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social sciences

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Parker, Annise (b. 1956)  
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She ran again in 1997, winning an at-large seat and becoming the first openly glbtq person elected to office in the city.

As a member of the City Council she helped establish a "Rainy Day Fund," promoted a civic art program, worked for more stringent control of inner-city development, and supported a "pooper-scooper" law for cleaner city streets. She also urged Houston's first African-American mayor, Lee Brown, to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation in city employment.

Sponsor Message.

The mayor's attempt to provide domestic partner benefits to city employees was stymied by a citizens' initiative banning such benefits.

After two more terms on the Council, being barred by term-limit laws from seeking re-election, she set her sights on the office of City Controller and was thrice elected.

As Controller, Parker sought to increase the efficacy of her office. In a 2004 interview with Bruce Nichols of the Dallas Morning News she expressed concern about the amount of power residing in the mayor's office and also expressed support for an initiative to give greater authority to the City Council, particularly with respect to the retention or replacement of department heads.

Also in 2004, Houstonians approved a charter amendment endorsed by Parker allowing the Controller to conduct audits of the city's government.

In 2009, when incumbent Houston Mayor Bill White could not stand for re-election due to term limits on that office, Parker entered the race to succeed him. In the primary, she finished first in a crowded field but did not win a majority, and the election went to a run-off.

Parker's sexual orientation was largely a non-issue in the primary campaign, but once she made the run-off, she became the object of various homophobic comments or attacks.

A number of African-American clergy urged Houstonians to vote against Parker because of her unspecified "gay agenda."

Anti-glbtq activist Dave Wilson sent out a mass mailing of fliers with a photograph of Parker and Hubbard captioned "Is this the image Houston wants to portray?"

Wilson—rather incredibly—declared to Mike Tolson of the Houston Chronicle that his mailing, however individually directed, "was not intended to be a personal attack on Parker," but rather a reflection of his belief that "homosexual behavior, to any society that's embraced it, has led to the extinction of that society."

A second anti-glbtq activist, Steven Hotze, fanned the flames of hatred with another mailing condemning Parker for her activism for equality. Further controversy erupted when it became known that two members of the finance committee of Parker's opponent in the run-off, Gene Locke, had made hefty contributions to Hotze's political action committee.

Locke tried to put himself above the fray but was not able do so since, as Bradley Olson of the Houston Chronicle reported in November 2009, Locke had "met with and sought the endorsement of Dr. Steven Hotze, a longtime kingmaker in conservative politics and author of the Straight Slate in 1985, a coterie of eight City Council candidates he recruited who ran on an anti-gay platform."

In an interview on the National Public Radio program "All Things Considered" after her victory, Parker stated that "there was an element of shock when those mail pieces first came out. And I think it offended people who scratched their heads and said, 'Well, we already knew that [i.e., that she is a lesbian] about her.'"

She also declared, "I was very clear to my supporters and the public at large, when I was running, that being gay is part of who I am. It's not all, and it is not anything that I want to lead with as mayor of Houston," further noting that the city faces "numerous critical issues" on a wide variety of fronts.

Despite being outspent by Locke in the election, Parker won the run-off by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.

The political action committee of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund offered financial support to Parker's candidacy, and local glbtq groups and individuals gave of their time and effort as campaign volunteers, but, as political analyst Kyle Johnston observed to Joe Holley of the Houston Chronicle, her success was ultimately due to establishing a connection with the community and responding to their multifarious concerns over the course of her career. "She started this thing with a base of voters, and she ended it with a base of voters, built over a dozen years."

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