Turner courts HERO backers, LGBT voters for runoff

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Longtime state lawmaker Sylvester Turner, an LGBT ally, finished first in the Houston mayor's race on Tuesday and made a clear pitch to convince LGBT voters disgruntled over HERO's defeat to pick him in the December runoff.

“If you want to be the mayor of this city, you have to appeal to the diversity of this city,” Turner said in his victory speech on Tuesday. “The diversity of this city represents its future.”

Turner received 31.32% of the vote and will face Bill King (25.27%) in the runoff. Tuner, endorsed by the GLBT Political Caucus and a vocal supporter of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, repeatedly mentioned the city's diversity in his speech on Tuesday. It was a not-so-veiled jab at King, who opposed HERO.

Turner addressed the defeat of the ordinance during his address and framed the race as a choice a between a candidate of the past (King) and the one for the future (Turner).

“This city is not the same city that it was 25 years ago. We have come a long way. We are the most diverse city in the United States. We are more diverse than the city of New York. Are you proud of that? Are you really proud of that?” Turner said.

“In the city that I hope to build given the opportunity, every single person has the right to ride on the streets I build if given the opportunity to be its mayor. We should live in a city where no person is discriminated based on group dynamics,” Turner added. (Watch below)

HERO impacts LGBT candidates, allies in Council races

In City Council races, gay incumbents Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster faced different outcomes on Tuesday. Gallegos coasted to a second term in District I, easily dispatching challenger Herlinda Garcia 57.29% to 42.71%.

But in District J, Laster faced three candidates, including one – Manny Barrera – pushed to run by anti-gay activist Dave Wilson over HERO. Laster placed first with 43.64% of the vote but will face Jim Bigham (21.17%) in a runoff. Laster became the first openly gay man on the City Council when he won the seat for the newly-created District J in 2011.

Gallegos and Laster were both endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Houston Stonewall Young Democrats.

In the At-Large District 1 race, gay candidate Lane Lewis placed sixth in an eight-person race for the open seat. Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2009. Lewis received 10.47% of the vote, besting transgender candidate Jenifer Rene Pool, who received 8.56%. Mike Knox and Georgia Provost will face each other in a runoff.

Lewis picked up several endorsements, including from the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Houston Police Officers' Union.

Knox told the Houston Chronicle that voter turnout against HERO boosted his City Council campaign.

Riding what some observers and politicians regarded as high Republican turnout related to opposing the equal rights proposal, Mike Knox was clearly out front among eight candidates vying for the open At-Large 1 council seat.

“Obviously Prop. 1 has drawn out a number of conservative voters, and that is good for me,” Knox said.

HERO also played a role in the At-Large District 2 race and helped push City Council member David Robinson into a runoff. He took 32.60% of the vote but will face Willie R. Davis (22.57%) in the runoff. Via the Houston Chronicle:

In a five-person contest, Robinson was being tested most by Willie R. Davis, a pastor and foe of HERO. Davis filed on the last day of candidate eligibility, though he disputed last month his candidacy was related to the equal rights vote.

Robinson was the only candidate in his contest to clearly state his support for HERO.

“There is no great surprise we are going to be working into the second week of December,” Robinson said, noting the turnout caused by the equal rights ordinance. “Prop. 1 carried a huge surge with it.”

But District C Council member Ellen Cohen (bottom photo), a forceful HERO supporter, easily beat challenger Carl Jarvis, 67.93% to 22%. She thanked supporers on Wednesday.

We won! Because of the tremendous support of people like you and of our broad coalition, I'll have the great honor of continuing to serve District C on Houston City Council.

The 2015 campaign was a great experience. I'm inspired everyday by the people I meet and those I'm reunited with who are not just dedicated to improving their own neighborhoods, but who want to create a better Houston for everyone.

Thanks to each one of you who made a financial contribution, placed a sign in your yard, sent emails to friends, hosted an event, or helped in other ways. I am deeply grateful.

Know that I will work as hard as I can to make progress for the residents of District C and for our great city.

Jolanda Jones, an LGBT ally and former City Council member, easily won her race for the District 4 seat on the Houston school board. She took 57.78% of the vote, besting her nearest rival by 30 percentage points.

[video, top image via KPRC]


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