Annise Parker has been elected mayor of the nation’s 4th largest city, making Houston the largest U.S. city to ever have an openly gay individual serve as mayor.
Recognizing the significance of her victory to the LGBTQ community nationwide, Parker said, “I acknowledge that. I embrace that.”
“I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office,” she told an energetic crowd of supporters in Houston Saturday night.
In her victory speech, and a message posted on her website Saturday night, Parker added: “This election has changed the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, just as this election is about transforming Houstonians’ lives for the better.”
With 100% of precincts reporting, Parker claimed 81,743 votes (53.6%) compared to her opponent Gene Locke, who captured 70,770 votes (46.4%).
A longtime city official, Parker is the current Controller for the city of Houston, a position second only to that of Mayor.
Previously, she served as an at-large member of the Houston City Council since 1997. Parker was victorious in her run for controller in 2003, and ran unopposed in 2005 and 2007.
When she takes office as mayor in January, Parker will be the highest-ranking municipal official in the LGBTQ community in the United States. She replaces Bill White, who is term-limited after serving six years and now seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
In his concession speech shortly after 10 p.m. CT, Saturday, Locke called on his supporters to stand behind Parker.
“Let’s unite and work together, bringing all people together,” he said. “The future of Houston is great only if its people work together.”
Parker and Locke, both Democrats in the nonpartisan race, made it to Saturday’s run-off election after garnering more votes than two other candidates on November 3.
The contest was marked by fierce campaigning and anti-gay attacks against Parker, including mailers condemning her “homosexual behavior.”
Parker and her partner, Kathy Hubbard, have been together since 1990. They have three adopted children.
Election officials described Saturday’s voter turnout as light; unofficial results show 156,863 voters went to the polls (about 16.4%).
Harris County elections spokesman Hector Deleon said officials had expected about 180,000 voters.
Houston is predominantly Democratic and about 25 percent black and one-third Hispanic. Approximately 60,000 of its 2.2 million residents identify as gay or lesbian.