Who are LGBT Houstonians voting for for mayor? As if you had to ask. Well, we did. And here’s what they had to say.
Compiled by Steven Foster • Photo by Dalton DeHart
Here’s who we talked to: Virgil Vincent, Anita Renteria, Ken Council, Carol Wyatt, Ray Hill, Phyllis Randolph Frye, Ed Barnes, James Sells, John Melton, Zelma Etheredge, James Oxford, Johnny Peden, Brian Riedel, Brandon Wolf, Christine Doby, Michael Ryan, Bruce W. Smith, DDS, Tony Carroll, LCSW, Randall Ellis, Maria C. Gonzalez, Tammi Wallace, Ella Tyler, Jackie Evelyn Thorne, Elizabeth Goza, Stewart Zuckerbrod, MD, Jewel Gray
Includes a section: Why I’m not voting for Annise Parker
I will be voting for Annise Parker for mayor because she has integrity, intelligence, and experience. She has the know-how to be an effective leader. Annise Parker knows first-hand the issues that the city faces and she has offered thoughtful solutions to address these issues. She is a realistic thinker. I believe Annise Parker is very fair-minded and will represent all of us with equal vigor. I applaud her candor regarding her sexual orientation. What should matter most is that she is the best person for the job.
Annise Parker is not running because she wants to be the first gay mayor of Houston. She is running because she wants to be the mayor of Houston, period. Her qualifications are impressive and unsurpassed, and those qualifications are why she is the best choice and why I do, and everyone should, support her. She will make a competent and excellent mayor, and I don’t need another reason to support her. But it is impossible to ignore the pride I will feel when the mayor of Houston is not only capable and competent and excellent, but, oh by the way, she’s gay too. I look forward to that day. And it’s close. I believe it’s very close.
I met Annise at a Gay Political Caucus meeting in the mid ’80s. I was impressed with her dedication and commitment to helping our community gain civil liberties. Annise was always the consensus taker and a calm voice of reason. I found her positions to be moderate—never far flung or in-your-face radical. Time passed and I realized that she was one of our community’s new young leaders, and I sponsored her into EPAH [Executive and Professional Association of Houston] which served as neutral ground for handshaking and alliance building among our many organizations and social groups. Over the years, as I have gotten to know Annise even better, I have seen her interests broaden to preserving neighborhoods, mass transportation, and other quality-of-life issues that I never thought about in my 30s. Annise is now asking the voters in Houston to once again allow her to take over responsibilities in city government that are so complicated that John Q Citizen probably has never even contemplated…. I trust Annise to continue being the level-headed, considerate consensus taker that she has been for the 20+ years that I have known her, as she tackles the challenges that face Houston…. Houston needs Annise.
I support Annise Parker for mayor for her competence, her integrity, and her proven track record.The fact that she is lesbian is just the icing on the cake. How lovely that we have a strong candidate who represents us, both as GLBTs and as citizens of the fourth largest city in the U.S.! I have known Annise since our days competing against one another in the Montrose Softball League. Let’s just say that I am happy that Annise decided to pursue a career in politics, rather than professional sports!
—Carol Wyatt (Account Director, Strategic Products, Convergys Corporation)
I have known Annise since she was an undergraduate at Rice University. She is smart, incredibly smart. She is a policy and process wonk, meaning she not only wants to do the right things but do them in the right way every time…. She was true to all her promises and served with distinction as council member and controller. She will make a wonderful mayor. She needs, deserves, and will appreciate our help. We are not doing it for ourselves; we are doing it for our city.
I trust Annise Parker. I have known her for decades. She is dedicated, loyal, OUT, and very smart. And she is a very good friend. In my opinion, she will be as good a mayor —possibly even better—than Bill White has been, and I have seen a lot of Houston mayors since I moved here in 1974. I am putting my vote AND MY MONEY on Annise Parker.
—Phyllis Randolph Frye
When Annise Parker states hers is a grassroots campaign, I know that is the truest and most honest principle of her campaign because of our friendship and long history together.I also know that she has three (yes, three) master’s degrees from Rice University, which in my opinion is the Harvard of the South…. She has devoted her life to public service, and she is also a devoted life partner raising two daughters with partner Kathy.Annise is simply the best example of honesty and integrity.What better credentials can one expect in politics? Annise will be our next mayor, and I also have Washington, DC, in the horizon for her after that.
