November 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay mayoral candidates win in Houston, Seattle
Annise Parker, Houston, gay news, Washington Blade

Annise Parker cruised to a re-election victory, winning more than 50 percent of the vote and thus avoiding a runoff. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lesbian Annise Parker won a decisive victory in her race for a third and final term as mayor of Houston, Tex., on Tuesday, receiving 57 percent of the vote in a nine-candidate race.

In Seattle, Washington State Sen. Ed Murray beat incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn by a margin of 56 percent to 43 percent to become that city’s first openly gay mayor.

Miami Beach City Commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Gongora, who’s gay, was trailing businessman Philip Levine by a 50.48 percent to 36.43 percent margin in a four-candidate race. With votes counted in all 36 precincts, Gongora’s bid to become the city’s first openly gay mayor was hanging by a thread.

Under Miami-Dade County election rules, Gongora and Levine would compete in a runoff election next month if Levine fails to capture at least 50.5 percent of the vote. The Miami Herald reported that a recount was expected to be called to determine whether Levine, who contributed more than $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign, could squeak out a victory without a runoff.

Parker and Murray, meanwhile, were among 53 openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual candidates to win election in state, county, and municipal races on Nov. 5 and in several general election races held earlier in the year, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national LGBT advocacy group that raises money for LGBT candidates.

All had been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

“We’re extremely proud of all of our candidates,” said Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe. “Tonight’s victories across the country and at all levels of government underscore the power of people fighting for fairness, progress, and LGBT equality,” he said.

The 53 endorsed candidates to emerge as winners this year were among a record 85 openly LGBT candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund in the so-called off-year election in 2013, the Victory Fund said in a statement.
Twenty-five of the openly LGBT Victory Fund endorsed candidates lost their races. Three races on Tuesday involving openly gay candidates were too close to call as of early Wednesday, and three of Tuesday’s races involving gay or lesbian candidates were heading for runoff elections in December. Two Victory Fund endorsed candidates withdrew from their races during the campaign.

Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko said the group’s win rate as of early Wednesday was 61 percent.

Spitko said that of the 54 gay, lesbian, or bisexual candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund who appeared on the ballot on Tuesday, 35 won, 11 lost, three were in races too close to call as of Wednesday morning, and three advanced to run-off elections in December.

At least one openly gay mayoral candidate who was not endorsed by the Victory Fund – Republican Don Guardian of Atlantic City, N.J., — won his race on Tuesday, defeating incumbent Mayor Lorenzo Langford, a Democrat, by a vote of 3,066 to 2,904, according to the Atlantic City Press. Guardian becomes Atlantic City’s first openly gay mayor.*

In the D.C. area, gay attorney Patrick Wojahn won re-election to the College Park, Md., City Council on Tuesday. Wojahn finished second in a race where three candidates competed for two seats in the Council’s District 1.

In College Park’s District 2, gay federal government worker P.J. Brennan won his race unopposed for one of the two seats in that district.

Jim Ireton, the openly gay mayor of Salisbury, Md., the largest city in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region, was among the Victory Fund endorsed candidates to win election earlier in the year. Ireton won his race for a second term as Salisbury’s first out gay mayor by a two-two-one margin back in April.

In other contests that the Victory Fund placed on a list of ten important races to watch, lesbian Celia Israel of Austin, Tex., advanced to a December run-off in her bid for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives. If she wins the run-off she would become the second out member of the Texas House.

Also advancing to a run-off is Catherine LaFond, a candidate for the Charleston, S.C., Water System Commission. If she wins in the run-off, she would become South Carolina’s first and only out LGBT elected official.

In New York City, six of the seven openly gay or lesbian candidates for the City Council won their races on Tuesday. All were Democrats running in solid Democratic districts.

Although the mayoral contest in Houston centered mostly on non-LGBT issues, Parker’s main opponent, millionaire attorney Ben Hall, raised concern among LGBT activists when he expressed opposition to same-sex marriage and said he would not push for legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT people.

Some political observers thought Hall had a shot at forcing Parker into a run-off election in December if he and some of the other candidates in the race prevented Parker from receiving at least 50 percent of the vote needed to win the election outright.

But Hall received 28 percent of the vote and all of the remaining candidates received a combined vote of just 15 percent.

Parker’ supporters said city residents got to know and like Parker since she served on the City Council in an at-large seat from 1998 to 2003 and served as city controller from 2004 to 2010. She won election to her first two-year term as mayor in 2010.

“I love this city,” Parker said in her victory speech Tuesday night. “Tonight, I feel like it loves me back, so thank you for the very warm welcome…Thank you to the many people who made this victory possible.”

A list of the LGBT candidates that won and lost their races throughout the country can be seen here:

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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