Annise Parker has an unbeatable lead over Gene Locke in Houston's hotly contested mayoral election, meaning she will become the city's first openly gay mayor.
The Harris County elections Web site says 53.62 percent of voters who turned out Saturday chose Parker.
Her rival, former city attorney Gene Locke, was pitching to become the city's second black mayor.
The election battle leading up to Saturday's balloting was marked by fierce campaigning and anti-gay rhetoric. Parker is a lesbian who has never made a secret or issue of her sexual orientation. If she wins, Houston will become the largest U.S. city to ever have an openly gay mayor.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund put out a press release calling this "a watershed moment in American politics." Full press release below:
Lesbian elected mayor of Houston, Texas
Washington, D.C.--Houston, Texas has become the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor after City Controller Annise Parker was declared the winner of a runoff election tonight. Social conservatives fought her election, funding a campaign aimed at turning out likeminded voters to support her opponent, former city attorney Gene Locke. But Parker's endorsements from labor, police, women's, gay rights and other groups were echoed by the Houston Chronicle, the area's major daily newspaper, and her campaign ran a superior get-out-the-vote effort.
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed Parker, said her victory holds tremendous significance for the gay community. "This is a watershed moment in American politics. Annise was elected by fair-minded people from across the city because of her experience and competence, and we're glad Houston soundly rejected the politics of division. This victory sends a clear signal that gays and lesbians are an integral part of American civic life, that we're willing to lead, and that voters will respond to candidates who are open and honest about their lives," Wolfe said.
Parker praised the support of the Victory Fund and its donors, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund her campaign. "I am so grateful to the Victory Fund and its supporters for believing in this campaign from the beginning. This race was about the future of Houston, and whether we will face that future proud to be an open, welcoming, and fair-minded city. Tonight Houstonians said yes to a future like that, and I am glad the Victory Fund helped make that happen," Parker said.
Parker's election was the Victory Fund's top political priority in 2009, a year that saw 54 of its 79 endorsed openly gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates elected to public office.