Bigot Gets Elected Pretending to Be Black


A Houston-area bigot named Dave Wilson, known for his crusades against gay rights, has won a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees from a predominately black district. And he did it by pretending to be black. Seriously, he did. And he doesn’t deny it.

As a conservative white Republican running in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats, the odds seemed overwhelmingly against him.

Then he came up with an idea, an advertising strategy that his opponent found “disgusting.” If a white guy didn’t have a chance in a mostly African-American district, Wilson would lead voters to think he’s black.

And it apparently worked. In one of the biggest political upsets in Houston politics this election season, Wilson — an anti-gay activist and former fringe candidate for mayor — emerged as the surprise winner over 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin. His razor thin margin of victory, only 26 votes, was almost certainly influenced by his racially tinged campaign.

“Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters,” he says.

Wilson, a gleeful political troublemaker, printed direct mail pieces strongly implying that he’s black. His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites — and captioned with the words “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”

One of his mailers said he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who’s also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa.

“He’s a nice cousin,” Wilson says, suppressing a laugh. “We played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”

Pretty slimy. Eugene Delgaudio would be proud.

Comments

  1. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites

    It might be fun to find those images and let the copyright owners know they’ve been abused.

  2. pocketnerd says

    I’m sure the wingnuts will trumpet this as proof that those people only voted for Obama because they’re black, and double down on their “it’s us Real Americans™ versus the hordes of untermenschen” siege mentality.

  3. paulg says

    Never underestimate the power of the poorly informed voter. I can’t even really get mad at the douche.

  4. Abby Normal says

    I’m torn. On the one hand, he was deceptive and manipulative. On the other, I find it hard to feel bad about a bunch of racists having their prejudice turned against them. Hopefully the residents who voted for him have learned a valuable lesson about paying attention to issues instead of skin color.

  5. Artor says

    Abby, I don’t think voting for someone you think will represent your interests counts as racism. It’s not just that he pretended to be black, but that he pretended to be a friend of the black community and pretended to have the endorsement of a popular representative. I hope there is a quickly organized recall to throw this lying asshole out on his pasty white racist ass.

  6. caseloweraz says

    It does seem as if bad performance in the Houston Community College District was a big factor in Wilson’s election. Still, his campaign trickery is reprehensible.

    Wilson is, according to KHOU, “an anti-gay activist and former fringe candidate for mayor” of Houston. Yet when he ran in Houston this time, “in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats,” a majority of voters reportedly assumed he was black.

    “Are we awake?”

    Apparently, unlike Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles, those Houston voters were not awake. I can’t help but feel that they got what they deserve. Wilson probably did too, as he will have to face their displeasure.

  7. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    It’s quite correct to note that the voters should have been more aware. It’s also quite correct to note that voters should not have to assume that they’re being lied to this flagrantly. This is similar to the hullabaloo when the Shirley Sherrod flap occurred. While it’s true that Obama and others should not have jumped the gun and forced her out, it’s also true that we should not have to assume that a published “news” piece is a complete fabrication.

    On some of the boards where I saw this, I also commented (sarcastically) that whites never vote for someone just on the basis of the color of their skin. A few people (not sarcastically) agreed.

  8. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    I might add that the attitude that the people voting for this ass are at fault is the same as an attitude that people conned by a con artist are at fault. Their mistake in trusting the advertising does not justify someone taking advantage of that trust.

  9. lldayo says

    I’m waiting for the Republican outrage that will surely occur regarding a candidate misrepresenting themselves in an election. I know they don’t base their disgust with partisan bias, right?

  10. says

    This is messed up on more than one level. There’s the trickery, and there’s the naive trust that was exploited. I don’t blame the people for being trusting, especially since this was a particularly strange deception. I just hope they’ve learned to be more wary.

    Sometimes part of me wants to think that politics gets less corrupt and less crazy the more local it gets despite all the evidence to the contrary I’ve seen as I’ve grown up. Next batch of local elections I’m going to put in some additional effort into researching the candidates.

  11. eric says

    I can’t even really get mad at the douche.

    I can. Democracy as a system only works when candidates are reasonably accurate about how they will act in office. 100% accuracy is not possible or reasonable to expect (if for no other reason than politicians, being human, sometimes change their minds). But on the other end of a scale, candidates that completely deceive the voters about what they will do in office turn voting into a game of “pick a name out of a hat.” That is not representative government. Its not really democracy at all, because the voters have essentially zero input into the sorts of policies that will be legislated.

