Houston's Choice for Mayor

Black Guy, Rich White Guy, Lesbian or Hispanic Republican

Okay, but surely they're being told by advisers to set themselves apart, right?

"I think they are, but none of them think the other is awful enough" to attack vigorously, she says.

In blunt terms, Locke and Brown aren't going to bring up Parker being a lesbian, because of possible backlash (and, of course, because they're not homophobic).

The three candidates at a debate, where the gloves no doubt came off...to shake hands in a friendly and dull manner.
The three candidates at a debate, where the gloves no doubt came off...to shake hands in a friendly and dull manner.
FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!!! Or, you know, change the channel.
Jingdan Chen
FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!!! Or, you know, change the channel.

Parker and Brown won't bring up Locke's race because of likely backlash (and, of course, because they're not racist).

And Locke and Parker won't bring up Brown's age because of possible backlash (and, of course, because they're not ageist.)

So everyone's being really nice, because a) They are nice; b) Their opponents aren't crazy, in their eyes; and c) Going negative at this point might look desperate and backfire.

That's really terrific for the idea that — even in this time of wailing about out-of-control, over-the-top political dialogue — an important election can be held without resorting to tasteless attack ads. Just don't ask us to pay attention.

But can't we be at least a little passive-aggressive? In the hope of fostering voter turnout, we again offer some potential ads:

Ads Against Locke: The former city attorney opened the door to his radical days by showing a brief shot of himself back in the day. If an opponent wanted to further explore that, who's to say it's unfair? Some shots of Huey P. Newton with a machine gun, the Rodney King riots, some reference to Camp Logan ("Who says it can't happen here?"). The rap soundtrack to the ad will have to be soft enough to keep grandma from changing the channel, but harsh enough to scare her. Rick Ross, we're thinking.

Ads Against Parker: To the strains of "It's Raining Men," a montage of kissing gay guys, happy that they're able to actually marry the person they want to spend the rest of their life with, scares the bejeezus out of everyone outside the Loop. Shots of the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco, of course, heavy on the leathermen. Cut to an innocent young kindergartner toddling into class, where an announcer tells us he will be exposed to The Gay Agenda.

Ads Against Brown: Perry Como music. A semi-coherent member of The Greatest Generation extolling "that lively youngster Peter Brown." Cut to a shot of Brown talking on an oversized cell phone, while the theme from the ads for the Jitterbug cell-phone-for-oldsters plays. Super-slow-motion, black-and-white shot of Brown getting out of a chair. Concerned voice-over: "Peter Brown has served Houston honorably. Doesn't he deserve a rest?"

That'd increase turnout, we bet.

As for what's going to happen, no one's really sure.

Usually by this point, one campaign or another has gotten poll data that it's happy about, and it surreptitiously leaks it to reporters to garner some momentum. None of that has happened so far.

Official polls show close to two-thirds of the voters having no favorite. That is pretty amazing just weeks before a high-profile race like mayor of the fourth-largest city in the country. A poll by the Houston Chronicle released this past weekend shows "I don't know" leading any of the candidates.

To political junkies, the lack of polling info is telling. If someone were separating from the pack, they'd be sure to get that news out, even in mumbled "don't tell anyone" conversation.

So there's a good chance that Election Day will come with a huge swath of Houstonians unsure of whom they want for their next mayor. If not completely unsure there was even a mayor's race going on until they were contacted by a pollster.

"I think it will come down to voters in the city council districts that are having hot races," Sims says. Those are Republican-­leaning districts, though, so where are those voters going to go? (Hmmm....old white guy?)

To some degree, the small-wattage campaign means the old mechanical laws of low-turnout elections will apply: Whoever can get their voters to the booth will survive to the runoff. But there is a very good chance no one will have any idea who that will be come the evening of November 4.

So buckle yourself in for a roller-coaster race.

Or, more likely, just ignore the whole thing and find out too late that you have a new mayor.


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