—Ed Barnes (retired Assistant Director of Labor Relations, Southern Pacific Railroad 33 years, Union Pacific Railroad 1 year, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad 2 years; Volunteer Patient Mentor, Thomas Street HIV Clinic 5 years)
My wife and I joined the city council runoff campaign of Annise Parker in 1997. We have actively supported her in every election since then. Ms. Parker is bright, energetic, and politically savvy. She has focused on results. She has been a tireless and able advocate for Houston. Ms. Parker has served three terms as an at-large member of the Houston City Council, moving on when she became term-limited to the position of city controller, where she also served three terms. She is easily the more qualified candidate to step into the mayor’s office. She has managed to serve Houston for 12 years without a scandal and with nothing to apologize for. Her tenures have been marked by fiscal responsibility and concern for Houston’s citizens.
—James Sells (Houstonian since 1969, married to a native Houstonian)
Annise is the best candidate for Mayor of the City of Houston in the Great State of Texas! Having known Annise for at least 25 years, her consistent, steady, and thoughtful involvement in working to make Houston a better place to live seals her status as the most qualified individual in my book.
Annise is absolutely the most honest, intelligent, experienced, competent, and dedicated person for the job of mayor. The fact that she happens to be of our community is an extra blessing. We should not, however, as a community, put undue pressure on her regarding our issues. The economy and well-being of our city, state, and country are of most importance at this time. For now, our issues are secondary, and the issues of moving this city forward are primary. Let’s all campaign, give, and work with all our might to elect Annise. Good things will come in due time.
I am a supporter of Annise Parker for mayor for two primary reasons. First of all, it’s always exciting to see someone from our community attain such a high level in our city’s government. But what she has that few other candidates have is the leadership to lead ALL citizens of Houston. We need someone who not only has our best interests at heart, but everyone’s…. A true leader must meet the needs of everyone and treat each individual equally. She also has a very strong and proven fiscal background that will serve this city well going forward. Many of the problems facing this city will require funding. Ms. Parker will be able to tackle these issues on day one. I also believe she will bring back a much-needed interaction between the mayor’s office and city council. Council members are the representatives of the city, and we need a mayor who recognizes the importance of this and sees the value of their input. Second, is a cause close to my heart—the homeless animals of this city. She has a strong knowledge of the problem and the willingness to listen to the animal welfare community to determine how we can best help these pets…. I am voting for Annise Parker, not because she is the gay candidate, but because she is the BEST candidate.
—James Oxford (Founder of HAPI, Homeless Animal Partnership Initiative)
I am supporting Annise to be our next mayor not because she is a member of the LGBT community. She has my support because ever since she was elected to city council at large, she has worked hard and smart for the best interests of ALL Houstonians. Her six years as city controller have given her the experience to lead our great city through these difficult economic times…. Annise has a proven track record of being very fiscally responsible…. Her audits of city departments uncovered tens of millions of dollars in wasted money due to fraud, inefficiencies, and redundancies. Annise is the only candidate for mayor who has the experience to be our city’s CEO from day one when she takes office. Electing Annise our next mayor will send a positive message around the world that Houston is a progressive city for the quality of life for ALL citizens.
—Johnny Peden (native Houstonian with over 30 years experience as a political activist)
Annise Parker won my vote a long time ago. She did not win it because she holds the promise of being the first open lesbian to lead a major metropolitan area in the United States or because she has the deep experience of city government necessary to be a thoughtful and effective mayor. She did not win it even for her fiscal foresight, though that may well be what Houston now needs most. While all of these things count, Annise won my vote because of the effect she has on other people, specifically the students in my classes. Every year since 2006, Annise has come to speak to the Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at Rice University about her experiences as a Rice undergraduate and an out political figure. Every year, she ranks highly among those speakers the students say should definitely come again next year. I cannot help but believe that the students keep wanting her back for the same reason she won my vote. We respond to her humility, her integrity, and her sense of leadership. When so many other things matter in this election, Annise won my vote because she is genuine to herself, and that in turn brings out the best in us. And Houston needs more of that.
—Brian Riedel, PhD (Projects Coordinator, Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality)
I’m voting for Annise because she’s the best candidate for mayor—experienced, intelligent, energetic, and caring. Despite the insistence of the local media to portray her as “the gay candidate,” she has proven instead that she is “the most qualified candidate.”… I remember when Annise was always there in the 1980s for [Houston Gay Political] Caucus mail-outs—addressing envelopes, licking stamps, sealing envelopes. She worked and watched and learned—and then became a leader herself. I was at the election night parties the first two times that Annise ran for City Council and lost…. I was also at Riva’s Restaurant the night of her first election victory in 1997…. She had made the seemingly impossible possible. Now she’s poised to make the seemingly impossible possible once again. As members of the gay community and citizens of Houston, we’re fortunate to have Annise Parker to lead us through the challenging years ahead of us. My best wishes are with her.
