After winning a close election in a predominately African-American district, Houston Republican David Wilson is making national headlines as details emerge about the efforts he undertook to convince voters he's black.
The white conservative candidate — an electrician and former mayoral candidate known for his anti-gay activism — made sure to never show his face on campaign materials he sent out for a seat on the HCC Board of Trustees. Instead, he opted to cover fliers with images of African-American families he lifted from the Internet. On top of the stock photos were phrases like, “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”
The Republican claimed to be “Endorsed by Ron Wilson” . . . not the former African-American state representative, but a cousin.
Another mailer proudly claimed the Republican was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” the name of a former African-American state representative. Just below the tagline, small print notes that "Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins," referencing a different Ron Wilson: the candidate's relative in Iowa.
"He's a nice cousin," Dave Wilson told KHOU Ch. 11, trying not to chuckle. "We played baseball in high school together, and he's endorsed me."
The defeated Democrat — 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin, who lost by 26 votes — attempted to fight back with flyers calling the Republican a "right-wing hate monger" and highlighting Wilson's support of "bringing back chain gangs to clean highways."
Austin demands a recount with the slim hope he can reclaim another six-year term.
According to The Texas Observer, Wilson's political activity goes back more than two decades and includes his work in 2001 to pass a referendum denying benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.
The Republican's love affair with shady political materials reached a high point during his 2009 mayoral campaign, during which he mailed tens of thousands of fliers claiming that Annise Parker should not be elected because “homosexual behavior leads to extinction.” On another mailer, he wrote, “I have nothing but compassion, respect, and sensitivity toward those trapped in homosexual behavior.”
During his 2011 campaign, Wilson released a statement claiming Parker's team had spread rumors he was in the Ku Klux Klan. Strongly denying the supposed allegations, he made a point of noting he was a former member of the NAACP.
After the election, Wilson's still-active campaign website featured a cartoon of Parker high-fiving Jerry Sandusky while saying, “You’re hired!” Now Dave Wilson's gone national, with The Daily Show analyzing his campaign tactics in its "Racist or Not?" panel segment.
The show verdict? Racist.