He got his constituents’ votes, but he may not have their trust for very long.
By a small margin, a white anti-gay activist has ousted a 24-year African American incumbent from his position on the Houston Community College System Board of Trustees – and he did it by pretending to be black. Dave Wilson, who until recently was described in the press as an “unsuccessful candidate in several local political races,” decided to take a shot at the HCCS Trustee job, even though he knew he was running in an overwhelmingly black district. So he tried to see if he could subtly convince voters he was black, too.
In an interview with KHOU reporter Doug Miller, Wilson said he was “shocked” that he won.
“I’d always said it was a long shot,” he said. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”
Wilson sent campaign fliers to community members that used stock photos of African Americans with messages like, “Please vote for our friend and neighbor, Dave Wilson.” He even boasted an endorsement from Ron Wilson. Houston voters probably thought he meant former state Rep. Ron Wilson, who helped create the Texas Human Rights Commission, debated Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and led the fight to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a recognized holiday in the state, according to the Houston Chronicle. But the Ron Wilson in question was actually his family member with the same name, an Iowa-dwelling cousin who Wilson grew up playing baseball with.
In one of those mailers, he made a point to tie his opponent, incumbent Bruce Austin, to Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, pointing out that they both supported “sodomy,” “marriage between a man and a man,” and “that a man can use a woman’s bathroom.”
Austin told KHOU he was disgusted by the mailers, adding that he may pursue a recount, since he lost by a mere 26-vote margin.
“I don’t think it’s good for both democracy and the whole concept of fair play,” he said of his challenger’s campaign. “But that was not his intent, apparently.”
It may not be a high-profile position – although the HCCS states on its website that it’s “the fourth-largest community college system in the United States with over 55,000 students” – but the victory has attracted the attention for blatant deception and because of Wilson’s history in the community.
The deceptive mailers in this election are not the first time Wilson’s fliers have created controversy. He’s known in Houston politics for his attacks on Mayor Parker – in a 2009 mailer, Wilson went after Parker’s sexual orientation.
Houston Chronicle blogger Charles Kuffner didn’t take on Wilson’s campaign tactics, but but he described the newly elected board member as a “terrible person” in his election round-up:
Unfortunately, the other shocker was in HCC 2, where hatemonger Dave Wilson was leading incumbent Bruce Austin by 26 votes. I can’t begin to say how catastrophically terrible that result is if it stands. Remember, HCC Trustees serve for six years. Dave Wilson is a terrible person who has no business being on any elected body, and he has zero qualifications for this job. He’s been running for various things lately just to be a pain in the ass, and it looks like this time in a low information, low turnout race, he managed to win. I’m so upset about this I’m almost unable to talk about it. I’m thoroughly disgusted by this election. Every time I’m asked to speak about elections, I talk about how HCC races are important but always overlooked. This is why.