Carving Out Votes in Unlikely Places

Election Day for Houston’s run-off is just over a week away. The battle between Annise Parker and
Gene Locke will be hard fought over the next few days — with each candidate working to eke out votes outside their group of core supporters. Laurie Johnson reports.

It may seem like distant memory, but Houston is no stranger to mayoral run-off elections. The city’s immensely popular current mayor, Bill White, was forced into a run-off in 2003 when he first ran for the position. Prior to that in 2001, incumbent Lee Brown ended up in a run-off for his final term. And the tradition continues back even further.

This particular run-off race has been difficult to predict. Both candidates know a win isn’t guaranteed. Which may be why Annise Parker is speaking to members of the African-American Chamber of Commerce, a group of likely Gene Locke voters.

“I speak to every group of voters that invites me that I can possibly get in front of. I’m running to be the mayor of all of Houston and I concede no community to anyone else. I have a lot of support in the African-American community, lot of friends in the room, and in fact the endorsement of the African-American News and Issues newspaper. And I felt very welcome in here.”

Although the couple hundred people gathered at the Acres Homes Multi-Service center aren’t her traditional voting base, the move may pay off for Parker. Gene Locke, who was invited and listed on the program, didn’t show up.

But that’s not to say he hasn’t been working hard to mobilize unlikely voters of his own.

“Hello TSU! Hello TSU! It’s all good, Tigers, it’s all good. This is a special day because this is a day that you have a chance to help shape the future of Houston.”

Outside the TSU student center, a huge Gene Locke campaign bus idles, waiting to scoop up college students and head straight to the voting booth.

“My selfish motive today is to pick up votes. There are a lot of registered voters here at Texas Southern University and if we can get a few of those to actually go to the polls it’ll be a good thing. From a larger context, I was very very active in politics in college. It laid the springboard for the interests and passion that I have for people and for the way that we can use politics and government to improve the lives of people. And I hope that a little of that will rub off on these students during this campaign.”

By now, most people who plan to vote probably know who they’ll vote for. So the trick is to pry complacent voters out of their homes and to the polls. Of course there may be some people who still haven’t figured out who to vote for. Maybe you’re waiting for a little more insight into the candidates. If so, here’s something to ponder.

“Well, I am a more than 20-year member of the Houston Cactus and Succulents Society. I am a — I love to grow cactus and succulent plants and I also am an orchid fancier, so I’m a garden club person.”

“I like to cook. It’s a habit and a hobby and when I’m mayor I will develop a cookbook of Gene Locke recipes.”


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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