It has been four years since the last municipal election we held in the 713, and for those of us in the Houston TBLGQ community, that 2015 cycle was a bittersweet one.
We saw the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) go down in decisive flames, after we’d put in a lot of sweat, tears, and countless lobbying hours to pass. A deceptive transphobia-fueled right-wing repeal campaign was to blame for that defeat.
On that November 3 election night, we also witnessed native Houstonian Sylvester Turner take a step toward succeeding term-limited mayor Annise Parker and becoming our city’s second African-American mayor.
He would make that history a month later by narrowly defeating Bill King in a runoff and becoming the first black native Houstonian to be elected mayor of our city.
While HERO was unfortunately repealed, the other referendum on the ballot that night sailed through without opposition. It mandated four-year terms for the mayor, City Council, and the City controller. It also changed term limits to two four-year terms, instead of the previous three two-year ones.
While Houston civic elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, we know what time it is and who belongs to what party. After the Harris County Republicans got swept out of power due to the 2018 blue tsunami, they are itching for payback. The Harris County GOP would love nothing better than to get their hands on the mayor’s chair in this state’s largest city.
The Republicans haven’t held the Houston mayor’s seat in over 40 years. Neither do they have a majority on City Council, and that probably won’t happen for them this November either.
While the race for “The Horseshoe” (as we call our City Council) traditionally doesn’t start until after Labor Day, many folks aren’t waiting until September to get their political licks in. The August 26 filing deadline date is rapidly approaching, and Mayor Turner is running for reelection against HERO-haters Bill King, Tony Buzbee, and District D council member Dwight Boykins. Former council member Sue Lovell has also recently jumped into the race.
Mayor Turner does have peeps disliking him for multiple reasons, including his skin color, so that could make this mayoral race as tight as the 2015 one that went to a runoff and was decided by the heavily African-American Fort Bend County portion of Houston.
District F council member Steve Le, who knocked off council member Richard Nguyen in a runoff four years ago, is not running for reelection. Surprisingly, neither is At Large 4 council member Amanda Edwards, who has decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican John Cornyn.
The council peeps who are term limited are Brenda Stardig (District A), Jerry Davis (District B), Ellen Cohen (District C), Mike Laster (District J), and Jack Christie (At Large 5).
The council peeps who are running for reelection are Dave Martin (District E), Greg Travis (District G), Karla Cisneros (District H), Robert Gallegos (District I), Martha Castex-Tatum (District K), Mike Knox (At Large 1), David W. Robinson (At Large 2), and Michael Kubosh (At Large 3).
For those of us in the Houston TBLGQ community, passage of HERO 2.0, as we call it, will be a non-negotiable condition for getting our support.
There are also other issues of interest to our community—like where you stand on immigration, traffic, potholes, mass transit, gentrification, recycling (and the Solid Waste Department in general), the Prop B fight between the City and the Houston firefighters, our budget, the revenue cap, and flood control, just to name a few.
While the Houston TBLGQ community is losing council member Mike Laster due to term limits, we do have other TBLGQ community members that have stepped up to run for different City Council seats—Shelley Kennedy in District C, Isabel Texas Longoria in District H, Nelvin Adriatico in District J, Nick Hellyar in At Large 4, and Ashton P. Woods in At Large 5. Council member Gallegos is running for reelection.
And new council members Michael Kubosh, Dwight Boykins, and Dave Martin, we haven’t forgotten y’all voted No on HERO. We also have video receipts of your votes, and will probably be supporting your opponents. Neither have we forgotten that council members Robinson and Gallegos voted Yes for HERO back in 2015, and both men will need our support in 2019.
The HERO “No” votes by Kubosh and Boykins were particularly angering to the Houston TBLGQ community. Both men came to our Montrose community forums, heard us tearfully tell our discrimination stories, and still voted No when the time came to back up their words with deeds.
Payback is a you-know-what.
Speaking of our community, one of the highly sought-after Big Four endorsements in Houston progressive politics happens to be from the GLBT Political Caucus. Their August 3 endorsement meeting promises to be a long, hard-fought one.
If you aren’t registered to vote in the November 5, 2019, municipal election, make sure you do so by October 7 so you can make your voice heard.
This article appears in the August 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.