city. And that was a really good decision and it served me well. Voters know me, they've been voting for me, and I think they're comfortable with me."
Parker and her partner of 18 years, Kathy Hubbard, have two adopted daughters, ages 13 and 18. They also have a son, now 32, whom they raised as foster parents.
Paul Scott, executive director of Equality Texas, the statewide gay-rights group, said if Parker wins, the biggest benefit would be to the citizens of Houston.
"We feel strongly that regardless of her sexual orientation, she's just the best candidate," Scott said. "The fact that she's a lesbian will also be a great benefit to the national, local and state LGBT community."