Yesterday Houston reelected Annise Parker, who, in 2009, became the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. But farther down the ballot, one of the city’s school board races included a last-minute flurry of homophobic negative campaigning by incumbent HISD District III trustee Manuel Rodriguez Jr., who ultimately held off challenger Ramiro Fonseca by a narrow (unofficial) margin of 2,401 to 2,377.
Last week, Rodriguez mailed out a flyer that included blunt shots at the endorsement his opponent received from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Fonseca’s sexuality.
Among other things, it said Fonseca “ SPENT YEARS ADVOCATING FOR GAY, LESBIAN, BI-SEXUAL, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS………..NOT KIDS” and highlighted Rodriguez’s status as a “Family man, married 38 years to high school sweetheart… 5 grandchildren” while noting his opponent was a “54 years old [sic] man with no children… Male partner.”
“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez told Mike Cronin at Texas Watchdog. “I am not bashing gay people.”
Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”
The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”
Fonseca and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus condemned the flyer, putting the Houston Chronicle ’s School Zone blog in the position of reporting on the caucus’s demand that the paper itself rescind its endorsement of Rodriguez, one of three incumbents (and perceived allies of Superintendent Terry Grier) who went on to keep their seats.
And that’s exactly what happened when the paper’s editorial board printed a fairly extraordinary retraction on November 6 that said the flyer showed “appalling homophobia” and was “obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground.”
It may or may not have had an impact. As Houston blogger Charles Kuffner noted, there were actually 78 more ballots cast for Fonseca on election day, but Rodriguez had begun the morning with a 102-vote lead from early voting.