Much like the beef stroganoff on the buffet table, yesterday's mayoral forum was safe and unassuming.
It was a packed banquet room of business attire for the luncheon, which the Rotary Club of Houston hosted at the Junior League. Candidates sat side-to-side at a table on stage.
Roy Morales added a little excitement during his introduction, pointing out that as a member of the Air Force he took an oath to defend and protect American freedoms -- especially that of the press. He proceeded to bash an article in that morning's Houston Chronicle that accuses him of inflating his resume.
"I'm an open book," he said.
Gene Locke and Annise Parker scored some points by directly answering one of the afternoon's more interesting questions, on whether the candidates support the recent push by the city's largest police union to end a longstanding policy of not questioning people about their legal status. The gist of both responses: at the point of arrest, yes; otherwise, no.
Parker said it would waste police resources and discourage people from doing things like getting their children immunized and reporting crimes.
"It would tip the balance against civil liberties for American citizens who may look like they are immigrants, whatever that may mean," Locke said.
Next came a segment in which candidates posed a question to their competitors (and then answered that question themselves). Locke used it to challenge a previous contention by Peter Brown that the next mayor might take charge of schools.
"I think it's a bad idea," he said.
Brown responded, "We can't punt on education, like my colleague said."
Otherwise, candidates all seemed to support, in no particular order, the economy, Houston, efficiency, growth and crime prevention.
The stroganoff, meanwhile, was filling.