On Saturday, Houston Controller Annise Parker soundly defeated attorney Gene Locke in that city's mayoral election in a campaign that centered on the budget, public safety and other perennial issues of municipal governance. As far as Houston voters are concerned, the election marked a milestone because Ms. Parker managed to defeat the candidate favored by the city's business establishment. Now she's at work finding ways to solidify city finances and looking for a new police chief.
You may have heard about this election for another reason: Ms. Parker is gay. Much is being made of that now - of the odd circumstance of the election of an openly gay candidate in a city that has rejected giving benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers, in a state that has outlawed gay marriage, and at a time when gay-rights issues are facing an uphill struggle even in liberal states like Maine, New York and New Jersey.
Ms. Parker's election probably doesn't mean that Texas is about to change its ways as far as gay rights go any time soon. Voters interviewed by the Houston Chronicle said it was her experience that put her over the top and that sexual orientation had nothing to do with it. She spent six years on the city council and another six as city controller, during which she built a reputation as a policy wonk. Though she got her start in politics as a gay-rights advocate in the 1980s and never concealed her sexual orientation or her same-sex partner of 19 years, she stayed away from making sexual politics a signature issue. She's no Harvey Milk, the former San Francisco city supervisor who became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California in 1977 and then pushed through a landmark gay rights ordinance before his assassination a year later. Mr. Milk became the poster boy for gay political empowerment; by contrast, on most issues Ms. Parker's platform was virtually identical to that of her opponent in the race.