Last Saturday, during the annual caucus retreat for strategic planning, two upcoming election campaigns were focused on: the special election to fill city council at-large position 3 (relinquished by the infamous Shelley Sekula-Gibbs) and district D’s city council seat, which will be vacated by the term limited Ada Edwards at the end of the year. I will do my best to keep up with developments in these priority races here on the caucus blog.
With the special election just around the corner, I set out to learn a little more about all the recently filed candidates. Being naturally inclined to nerdiness and news addiction, I expected to enjoy this research, but I had no idea! Since the date of the special election was finalized, an extremely colorful cast of contenders has emerged:
1. Melissa Noriega : Given her broad, citywide name recognition, a number of analysts feel that Noriega is the front runner in this race. For those of you who don’t recognize her name, Melissa Noriega is State Representative Rick Noriega’s wife. While her husband, a national guardsman, completed a tour in Afghanistan, Melissa Noriega represented district 145 in his absence during the Texas Legislature’s 2005 regular session and the subsequent special session on school finance. At the completion of these sessions, she was voted freshman of the year by the house democrats. She was HISD’s director of special projects, and she has a long history of civic involvement.
2. Roy Morales: Morales is not a newcomer to city politics, having run against City Councilmen Peter Brown in 2005. He is a retired Lt. Col, who touts the support of conservative coalitions, business associations, police organizations, and veterans. Morales’ campaign website is not yet up and running, but judging from his previous run for council , we can assume he will be one of this race’s most conservative candidates.
3. Andy Neil: Neil is the chair of the Houston Downtown Alliance’s Emerging Leaders Community Outreach Committee. On his website, Neil identifies the three Houston problems that trouble him most: burgeoning homelessness, HISD dropout rates, and violent crime. Neil doesn't have much of a history in Houston politics, and I couldn't dig up that much about him online. I've heard that Neil's been sending out some interesting e-mail though.
4. Noel Freeman: Freeman is the only openly gay candidate in the race. He is president of the Houston Log Cabin Republicans. In 2004 he worked for Congressman John Culberson, who, that same year,
co-sponsored the federal marriage amendment. He also works for Service Corporation International, North America’s largest provider of funeral and crematory services. Noel doesn’t outline any specific initiatives on his website, but -- I'm sure you'll agree -- he’s definitely a unique and provocative candidate.
5. David Goldberg: Goldberg is a senior at Bellaire High School. He is the only candidate with a Facebook profile , and he has lots of friends there too. Compared to the other candidates, Goldberg’s campaign website is considerably more developed. Goldberg says he's running to improve homeland security, fight crime, and improve the city's parks. David Goldberg is former District C councilman Mark Goldberg's nephew. Mark Goldberg represented Montrose until he was term limited out of office in 2005. In 2001 Mark Goldberg pulled a Martha when he abstained from voting on the Mayor Brown's non-discrimination ordinance for city employees. The ordinance passed even without Mark Goldberg's vote. He was also listed as a favored candidate of the Conservative Republicans of Harris County in 2003. Who knows if David Goldberg shares his uncle's right-wing loyalties... I’ll try to track down his student council voting record.
A former state rep, a gay Culberson staffer, a young businessman with an apparent penchant for Playboy, a perennial, conservative candidate, and a web-savvy high school senior – I must say, it’s a very interesting group, and I’m really looking forward to the campaign. It promises to be amusing.
In all seriousness though, winning this seat is one of the caucus’s top priorities for 2007. Of course, each of these candidates will be invited to screen with the caucus, and caucus members will vote to endorse a candidate in March.
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was certainly not a friend to the GLBT community, and we should work to elect a more progressive, pro-equality candidate to the council. The caucus was very successful in 2006, electing Ellen Cohen and defending Representative Hubert Vo. Let’s reassert our influence in this consequential, high profile council race.