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UPDATED: Homophobic Dog Whistle Backfires

Mario Castillo easily defeats opponent for City Council District H seat.

Mario Castillo and Cynthia Reyes-Revilla

UPDATE: Cynthia Reyes-Revilla was roundly defeated in the Houston City Council District H runoff election after sending out a homophobic mailer that cost her several high-profile endorsements. Mario Castillo won nearly 64% of the vote, while Reyes-Revilla barely garnered 36%.

Houston voters are currently engaged in early voting in the runoffs that will determine contests for mayor and several city council seats. Over the weekend, the District H council race was rocked by what the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus is calling a ”homophobic dog whistle” used against gay candidate Mario Castillo by his opponent Cynthia Reyes-Revilla. As a result, Reyes-Revilla has shed major endorsements and some goodwill with The Caucus, an endorsement she once sought.

The text message sent out by the Reyes-Revilla campaign shows Reyes-Revilla with her husband and two children. Underneath the photo she is described as a “devoted Christian” who makes decisions that “reflect the moral and ethical standards valued in our community.”

On the right of the flyer is a photo of Castillo with his husband. The wording below describes him as untrustworthy and “not a man of faith.”

Reyes-Revilla’s homophobic ad cost her two major Democratic endorsements.

 “I think it speaks volumes that [Reyes-Revilla] would rather release the endorsements of Commissioner Garcia and Sheriff Conzalez—both of whom spoke out against her homophobic mailer—than own up to her shortcomings and publicly apologize to [Castillo], his husband Joel, [Castillo’s] family, and to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s incredibly insulting to The Caucus and to our community that she would seek our endorsement only to turn her back on us and double down on her vile behavior when called out,” says Austin Davis Ruiz, president of The Caucus.

Frontrunner for Houston City Council District H Mario Castillo (l) with his husband, Joel Rottier. (Photo by Frank Xavier for OutSmart magazine)

Indeed, Reyes-Revilla’s campaign issued a statement on Saturday confirming her release of the endorsements of Garcia and Gonzalez, two significant supporters in the race who both served as council members for District H before leaving due to term limits. The cryptic press release from her campaign said: “This is at my own will and I need to do what is best for my campaign, personal perceptions/opinions and for the sake of relationships.” 

Prior to issuing the statement Reyes-Revilla told Houston Public Media on December 1 that she has “always been a supporter of the LGBTQ community and I am proud to say that half of my team and supporters are from this community,”.

It was unclear based on the reporting whether the candidate was asserting that half of the  24.7% of the votes she received in the general election were from the LGBTQ+ community or whether she believes that half of her current support is from the LGBTQ+ community. OutSmart magazine reached out to the Reyes-Revilla campaign for comment but at the time of reporting had not heard back. 

Castillo, who received 46.4% of the vote in the general election, narrowly missing having to  move on to a runoff at all, did respond. His campaign consultant, Grant Martin, said, “There was a time when candidates could stoop to homophobic dog whistles and get away with it. But, in Houston at least, that time is long past. Reyes-Revilla’s stunt was the last gasp of a dying campaign. We’re grateful for those who stepped up and called her out for such shameful behavior.”

Incidentally, Martin has worked on several other successful campaigns for out Houston leaders like former council member Sue Lovell and former Houston mayor Annise Parker.

If Castillo wins the December runoff he could be the only openly LGBTQ member on city council for the next term. Current out council member Robert Gallegos is departing his seat due to term limits. Nick Hellyar, who is running to fill the At-Large 2 seat, could join Castillo as another out gay member of council. Hellyar faces Willie Davis in his contest. Davis is most widely known as the pastor who was front and center in the successful effort to overturn the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2014. Davis once told Houstonia Magazine, back in 2014, “Your sexual preference is a choice.”

Early voting in Houston continues until December 5 and the general election is December 9.

This article was made possible in part by the generous support of ‘The Voices for Democracy’ grant from New Media Ventures.



Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at
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