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White Guy Wins Election By Pretending To Be Black

Well, this is certainly an interesting campaign strategy:

HOUSTON — Dave Wilson chuckles as he talks about his unorthodox political campaign.

“I’d always said it was a long shot,” Wilson says. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”

Still, he figured he’d have fun running, because he was fed up with what he called “all the shenanigans” at the Houston Community College System. As a conservative white Republican running in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats, the odds seemed overwhelmingly against him.

Then he came up with an idea, an advertising strategy that his opponent found “disgusting.” If a white guy didn’t have a chance in a mostly African-American district, Wilson would lead voters to think he’s black.

And it apparently worked. In one of the biggest political upsets in Houston politics this election season, Wilson — an anti-gay activist and former fringe candidate for mayor — emerged as the surprise winner over 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin. His razor thin margin of victory, only 26 votes, was almost certainly influenced by his racially tinged campaign.

So, how exactly did he accomplish this?

Well:

Wilson, a gleeful political troublemaker, printed direct mail pieces strongly implying that he’s black. His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites — and captioned with the words “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”

One of his mailers said he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who’s also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa.

“He’s a nice cousin,” Wilson says, suppressing a laugh. “We played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”

Austin tried to answer the mailer with his own fliers showing Wilson’s face, calling him a “right-wing hate monger” and saying he “advocated bringing back chain gangs to clean highways.” But the campaign clearly caught him off guard.

“I don’t think it’s good,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for both democracy and the whole concept of fair play. But that was not his intent, apparently.”

Given that Austin is a long-serving incumbent it’s probable that there was more to the outcome of this election than just these mailers, but the fact that this guy was consciously trying to deceive voters into thinking he’ black certainly puts a new spin on the politics of the South.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Given that Austin is a long-serving incumbent it’s probable that there was more to the outcome of this election than just these mailers, but the fact that this guy was consciously trying to deceive voters into thinking he’ black certainly puts a new spin on the politics of the South.

    Got to say, this is a great story.

    A couple of possibilities that might account for this come to mind: (1) America a very dumbed down country, and, or (2) just maybe those are the so-called “Independent” voters that we’ve heard so much about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  2. gVOR08 says:

    OK, the black thing is new. But doing everything possible to deceive without technically lying is hardly novel for Republicans.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 10

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Michael Steele tried a similar trick a few years ago by trying to convince voters he was a Democrat not a Republican. It didn’t work for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  4. An Interested Party says:

    It didn’t work for him.

    Nor for his sidekick Bob Ehrlich…obviously the voters in Baltimore aren’t as stupid as these two bozos thought…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  5. Kolohe says:

    Really, though, how terribly bad is your political machine that something like this would be able to unseat you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I have to doubt that a Community College System Trustee has any real sort of political machine. Even in a fairly large System.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. Gustopher says:

    Superdestroyer can now relax — there is a way for conservative whites to get elected and stay relevent even with all the demographic changes!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Isn’t this a bit of a “burn your boats and then shoot your balls off” strategy?

    I find it hard to believe that this guy will ever be able to run for any position ever again without everything he puts out being gone over with a fine-toothed comb. He’s made himself Ground Zero for every wanna-be Carl Bernstein out there on the local newspaper.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  9. Brainster says:

    Maybe the voters were smart enough to realize that a member of a community college board would have little power to bring back chain gangs?

    Okay, just kidding.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. bill says:

    @gVOR08: they learned from the best i guess! this is still really funny, either way you look at it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  11. Grewgills says:

    One of his mailers said he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who’s also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa.

    I think the misrepresentation of the endorsement is the bit of his dishonesty in this campaign that bothers me most. More than that it is sad that life in Houston area community colleges might become more difficult for homosexual students because of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  12. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder how difficult it would be to recall this douchebag…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  13. edmondo says:

    Jesus, read the story. Maybe the incumbent lost because he was accused of malfeasance in office rather than because his opponent pretended he was black. Even African-Americans don’t like graft and corruption.

    “….because the community college system has come under intense criticism for insider business deals and spending money on overseas initiatives. And after 24 years in office, Austin’s name should have been somewhat familiar to his constituents.

    “I suspect it’s more than just race,” says Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst. “The Houston Community College was under some criticism for bad performance. And others on the board also had very serious challenges.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @edmondo: Even African-Americans don’t like graft and corruption.

    “Even?” I find myself having two reactions.

    1) Detroit and DC spent years and years electing corrupt, vile, despicable, downright criminal leaders whose main qualification seemed to be that they were black. Marion Barry and Kwame Kilpatrick were hardly the only corrupt ones in their administrations and cities, but they were the most visible. And they kept getting re-elected even though their corruption was common knowledge.

    2) Just what the hell do you mean by “even?” Are you saying that blacks are more tolerant of such corruption, but it has its limits?

    It does put an interesting spin on things. Here’s apparently a case of someone getting elected based, at least in part, by being perceived as black. Kind of puts a spin on the standard charge of racism…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 18

  15. DrDaveT says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Michael Steele tried a similar trick a few years ago

    I first met Michael Steele when he was playing the role of Professor Harold Hill in a 1981 college production of The Music Man. I didn’t realize at the time that this was actually strategic preparation for later endeavors on his part…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Alan Srout says:

