Annise Parker won the runoff with 52.78% of the vote to Gene Locke’s 47.22%, amounting to an 11,000 vote margin [This is the corrected tally; see “What was Parker’s final margin?” above]. She grabbed the lead with the early vote and kept it to the end. A late poll supposedly showed Parker 12 points ahead, so the anti-gay campaign by Hotze may have made the race closer. While the election of an openly gay mayor will make national news, of perhaps more importance locally was the Chronicle’s observation that the outcome marked the first time in a generation that the candidate favored by the business community did not win. The simple explanation is that the better known and more qualified candidate won. As city controller, Parker had the advantage of having run citywide before. Locke, an African-American, started out with low name identification. He was the candidate of the business community, a city hall insider and a prominent lawyer-lobbyist whose clients included several governmental entities that are associated with the city (Metro, the Port of Houston, the Harris County-Houston sports authority).
Locke’s dilemma from the beginning was that he had no clear route to victory. He ended up with an unwieldy coalition of African-Americans and affluent Republicans, but, as local blogger Charles Kuffner pointed out, on election day in November, Parker had finished first in the Republican city council districts and Locke had finished last. Earlier, I posted a report from Chase Untermeyer laying out Locke’s victory scenario, which required him to raise his share of the African-American vote from 65% to 85%. If that was ever more than a pipe dream, the wet, foggy weather killed it. The real winner here was Houston, which reinforced its status as a city where it doesn’t matter what your personal life is, or where you came from; you can do what you are big enough to do. In her victory speech, Parker said that she was honored to be the first [pause] Rice graduate to be elected mayor.