By Margarette Ledesma
A beaming Jared Woodfill updated supporters of Election Day results on Tuesday evening in Marriott Westheimer. Shortly after, Woodfill’s victory was sealed.
Early previews of the election showed how the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was thrashed at poll results. While standing with highly traditional conservative local and state politicians Steve Hotze known for his “Birth Control Pills Make Women Less Attractive” campaign and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, he stated that “Houston has spoken loudly and clearly”.
Woodfill, the man at the heart of the anti-HERO movement, not only eliminated the ordinance, he buried it with 61% of Houston’s voting population saying no to in. He refers to it as the people’s victory who, after a heated legal battle, were finally allowed to vote on the ordinance. But, this also means political success for Woodfill.
Woodfill who served as Harris County Republican Party’s Chairman for over a decade vied for GOP chairmanship when Steve Munisteri resigned to be U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s senior advisor for his presidential campaign earlier this year. Woodfill ultimately lost to Tom Mechler, an Amarillo businessman, but he did get the needed votes in the anti-HERO movement.
Rice University political analyst Mark Jones indicated how the Republicans will attribute the lion’s share of the credit to Woodfill. Quorom reporter, Scott Braddock, also supported this stating that this is a boost in Woodfill’s campaign to be the Chairman of Republican Party of Texas Chairman.
Munisteri who headed the party for 5 year was keeping a tight balance between reaching out to the Latino community and assuaging the party’s anti-immigration commitment. Meanwhile, Woodfill seems to have found the balance in keeping the dynamics in the campaign to defeat HERO. Although black communities in Houston supported Democrats broadly, they were most undecided on Election Day with regards to HERO.
Fear was at the heart of the campaign against the ordinance and the movement claimed that there would be a public safety crisis in restrooms for females when this ordinance claiming protection for transgender Houstonians is passed. And this campaign succeeded with City Council districts with black majorities helping quash HERO. Hence, Woodfill was successful in soliciting votes from those who are not core Republicans.
In the Republican Party that made homophobia one of its platforms, Woodfill is considered as a hero who prevented a lifestyle that could offend diehard conservatives.
Jones considers this campaign as at the same par with how Republicans addressed the abortion issue which also used women’s health as a guise. The antiabortion law led to closure of many abortion clinics except for eight despite the scarcity of evidence that this endangered women. Ironically, research shows that the anti-abortion law endangered women who undergo abortion as they have to wait until their second trimester due to long queues and waiting times in clinics.
In the same manner, Woodfill issued claims that HERO’s defeat will provide protection for women from issues that are nonexistent in cities with a nondiscrimination ordinance.
It was a scare tactic, one that could perhaps be retooled to pick off swing voters needed to support hard-line conservative policies in other areas. Like, for instance, immigration, says political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston, referred to this as a scare tactic to win votes from swing voters similar to issues on migration. He referred to issues about “illegal immigrants committing crimes in these sanctuary cities, which is a pretty rare event” as a similar tactic.
The win worked like a charm for Woodfill who defeated LGBT protection in Houston, a city that voted an openly gay mayor into office not too long ago. This simply means that Woodfill may just be the man the party needs.