It was a campaign challenge that was bound to come up sooner or later—even if the challenge turned out to be fake.
Last month, as City of Houston Controller Annise Parker continued her quest for the mayor’s seat, a suspicious e-mail, purportedly sent to 20,000 recipients, began arriving in inboxes. The e-mail, with its headline “Christians for Better Government Voters Guide: City of Houston 2009 Elections,” endorsed mayoral candidate Gene Locke and stated, in part: “Annise Parker’s lifestyle that of being a HOMOSEXUAL is not the proper role model to lead the fourth largest city in the United States.”
The e-mail went on to endorse a slate of other candidates running for city office in the upcoming November election, ending with the statement: “Christians for Better Government is an organization that involves itself in community affairs, political affairs, and environmental affairs in order to provide accurate information to citizens.”
But Rev. Willie Wright Jr. heads up a group by the same name, which on September 9 released a list of the group’s endorsements that had not endorsed a mayoral candidate. Further, among Wright’s group’s endorsements is one supporting Lane Lewis, an openly gay candidate for Houston City Council District A.
According to the political blog offthecuff.com, Rev. Wright said “right-wing” groups who want to use his organization’s name have repeatedly contacted his group.
On September 20, prior to the revelation that the offensive e-mail was fraudulent, mayoral candidate Gene Locke released a statement rejecting the endorsement. “I vehemently reject this so-called ‘endorsement’ from a group calling itself ‘Christians for Better Government.’ Furthermore, as a church-going Christian, I reject any association with this bogus and divisive style of campaigning. I find the message contained in their press release to be reprehensible, and the people of Houston do, too. I trust Houstonians to choose a new mayor based on the issues and the candidates, and not to be swayed by this kind of ugly rhetoric.”
Parker responded with the following statement:
“I commend Gene Locke for rejecting the purported endorsement announced by a group calling itself ‘Christians for Better Government.’ There is no room in this city for bigotry, whether it’s based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other difference between us. We are all Houstonians in a wonderfully diverse city, and that is what makes us strong.”
The bogus e-mail was distributed shortly before Parker announced that Houston Police Patrolmen’s Union and the Houston Metro Police had endorsed her candidacy.Both groups are members of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s oldest and largest police organization. – by Nancy Ford