    If he doesn’t want to reveal his skin color because he thinks this irrelevant trait might negatively influence voters, fine. I’m okay with that. But if he passes himself off as a liberal or democrat by means of pictures and deceptive endorsements, that is really wrong. The parties aren’t just tribes; party designation is a reasonable-yet-flawed proxy for a whole raft of policy positions the candidate may hold. When a Republican passes himself off as a Democrat or vice versa, they really are doing serious damage to the democratic process because they are deceiving voters about (their likely position on) that entire raft of positions.

    Yes, we need better informed voters. But we also can’t put ALL of responsibility on voters to double check multiple news sources on every candidate’s position on every issue under the assumption that the candidates will lie about their own positions. That’s an absurd amount of work to expect a voter to do, just to cast ‘an informed vote.’ Part of the ‘informed voter’ system has to include candidates participating in informing voters – and generally not misinforming them.

  12. abb3w says

    @15ish, Bronze Dog:

    Sometimes part of me wants to think that politics gets less corrupt and less crazy the more local it gets despite all the evidence to the contrary I’ve seen as I’ve grown up.

    My impression — though I’ve barely even anecdote to support the conjecture — is that the average degree of corruption/crazy is roughly invariant on electorate scale (President vs dogcatcher), but the standard deviation in level of corruption/crazy may be much higher for more local races; and since races with unusually low levels of corruption/crazy are less likely to seem “News”, perceptual bias may result.

  13. Dennis N says

    I get the point that voters should be more informed. But what part of their day spent holding down two jobs, taking care of kids, and trying to avoid being screwed by our massive economic funnel designed to move money up the economic ladder that our ever-rightward-drifting politics is exacerbating to screw the non-rich should they spend researching candidates?

    Yes, our citizenry is woefully under-informed, but it’s a symptom of a whole host of other problems. That’s why, as eric points out, breaking the trust of parties as a proxy for positions is such a burden on the voter. They now have to do a lot more work to be informed, and they may not have the time while life is squeezing them.

  14. Jordan Genso says

    @19 Dennis N

    I get the point that voters should be more informed. But what part of their day… should they spend researching candidates?

    As a candidate, I will be traveling as much of my district as I can to meet with the voters in person, but I’ve also adopted the approach that I will make it as easy as I can for any voter to find where I stand on the issues by going online (I’ve begun blogging on different topics, and my website will make my positions very clear). I do have to place some responsibility on the voter to seek out the information. Even if I knock on their door, I won’t be able to make it clear where I stand on every issue, and what I say is only going to focus on the 2-3 issues I find most important. So I have to passively provide them with a way to find out more.

    I believe the best “solution” is to get rid of the political non-speech. If voters actually felt like they were gaining an understanding of what the candidate would do in office by hearing them speak or reading their website, it wouldn’t require too much time for them to decide which candidate they most agree with. But since the standard practice is to not say anything, in hopes of tricking the voter into believing that you share their opinion, regardless of what it is, that is why it is so challenging for the voters to become informed.

  15. Francisco Bacopa says

    I have to ask everyone here, “Have you ever voted in Harris County, Tx?”

    I live in Houston and found this no surprise at all. Those outside Texas may know that we vote on almost every little office there is. That wasn’t so bad 120 years ago, how many offices could their be? Now, imagine doing the same thing in a county with four million residents. The ballots are HUGE, even in an off year election like this one. Major elections are a nightmare. Pages and pages and pages of votes. Imagine how many judges there are.

    There is simply no way to be informed about the elections here. Don’t blame me for this guy getting elected. I think I skipped the HCC board seats on the ballot because I had no clue it was even going to be on the ballot.

  16. freemage says

    Reading the article, it sounds like there was a very, very heavy anti-incumbent sentiment that helped things along. The bogus endorsement probably had way more to do with the upset than the racial shenanigans.

  17. freehand says

    As for the voters being informed…
    I recently bought a new cell phone; it had the minimum requirements I need for a phone – voice mail, phone, and camera. To my disgust, I find that the phone will charge if hooked up to a PC, but it is not seen as a storage device. I can’t move the photos to my PC. I can mail some of them to my wife, who has the same limitation with her new phone. But many pictures are too big to send by cellphone, and I haven’t even tried video.

    Who would think to ask if the photos on a phone camera can be transferred to another device? And who would think to ask if a candidate is really the ethnic group he pretends to be? No, I can’t blame the voters, especially (as said above) because too many of us spend all of our time dealing with life issues. Food labeling which is meant to inform has instead become a means of deception. Legal contracts are unreadable (but somehow still bind us).