—Brandon Wolf (OutSmart contributing writer)
I’m supporting Annise Parker because she has been through severely bad times in Houston. We knew she was bright when we elected her, and then extraordinary things happened to Houston, which the city was not prepared for, during Mayor White’s terms. He learned the hard way how to prevent recurrences, and Annise was there to apprentice…. She knows which departments are functioning well and which need work. I don’t think she will ever be unprepared for reversing the traffic lanes during a hurricane evacuation or not have enough gasoline trucks standing by or let a financial crisis sneak up on the city again due to overambitious politicians. I remember back years ago, when she was councilwoman-at-large, she helped me solve a traffic problem in front of my store when my own councilperson wouldn’t even answer my phone calls. A couple of years later, I was amazed to see her on TV showing citizens how to recycle their old TV sets, computers, and volatile chemicals, a service she thought most citizens didn’t know the city provides. I really appreciate someone who loves Houston and has the capacity to do a very good job. She’s not only brilliant, she rolls up her sleeves and does the work.
—Christine Doby (rare-books dealer)
I have known Annise for many years through various community organizations. I have watched her evolution from an oil and gas professional to a community activist to a highly competent public servant. Annise is the most qualified person to be our next mayor and, importantly, she is qualified to lead Houston on her first day in office. Houston is well served by electing Annise, and her election is an exciting progress milestone for the Texas LGBT community.
—Michael Ryan (Green/White Advisors)
Leaving the GLBT aspect aside, Annise Parker is clearly the most qualified candidate with her many years as an activist, oil and gas experience, and experience working from the ground-up in public service. She truly knows how all levels of local government work and has proven it over and over. A good analogy: if you had to hire a CFO for your very large company, would you not hire the person with the best experience, track record, and integrity? Equally important is the historic precedent this election entails. Annise Parker would be the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city…. This election represents another paradigm shift in the mood of America. It rises to the level of electing our first person of color to the presidency. Although we are aware that Gene Locke is liberal, inclusive, and would likely be a good mayor, our years of political experience have convinced us that Annise Parker is the better choice….
—Bruce W. Smith, DDS
—Tony Carroll, LCSW
Annise Parker has a long history of working on issues of importance to our quality of life in Houston. Her experience in working with neighborhoods, her last 12 years as city controller and city council member, and her 20 years of private-sector experience in the energy industry mean she will hit the ground running on day one of her administration. She has the vision we need to move our city forward and the fiscal knowledge to be a vigilant steward of our tax dollars in these tough times. Over the past 12 years she has demonstrated her ability to find efficiencies and eliminate waste in city government through initiatives such as doing away with paper paychecks for 21,000 city employees (saving the city $1 million) and cutting her own city department budget when she first got in office. . . . I have always been impressed by her ability to form broad coalitions of people and communities. These coalitions are the reason she has won six citywide elections and is poised to add a seventh win to her victory column. Annise Parker has created new paths for LGBT politicians in Texas for more than a decade and has served as an inspiration to many in our community. . . . I know that she will continue to be a leader who fights for fairness and justice for all Houstonians.
—Randall Ellis (former Executive Director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas)
I am supporting the person who is “ready to lead on day one.” I am supporting the candidate who already knows how the city works and how to help it work even in the worst of times. I am supporting Annise “the policy wonk” Parker. Annise is a down-to-earth, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of a politician…. As I look to the city of Houston’s December 12 mayoral runoff race in a time of economic uncertainty, my confidence in an honest city worker, a person who fully comprehends the complexity of city finances, knows how to audit and create financial reforms that work for better and more efficient city services makes Annise Parker my natural choice…. Annise is one of the smartest, most honest and hardworking city servants I have ever met….
—Maria C. Gonzalez (past officer of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus)
Annise is without a doubt the most qualified candidate to serve as the mayor of our city. She has been in the trenches from her days as a neighborhood leader, businessperson, at-large city council member, and serving as city controller. Annise has dedicated much of her career to public service. She serves as a wonderful role model in many areas, including as a civic leader, a female candidate, and as an out elected official. Annise’s focus, determination, commitment, and experience speak volumes about her character….
