Hotze graduated from UT Medical School in Houston while supporting himself working on homebuilding crews. He married Janie Smith, whom he met in high school, while in college at UT in Austin, and the first of their eight children was soon on the way. After earning his medical degree, Hotze moved to Austin to work as a corporate physician for IBM, where he joined the Austin Citizens for Decency, pushing a referendum to sanction the denial of fair-housing protections to people because of their sexual orientation. In Austin's then-highly liberal environs, Hotze's politics were definitely on the fringe. The Citizens for Decency proposal failed.
Eventually, Hotze moved his brood back to Houston, where he opened a medical clinic on the North Freeway. The clinic doubled as a political meeting place, a technique of consolidating his professional career and political interests that the doctor has maintained to this day. One visitor recalls the operation as a classic workman's comp practice, with linoleum floors and barbed wire fence around the suite of offices. With success Hotze upgraded his practice to deal exclusively with allergies. His Allercare operation began with an office on Braidwood Street in Katy and has now expanded to the more upscale West Houston Allergy Clinic on Blalock.
In a pending lawsuit against Cable Communications Network, Hotze claims he suffered $363,000 in actual damages for the company's alleged failure to broadcast his commercials for his allergy clinic as specified in a signed contract. Hotze claims in the lawsuit that he makes most of his profit on his practice from August to November -- the autumn pollen season -- and the failure of the Cable Communications to air the commercials in 1994 "devastated" his practice. Since business at Allercare is now booming -- at least according to Hotze's mother and others who know him -- the term "devastated" must have been relative.
By the early eighties, Hotze had achieved a moderate degree of economic security and was ready to assume a more active political role in Houston. He seized the day when Houston City Council, at the urging of gay and lesbian activists flush with the victory of Kathy Whitmire and other candidates they supported in 1983, pushed for an ordinance providing protection against discrimination for gays in the city workplace. Council approved the measure, but in the process provoked a backlash that would level the political gains achieved by gays.
In the eyes of Hotze and other conservatives, the ordinance granted homosexuals status as a protected minority and was a de facto approval of their lifestyle. Hotze mounted a petition drive that led to a 1985 referendum and voters' overwhelming rejection of the ordinance. It was the first taste of victory for Steven Hotze the political organizer. Clymer Wright recalls being amazed at Hotze's knack for energizing conservatives in the effort. "He had called this meeting at Westin Oaks Hotel, so I went. I saw streams of hundreds and hundreds of people coming in. And I wondered where all these people were going. They must have had close to a thousand people there. I was really impressed by his ability to get that kind of turnout at any kind of meeting. He ran the whole thing."
The win emboldened Hotze and his supporters to organize the "Straight Slate" of family-values candidates, including his mother Margaret, for that fall's city elections. Though none won office, Slate candidate Jim Kennedy forced incumbent Judson Robinson Jr. into a runoff, and the entire effort spooked Whitmire into distancing herself from her gay allies.
At that point, Judith Jones found herself one of the few women in Hotze's inner circle, working on the effort to defeat the gay job-protection referendum. Wright and the late River Oaks banker Jimmy Lyons also were involved in the effort. Hotze printed up his own petitions to force the referendum and began circulating them through Houston churches.
"Hotze never works with anybody," says Jones. "He does it his way. Even when it's the right way to do it, he still doesn't work with anybody."
Hotze regularly scheduled 7 a.m. meetings on Saturday at his home on Piping Rock. His wife never participated. Jones remembers that Hotze would first conduct a prayer, then open each meeting by saying, "Okay, keymen ... and Judith." Those close to Hotze included Charlie Hartland, a home schooling advocate, former Council candidate Al Clements and computer whiz Paul McClintock. That inner circle has remained stable for years, although McClintock recently moved to Seattle to organize for the Christian Coalition there. David Lane, a fundraiser for Hotze, has also departed town to work for Jerry Falwell. For the most part, Hotze has stuck with the guys.