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Lesbian leading race for Houston Mayor
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Lesbian leading race for Houston Mayor

Target of anti-Gay mailer

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Zogby poll conducted for the Houston Chronicle newspaper and released December 8 shows openly Lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker leading her opponent Gene Locke by 5.5 points.

The poll shows 41.9% of the respondents for Parker as opposed to 36.4% for Locke. It is the fourth poll published since the primary election November 3, and the fourth showing Parker in the lead.

The runoff election is scheduled for Saturday, December 12.

The day before the poll was released, Parker charged her opponent's campaign with illegally coordinating efforts with a conservative PAC which had sent out an anti-Gay mailer targeting her.

Coordinating efforts between a campaign and PAC is illegal under Texas state campaign finance laws.

According to Texas Ethics Commission documents, the finance chairman and one of the finance committee members of Locke's campaign helped bankroll Conservative Republicans of Harris County PAC, the creation of anti-Gay activist Steven Hotze.

According to the documents, Hotze's PAC received a $20,000 donation from Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke's campaign, and $20,000 from James Dannenbaum, who is on Locke's finance committee.

Hotze's PAC disclosed $56,000 in donations between October 25 and December 2. Only two other donors, who contributed a total of $16,000, are listed.

Hotze used the money to finance a mailer which appeared last week, urging voters not to choose Parker and two candidates for City Council because they were "endorsed by a Gay Lesbian political action committee," a reference to Houston's Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus.

It labeled some candidates as "radical liberals" and supported others based on their record of fiscal conservatism.

Hotze endorsed Locke for mayor after the November 3 primary. Locke actively solicited his support, but he now says he has not decided whether to accept that endorsement.

Hotze has been a leader in opposing Lesbian and Gay candidates and issues in Houston since the 1980s.

Locke, on the other hand, had previously been an ally of Houston's LGBT community. Before the primary, Locke sought the endorsement of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. As city attorney, he wrote Houston's non-discrimination ordinance.

Parker also accuses Locke's campaign of coordinating with homebuilder Bob Perry who donated $50,000 to the Houston Police Officers Union (HPOU). They then sent a mailer charging that Parker was "soft on crime."

Perry, who has built a number of developments in the Oak Lawn section of Houston, is best known for financing George Bush's "swiftboating" campaign against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

Parker campaign manager Adam Harris said evidence points to coordination.

"Locke and HPOU share donors and have a common strategist," he said. "Locke's campaign has been meeting with Hotze's strategist, and they even offered him a job. Hotze's funders are Gene's closest advisers and major financial supporters. Locke is either behind all the illegal coordination or has absolutely lost control of his campaign. Either way, that's bad for Houston and we deserve better."

Holmes, former chairman of the Port of Houston Authority and the Greater Houston Partnership, said he has been a long-time supporter of Hotze's PAC and that his donation was not earmarked for the mail piece.

Dannenbaum could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for HPOU said Perry is a frequent supporter of the union and that HPOU did not need his financial contribution to send out mail pieces.

Parker was elected Houston City Controller - the second most powerful city office - in 2003, and was reelected without opposition in 2005 and 2007. She served on Houston's City Council from 1997 to 2003.

Locke was formerly Houston city attorney, and is now in private practice. His law firm's relationship with public entities in the Houston metropolitan area, which he might control or influence as mayor, has been an ongoing issue in the campaign.

While Houston's municipal elections are officially non-partisan, both Parker and Locke are Democrats.

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