—Tammi Wallace (Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of State Representative Ellen Cohen, District 134)
I’ve watched Annise’s actions as an elected official and activist … and know that she’s always thoughtful, reasonable, and constructive. I’ve never been surprised or disappointed in how she’s acted on council or as controller. Personally, I know that she’s the genuine article. Before she was elected to city council, I used to see her at the library getting large-print books. When I asked why, she said she was taking them to her grandmother in East Texas and said she went to East Texas every other weekend to help her grandparents. Eventually, she moved them in with her. She says she’s for historic preservation and has a “Good Brick Award” from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance for a project she’s involved in. She says she’s for the environment, and her office is filled with cactus and orchids she’s grown herself. I’ve seen her covered in mud and laughing after she fell getting out of a kayak after a trip on Buffalo Bayou. On a personal note, when I fell on my way into a large luncheon last November and broke my ankle, Annise saw me lying in the parking lot and came over and stayed with me until the ambulance took me away, even though there were other people with me and she could have been inside schmoozing.
—Ella Tyler (political activist for 40 years, worked and/or lived in Montrose in the ’80s and ’90s, former writer for the Houston Voice)
I (along with several others who identify as transgendered) worked on Annise’s first (successful) city council campaign. She and the other volunteers were all very T friendly and open to our concerns. To me, she is a politician who happens to be a lesbian, not a lesbian who happens to be a politician. She will work for all Houstonians—gay, straight, bi, trans—just as she has done for the last 12 years.
—Jackie Evelyn Thorne
I am voting for Annise for many reasons. She is by far the best-qualified person in the race. Her experience over the last 12 years in public office coupled with her intelligence and ability make her the obvious choice to become the next mayor of Houston. Having watched Annise serve as city council member and controller, I am convinced that she is the best person to lead Houston through these difficult economic times. What really impresses me about Annise is her passion for doing the right thing and her honesty in all matters. At a time when integrity, honesty, and ethics seem to take a back seat in the minds of so many politicians, Annise stands as a beacon to those very virtues. The most important question one can ask in this race is which person has all of the qualities and qualifications required to be the best mayor that we can elect. The obvious answer is Annise Parker.
Let’s first look at the long road she traveled to get where she is today. The corporate experience gave her an understanding of the things important to those who work. She developed her skills that were used in her subsequent political offices. She is tough. You have to be to endure the struggles and adversaries gay and lesbian people were subjected to—one of the few minorities rebuked by many of the same churches they attended as children. The toughness to endure, when you put yourself in the spotlight running as the first lesbian on city council, is even greater than for most.
She came through with grace and dignity and was made stronger for it. She proved her skills and proved that gay and lesbian people can serve in public office for the betterment of all. She pushed her way past the stumbling blocks that women have faced, and she came out on the other side, a very strong contender for most executive management positions. Her years of experience in public service have formed the foundation needed to run the very city she has been so involved in. She understands the city as a result of her hard work and dedication. And with Annise as mayor of Houston, she will provide the leadership to city management, giving the guidance necessary to put them in a better place to solve the problems faced, in the same systematic and driven way she has demonstrated through the years.
Many years ago, when we were much younger and city government was a “happening thing” to most of us, a young lady named Annise Parker ran for office. At that time, I didn’t have much faith in the straight public, and I told Annise that this was not the time. She did run however, but did not win. Election time rolled around again, and I said, “Now is the time. You can win a city council seat.” And she did.
She ran for city controller, and I said the same. And now it is for the highest elected position in the city of Houston—mayor. It is time, and she will win. I guess that all of her campaigning has finally paid off—and justly so. She is an honest forthright person who has compassion for all.
—Pat Petty (Founder of Miss Camp America)
I have known Annise Parker for more than 15 years and respect her highly. I also know her life partner Kathy and their two adopted children. I have been a guest in their home on several occasions. I voted for Annise in 1997 when she ran for an at-large position on the Houston City Council and every time since then when she has run for office…. I believe that Annise has done an outstanding job as our city comptroller and will do an outstanding job as our mayor. In my opinion, Annise has all of the qualities and skills needed to lead our great city….
—Rev. Ralph Lasher
Annise Parker is simply the best-qualified candidate to lead our great city. Hands down.
—Bob Briddick (Past president of The Diana Foundation)
In 1971, the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. I was 16 at the time and more concerned with the other right of passage: a driver’s license! However, two years later I proudly registered to vote and have not missed an election since. The fact that the Houston GLBT community could put the city’s first openly gay mayor in office for the nation to see is such a thrill. I only hope the entire Houston community will make a better showing than in the November 3 election.In one of many news clips, Annise Parker said something to the effect that although she was probably viewed as a role model, she was running to lead the city and not necessarily to serve as a role model for others. Well, not a chance! She earns my respect and my vote; however, not necessarily as a gay role model. That’s the icing on the cake. She earns my vote and respect as a role model for leadership, community involvement, savvy political awareness, tremendously good fiscal instincts and policy, and the ability to work well with others—city council, police, firefighters, and others in charge of our city’s economic development and safety. Annise is exactly what this community needs, and how wonderful that she is also exactly who the GLBT community wants.
