HOUSTON — Mayor Annise D. Parker was re-elected to a second term on Tuesday, barely avoiding a runoff despite a poll conducted last month which showed her with the lowest approval rating of any Houston mayor in nearly fifty years, and with only 37 percent of the poll’s respondents saying that they would vote for her.
Parker spent $2.3 million to promote herself to Houston voters this year in her successful effort to win another term as mayor.
Parker is Houston’s second female mayor, and the first elected gay mayor of a major U.S. city.
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The Houston Chronicle reported that “most close political observers considered Parker a prohibitive favorite against five challengers.”
Parker took office two years ago at a time when the tanking economy drained millions from the city’s income stream as tax collections plunged.
She tackled a $100 million budget shortfall by laying off more than 750 city workers, consolidating departments, raising fees and cutting deals to put off some of the city’s bills until better times. She did so without raising taxes or laying off any firefighters or police officers.
Parker took no chances on the result, diligently using the power of incumbency to work the civic club and homeowners association speaker circuit and vastly outspending her opponents with television ads and mailers.
She hammered home her efforts to help Houston’s economy through initiatives such as Hire Houston First, which allows the city to contract with local businesses even when they cost slightly more than out-of-town competitors.
Yet, she still managed such a bare majority that it could embolden a stronger crop of challengers in two years, much as Mayor Lee Brown got taken to a runoff 10 years ago after an unexpectedly weak showing in 1999.
“I had five opponents. Plus, I had the economy, and that was a tough opponent,” Parker said in her victory speech.
The Chronicle also reported that only 13 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots in the mayoral election.