Rick Perry does it; Ted Cruz does it; Harris County treasurer nominee David Rosen doesn't see why he can't run on a family values platform too just because he has two moms.
In a bid to redefine the tired jargon of political ads, Rosen released a video starring his mothers, retired HISD teachers who have been married for only two years out of a decades-long relationship. Despite having that certificate, Rosen's moms are still unable to share health insurance because the state doesn't recognize their marriage. One of Rosen's top priorities is to extend equal rights to gay county employees if he is elected.
Rosen's other dreams include creating an online portal for anyone with an internet connection to see money going in and out of government coffers in real time, and to partner with local nonprofits to teach basic personal finance to at-risk kids. His third goal, to give health benefits to gay employees, is personal.
"Over the past few years, the term 'family values' has been used against GLBT rights. My family's values are if you have three meals a day and a roof over your head, consider yourself lucky. Do something to help other people," Rosen said. "I'm talking about policies that I think could help make life better for people I know who are experiencing hardships out there."
Candidates with LGBT family or who are gay themselves aren't new to local politics, with Mayor Annise Parker's election in 2010 making international headlines. However, voters in the City of Houston aren't quite the same as those in the rest of Harris County and the state of Texas. The demographic differences could sway midterm elections either way, says Richard Murray, a political analyst and professor at the University of Houston.
Murray says despite changing public attitudes about acceptance of gays, he has never heard of a politician running on that platform with gay parents of his own. Publicizing his "modern family" is not likely to hurt Rosen though, Murray says, because the attention that the ad brings could only help him.
Democrats in local county-wide races have had a hard go at it, particularly in non-presidential years. Midterm elections like the upcoming November vote are dominated by older, conservative whites who are often religiously active, Murray says. When there are presidential candidates on the ballot, many more young people, ethnic minorities and unmarried women turn out to lend support to Democrats.
For a relatively low-profile position like the treasurer, Murray says Rosen's campaign would stir up more interest in visiting the polls among usual supporters of gay rights without much risk of losing votes that wouldn't go toward a Democratic candidate in the first place.
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"We're all very interested to see in 2014 if the candidates that are supported by the gay community can win in a non-presidential year," Murray said.
The ad became the top entry on the Houston subreddit shortly after a team of Rosen's campaign interns posted it there. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the treasurer hopeful said. He did receive some insensitive messages from people looking to pick a fight, but he doesn't take them too seriously.
"There was one that said, 'I believe in the Bible, I believe in Jesus, I'm not voting for you,'" Rosen said. "Well, my parents believe in Jesus and the Bible and there are two of them, so I guess they'll cancel out your vote."
Rosen is challenging Republican incumbent Orlando Sanchez, who has been in office since 2008.