—Daniel Impastato (retired teacher, owner of “P.S. in the Heights”)
In my mind Annise Parker is undoubtedly the most qualified person to lead our incredible city in this new millennium. Her sound intelligence, coupled with her experience in city hall (especially having been the city controller for the past six years), for me begs the question, “How can anyone else be more qualified!?” Houston has garnered national attention for its fiscal responsibility and great standard of living. My favorite award comes from the July 2008 Kiplinger Report, which proclaimed Houston Number One of the “Best Cities to Live, Work and Play.”This was based on an assessment of the strength of our economy, our abundant job pool, a reasonable cost of living, and fun things to do.
And while much of the U.S. and the world is suffering through the downturn, it is Annise Parker, as chief financial officer of this corporation we call Houston, who has skillfully, adeptly, and strategically ensured our shelter. And now she is poised to lead us through the challenging months ahead…. Annise’s election to the fourth (soon to be third) largest city in the United States tells the world that America values all of its citizens, that LGBT people have equal opportunity and that being gay does not stop you from fulfilling your dreams.
In a nutshell, Annise Parker being Houston’s mayor tells the world that it is okay to be gay. And that in turn will help move equality forward on a global scale.
Our community was decimated of leadership by the AIDS crisis of the ’80s and ’90s. The lack of time and resources has severely inhibited the natural progression of leaders into positions of political influence and success. Through the most extraordinary confluence of circumstances, the GLBT community has a logical, well-suited, perfectly prepared, and perfectly positioned person ready to become mayor of the nation’s fourth largest city. Annise Parker has paid her dues from the ground up in Houston politics. Her ability to stay above the fray, remain free of special interests, and govern equitably has helped her transcend the limitations often imposed by prejudice, ignorance, and homophobia—both external and internal. She has been unapologetically open about her sexuality from the beginning, a reality that has served both the city and Annise well. This offer of first-tier leadership quality could signal the reemergence of GLBT leadership of the magnitude of Harvey Milk. This is an opportunity too rare to squander. Although Houston seems to overlook the significance of Annise Parker’s political position as an openly gay person, nowhere else in the nation is this overlooked. For Houston, this offers the opportunity of a world-class city to set the stage for both quality and equality in a world-class way.
—Tony Carroll, LCSW
Why I’m Not Voting for Annise Parker
I live in Bellaire and therefore cannot cast my ballot for Annise. However, I have supported her financially during this campaign because I believe that she is the best person to be the next mayor of Houston. She has the financial experience from working for Mosbacher Energy and as city controller, and she keeps open and honest fiscal records for the city. She is very much in touch with the people of Houston and has intelligent and reasonable solutions to the issues that the city faces with safety, flooding, and overall quality of life. She has a long history of supporting her community and causes. She was an early supporter of people with HIV/AIDS before we even had a name for the disease. She has compassion and sensitivity for those in need. I have several friends and acquaintances who have known Annise since her college days, and they all speak very, very highly of her and are supporting her in this election as well…. She does not shy away from serious issues, and she can connect with all kinds of voters … I’ve followed her career in politics and have always been impressed by her hard work and dedication to the City of Houston…. Even though I don’t live in the city limits of Houston, I do take advantage of many city services—Discovery Green, Metro, police, the library, etc.
Unfortunately, I won’t be voting for Annise. For the past six years, I’ve lived in Bellaire, and we have our own mayor and city council. But, our “small town” is obviously very connected with Houston, which is why her election is important enough that she is the only candidate that I’ve supported financially this year. I think it’s a great testament to her that we see almost as many of her signs in Bellaire as those of the local candidates! I’ve been privileged to know Annise personally for many years and have had many occasions to discuss political questions with her. She has always been knowledgeable about the issues and remarkably level-headed and analytical in her responses. I’ve been especially impressed with her ability to work well with the many administrations with which she has served and to be able to form coalitions with diverse groups. The mayor of Houston has to serve an incredibly diverse population and to have the ability to handle complex social and financial issues. I have no question that Annise is the best candidate to lead Houston—and Bellaire—at this time!
—Stewart Zuckerbrod, MD
Unfortunately, I live in Pasadena and cannot vote for Annise. If I did live in Houston I would jump at the opportunity to vote for a woman I have watched over the 30 years I have lived here. She impressed me the day I met her back in 1979 while I was working at Wilde And Stein’s bookstore. She was bright, articulate, and passionate about our community, and she has never wavered…. And by golly, she is the best candidate. I truly regret that I cannot vote for her this time.