Gay Democrats made their pick for mayor on Monday, endorsing a veteran city council member they've backed in the past and setting up a split among LGBT groups.

The Houston Stonewall Young Democrats endorsed Steve Costello (photo), an engineer and three-term City Council member who is among a host of LGBT allies running for mayor. The group cited Costello's support for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance as key to gaining their endorsement.

And HSYD President James Lee says he and the group are ready to defend their decision before LGBT voters.

"This is not the first time our organization has been criticized for supporting Costello," Lee said in a statement issued Tuesday. "Under the leadership of former President Brad Pritchett, the organization voted to endorse Costello for City Council. The following year Costello would go on to prove himself as an ally to LGBT Houstonians by voting for and supporting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. To this day Costello has voted for HERO twice, and will be the only candidate in the race to support the ordinance a third time, at the ballot."

The Costello endorsement was one of several HSYD made on Monday. Others included backing two gay incumbents for City Council – Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster – and gay politico Lane Lewis for the At-Large 1 position over transgender activist and construction consultant Jenifer Rene Poole. Backing Costello, though, came a day after the GLBT Political Caucus endorsed state Rep. Sylvester Turner for mayor during a contentious meeting. 

"Unlike the discourse seen at other endorsement meetings this decision was not hotly contested, the membership was civil and friendships remain. After all opinions in the room were made known and each vote was cast, the body of the organization ultimately felt Costello was the right choice for mayor," Lee said.

Costello attended the Houston HRC gala in April and the Pride parade in June.

The HSYD endorsements also come as the group partners with Log Cabin Republicans of Texas to defend HERO. The ordinance will share the ballot with the municipal elections on Nov. 3. 

"As Democrats and Republicans we differ on many issues, but as Houstonians we know the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance will serve our city well and make it so that all Houstonians may have the freedom to live, work, and prosper in a city free from discrimination," Lee and LCRH President Antoine Taylor said in a joint statement.

"While this partnership does not equate to an endorsement of either organization, nor its past, present or future actions at the local, state, or federal level, we come together on common ground to support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance because we believe the law promotes strong fiscal public policy and makes Houston even greater," Lee and Taylor added. 

The full list of endorsements from Houston Stonewall Young Democrats:

  • City of Houston Mayor -Steve Costello
  • City of Houston Controller -Chris Brown
  • City Council At-Large 1 -Lane Lewis
  • City Council At-Large 2 -David Robinson
  • City Council At-Large 3 -Doug Peterson
  • City Council At-Large 4 -Amanda Edwards
  • City Council At-Large 5 -Philippe Nassif
  • City Council District B -Jerry Davis
  • City Council District C -Ellen Cohen
  • City Council District F -Richard Nguyen
  • City Council District H -Jason Cisneroz
  • City Council District I -Robert Gallegos
  • City Council District J -Mike Laster
  • City Council District K -Larry Green
  • HISD Trustee III -Ramiro Fonseca
  • HISD Trustee IV -Jolanda Jones
  • HISD Trustee VIII -Juliet Stipeche

And Lee's full statement on the group endorsing Costello:

Last night the membership of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats voted to endorse Steve Costello for City of Houston Mayor.

While our endorsements only occurred last night, our organization has already seen a few attacks. I’m proud to stand by my colleagues and the endorsements made by the membership, including its endorsement of Steve Costello.

This is not the first time our organization has been criticized for supporting Costello. Under the leadership of former President Brad Pritchett, the organization voted to endorse Costello for City Council. The following year Costello would go on to prove himself as an ally to LGBT Houstonians by voting for and supporting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. To this day Costello has voted for HERO twice, and will be the only candidate in the race to support the ordinance a third time, at the ballot.

At our August 10th endorsement meeting a voting member of the organization motioned to endorse another mayoral candidate, but the motion failed and could not be reconsidered. Following this, the membership approved an endorsement for Costello. Unlike the discourse seen at other endorsement meetings this decision was not hotly contested, the membership was civil and friendships remain. After all opinions in the room were made known and each vote was cast, the body of the organization ultimately felt Costello was the right choice for mayor. 

Our members have worked very hard to ensure every candidate was given a fair consideration, and the Screening Chair, Vice President Jatarious Frazier, should be commended for his efforts.  

Over the past five months we have doubled our membership, our fundraising has grown stronger, and we have formed many new relationships like never before. Together the membership endorsed a slate of diverse, pro-equality candidates and we intend to stand by our endorsements.