    The GOP is a major force behind the science and art of deception, as are greed and religion. Obama asserted that he would do something about global warming, but I assume most of us didn’t really believe that. Science blogs and webcomics are about the only source of information I trust anymore.

    And no, this post isn’t coherent. I suffer from outrage exhaustion, and I can’t get worked up about this crap anymore.

  18. eric says

    @20:

    I do have to place some responsibility on the voter to seek out the information. Even if I knock on their door, I won’t be able to make it clear where I stand on every issue, and what I say is only going to focus on the 2-3 issues I find most important. So I have to passively provide them with a way to find out more.

    IMO that’s exactly the right solution. Make it easy for them to access accurate information about your priorities (if you are elected) and likely votes. You aren’t oblgated to make the horse drink, or heck even bring them to water. But IMO, as a candidate, you are ethically obligated to put the water out for them.

    And good luck, BTW. :)

    @21:

    Major elections are a nightmare. Pages and pages and pages of votes. Imagine how many judges there are.

    There is simply no way to be informed about the elections here.

    That’s baloney. The county could very likely make it relatively easy to be informed, even if they can’t do anything about the number of elections. I was in CA during the famous 137-candidate run for Governor that put Ahhold in office. The state put out an entire booklet, with each candidate identified by name, party (if any) represented, and a paragraph they could write explaining their positions and qualifications to the voters.

    Now, some didn’t use that space very well. And some intentionally used it for what Jordan refers to as “political non-speech.” But the booklet made two things very obvious to me. First, there are plenty of good mechanisms a county, state, or federal government can use to help inform voters – if the government thinks it is worthwhile to do so. A booklet is just one. A centralized, neutral web page with objective biographical info on each candidate and a space for them to speak their vision is another. The truth is, the difficulty of informing voters is not the barrier, most state or local government simply don’t want to go to any effort to help voters be informed. The second thing I learned fom that experience was that even for such an enormous number of candidates, the amount of time I, as a voter, had to put in to be better informed was relatively trivial. I read the whole thing in a night. Took me a couple of hours. I had to sacrifice a TV show or two. Boo hoo. Now, maybe your elections have 200-300 different candidates for various offices. Maybe it would take you two nights of turning off the TV once every two years to get informed. Or even, shock, horror, three nights once every two years. But IF the County would actually help its citizens by centralizing and standardizing the information about candidates (and I recognize that’s a big if), then “pages and pages” of candidates is NOT a major barrier to being informed.

  19. Francisco Bacopa says

    eric @21

    I really think you underestimate the hugeness of Harris County ballots. If they made booklets like this they’d have to be the size of a phone book. I read the papers and am politically active in Move to Amend and the Harris County Green Party. But it is still impossible to become informed about everything.

    Still, I am glad to see that the only way Wilson could get elected to anything was through deceit. Andi gay bigotry will get you nowhere in Houston it’s been that way when Welch and the Straight Slate of ’85-’86 were soundly defeated. And now we have just sent a gay mayor to her third term.

    I wish someone had tipped Sheila Jackson-Lee to what Wilson was up to. She would have squashed him like a bug.

  20. gardengnome says

    Area Man

    November 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm (UTC -5)

    The saddest part is, I can seriously see this becoming a deliberate Republican strategy from now on.

    Watch the sales of shoe polish in 2016…

  21. Nemo says

    This guy appeared on Al Sharpton’s show on MSNBC tonight (er… last night). I had to turn him off after he said he wanted to be judged by the content of his character.

  22. Pen says

    Dishonesty. Isn’t pretty but neither is voting for people on the basis of their race. Hope that was a learning experience for the electorate in question.

  23. Jordan Genso says

    @25 Francisco Bacopa

    I think one obviously helpful step would be to allow everyone to obtain their ballot up to a month before the election, so that they could take their time filling it out one race at a time while simultaneously researching the candidates in each specific race.

  24. lofgren says

    I’ve seen this quoted all over the internet:

    His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites — and captioned with the words “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”

    Isn’t that just good advertising? Should white candidates only decorate their fliers with white people and black people only use black people? It’s not like the use of stock images is a new thing in political fliers. All this guy did was choose images of people who looked like his constituents instead of himself. The cousin thing is obviously slimy, but even if a prominent black politician had endorsed him that wouldn’t mean that he is black. And it’s not like his photo wasn’t out there to be seen.

    Honestly I haven’t seen any evidence that he implied or pretended he was black. Maybe it’s out there, but fliers featuring black people do not in any way imply that the candidate the fliers are for is black.

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