Tricking Texas: White Republican pretends he’s black – to win election
A white Texas Republican pretended to be black – and won a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. By carefully fooling his potential voters, he deposed a Democrat who had held the post for 24 years.
Dave Wilson, an anti-gay activist and Republican, later joked about facing incredible odds in a district which was predominantly black and Democrat.
"I'd always said it was a long shot," he told Texas’s K Houston TV channel. “No, I didn’t expect to win.” But he chose to run nonetheless, alluding to how fed up he was with “all the shenanigans” at the Houston Community College System.
Wilson’s deliberately misleading strategy secured a victory by a narrow 26 votes, with some believing that the ruse played a decisive role. He plastered his campaign leaflets with smiling African-American faces and the inscription: “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson” – a tactic that his opponents labeled as “disgusting.”
Wilson justified his deception, telling KHOU.com: “Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters.”
Wilson’s victory was one of the biggest shocks in Houston politics this election season, as he beat Bruce Austin, who had held the Board seat for 24 years.
Another tactic employed by Wilson was to employ another, fictional Wilson on his campaign literature:“Endorsed by Ron Wilson.” The trick was apparently meant to rein in the support of Houston’s longtime African-American voters by acting on the assumption that some other prominent black candidate was backing him.
But below those words on the leaflet it said: “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins.” However, Ron Wilson is not a Houston politician, but simply Wilson’s cousin Ron, who lives in Iowa.
After the election, Dave Wilson joked about how Ron “is a nice cousin… we played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”
Austin did not take too kindly to Wilson’s tricks and launched an aggressive return campaign, calling Wilson a “right-wing hate monger” in his own leaflets. Austin also said that Wilson was advocating“chain gangs to clean highways.”
Austin comment on Wilson’s election tactics: "I don't think it's good... I don't think it's good for both democracy and the whole concept of fair play. But that was not his intent, apparently."
Houston’s community college system has come under recent scrutiny, with a reputation for shady under-the-table deals and political bribery, as well as spending money overseas. Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst Bob Stein said that Wilson’s success was due to more than simply his deception.
"I suspect it's more than just race," he said. "The Houston Community College was under some criticism for bad performance. And others on the board also had very serious challenges."
Probably with this in mind, Austin demanded a recount of the vote. But analysts do not see a real chance for him to win the seat back, predicting that Wilson will go on to serve his six years on the board.