Parker defends HERO, ponders future: I’ll be back

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Mayor Annise Parker did not back away from HERO during an online chat, defending the non-discrimination ordinance and arguing that what made her a successful mayor could help her in another elected office.

But Parker admitted during the conversation with Houston Chronicle readers on Monday that in conservative Texas, she faces limited options for returning to office. When asked if a gay candidate could win a statewide race, Parker gave a qualified yes.

“Yes, I do but at this point it would have to be a Republican,” Parker responded. “I think the same characteristics that have made me successful in Houston would play well state wide. Tell it like it is, honest and straight-forward is a Texas value.”

Parker, whose six years as mayor ends on Jan. 4, said she's open to running for office in Harris County. But she won't challenge Judge Ed Emmett, the Republican head of the Harris County Commissioners Court who faces re-election in 2018. After all, Emmett helped oust anti-gay nemesis Jarred Woodfill from his perch atop the Harris County Republican Party in 2014. 

“I would not run against my friend Ed Emmett who does a good job as County Judge. But I would be open to the possibility of a open seat,” Parker said.

Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, is likely headed to Harvard University for two months after her successor, Sylvester Turner, takes office next month. But she pledged, “I'll be back.”

Throughout the live chat, Parker was peppered with questions about HERO, which voters defeated on Nov. 3. One person criticized Parker for her strident remarks on election night, when she said the non-discrimination ordinance fell victim to an “ugly wad of lies.” Parker didn't back away from those remarks on Monday.

“The vote against a non-discrimination ordinance similar to that of 200 plus cities and 17 states did not reflect the tolerant, welcoming attitude of the vast majority of Houstonians. This is an issue that will return because it is something that many conferences, corporations and conventions ask about when they make their location decisions,” Parker said.

The mayor, who after HERO's defeat said the ordinance was doomed to fail at the ballot box, was asked why she and supporters fought so hard to keep it.

“Once the state Supreme Court ignored lower court rulings and a jury decision in favor of the City and forced this on to the ballot, there was no time to mount an effective truth campaign to counter the lies and distortions of the opponents,” Parker said.

“I will not apologize for doing the right thing for the 15 categories of Houstonians who would have benefited from the ordinance. Including veterans, pregnant women, and racial and ethnic minorities,” she added.

Parker said HERO supporters struggled to overcome the fear mongering campaign staged by opponents.

“My regret is that the pro-HERO campaign gave logical, calm arguments and largely ignored what we considered a ludicrous belief that the ordinance would turn all bathrooms and locker rooms unisex. Fear isn't logical and it's hard to defeat,” the mayor said.

Yet despite the defeat and the person criticism HERO opponents aimed at her, Parker said her love for the job hasn't diminish.

“I have loved this job, just as I love this city,” Parker said.


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