    @gVOR08: Bob: “Hey Jim, did you hear about the Obama administration scandal?,
    Jim: “You mean the Mexican gun running?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean SEAL Team 6?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Obama saying the avg family would save $2,500 on their premiums?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Forcing businesses to violate their religious beliefs by paying for drugs that abort the unborn?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Violating the rights and sanctity of our Churches?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Spending $634 million on a website that doesn’t work?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Obama calling for an increase in our debt when he lambasted Bush for the very same thing?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Obama having NSA spy on 124 Billion Phone Calls in One Month?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Saddling our kids with $17 trillion in debt of which they can never get out of and will not have as good a life as we have?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Bailing out Detroit after decades of corrupt Democratic management?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean the State Dept. lying about Benghazi?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean voter fraud?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Intentionally trying to hurt Americans during the sequester?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Blocking veterans who secured our freedoms from their monuments but giving the green light for Illegals to use Monument Mall?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Denying school kids the ability to tour the White House but still spending lavishly on his parties?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean Obama saying we can keep our insurance and doctors if we wanted to?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean the military not getting their votes counted?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The NSA monitoring foreign diplomats?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean the use of drones in our own country without the benefit of the law?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Giving 123 Technologies $300 Million and right after it declared bankruptcy and was sold to the Chinese?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean the president arming the Muslim Brotherhood?”
    Bob: “No the other one:.
    Jim: “The IRS targeting conservatives?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The DOJ spying on the press?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Sebelius shaking down health insurance executives?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “You mean Obama spending $3.7 Trillion on Welfare Over Last 5 Years”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Giving SOLYNDRA $500 MILLION DOLLARS and 3 months later they declared bankruptcy and then the Chinese bought it?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The NSA monitoring our phone calls, emails and everything else?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Millions of Americans losing their health care coverage?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Forcing Americans to include coverage in their insurance policies of items they do not want?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Ordering the release of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from jails and prisons, and falsely blaming the sequester?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Denying Arizona the right to protect its borders?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Providing weapons to Syrian rebels many of whom apparently are Al Queda”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The president’s repeated violation of the law requiring him to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The 2012 vote where 115% of all registered voters in some counties voted 100% for Obama?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The president’s unconstitutional recess appointments in an attempt to circumvent the Senate’s advise-and-consent role?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The State Department interfering with an Inspector General investigation on departmental sexual misconduct?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “Clinton, the IRS, Clapper and Holder all lying to Congress?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “The President using nearly $1 trillion dollars of stimulus money to fund his cronies?”
    Bob: “No, the other one”
    Jim: “You mean Fast & Furious?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”
    Jim: “I give up! …Oh wait, I think I got it! You mean that 65 million low-information voters who don’t pay taxes and get free stuff from taxpayers and stuck us again with the most pandering, corrupt administration in American history?”
    Bob: “THAT’S THE ONE!”

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 30

  17. Michelle says:

    @Alan Srout: You must mean the two wars fought off the books and costing countless lives both through death and disability.

    Your list may be long, but nothing you list, legitimate or not, compares to the lives lost and damaged, the funds lost and spent without an accounting under the administration which started them.

    Cry as you will, nothing compares to the waste of lives and funds like your boy hero’s. Just admit it and move on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  18. Just Me says:

    My guess is the incumbent after serving 24 years no longer felt any need to mount much of a campaign. He became entitled to automatically winning. I wonder how many elections he essentially ran I opposed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. superdestroyer says:

    @Gustopher:

    This just shows that all the talk of white progressives that race and demographics have nothing to do with elections and it all about positions and convincing people is a lie.

    In the end race, ethnicity, tribalism, and demographics is more important to politics than campaigns, positions, or experience.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Just Me:

    This will actually be much of the future of politics in the U.S. A one party state will produce few competitive election. Most offices will change occupants once a generation. I also suspect that as the U.S. becomes a one party state and state and local government will push to have fewer elected officals and get rid of initiative and referendum. The one party state will not like people like Mr. Wilson trying to monkey wrench the system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  21. edmondo says:

    As usual, Doug missed the Big Story behind the Little Story he reported.

    The Real Story here is that Texas Republicans have yet to disenfranchise thousands of black voters and are allowing them to cast ballots. Get to work guys! Perhaps you should take a few notes from the nightriders in North Carolina.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  22. bill says:

    @An Interested Party: the loser wants a recount, he’s black btw! this is hysterical and shows the true ignorance of these voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @Alan Srout:

    Jim: “Giving SOLYNDRA $500 MILLION DOLLARS and 3 months later they declared bankruptcy and then the Chinese bought it?”
    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Fun game. Let’s correct that one, shall we?
    Jim: “Cutting taxes while wasting over $1 trillion on a completely unnecessary war in Iraq?
    Bob: “What, Solyndra was less than 1% of he cost of the war in Iraq?
    Not black, but good one.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  24. Franklin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Don’t pretend you know something about the politics of Detroit, because you just demonstrated you don’t. Extrapolating, you probably don’t know anything about DC, either, but I can’t be sure about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Franklin: I know enough about Detroit’s politics: that it’s had a string of corrupt elected officials, it’s hemorrhaged population for decades, it’s falling apart, and it’s bankrupt. What else does one need to know?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Alan Srout: Funny how none of that reaches the level of a real conspiracy. Tell me, how’d you feel when it was revealed that GWB signed off on torture?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Detroit and DC spent years and years electing corrupt, vile, despicable, downright criminal leaders whose main qualification seemed to be that they were black.

    Do you want to get into the long and continuing history of corrupt white politicians? Or is it your contention that if they aren’t black, it is their birth right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I know enough about Detroit’s politics: that it’s had a string of corrupt elected officials, it’s hemorrhaged population for decades, it’s falling apart, and it’s bankrupt. What else does one need to know?

    Gee, sounds just like many other places I know of. But Detroit and DC are special how?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  29. An Interested Party says:

    the loser wants a recount, he’s black btw! this is hysterical and shows the true ignorance of these voters.

    As if recounts are limited to black losers of elections? Take care of your own ignorance before you laugh at anyone else’s…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  30. MarkedMan says:

    Back to the original post, I remember many years ago when my father was enraged after an election day in Chicago. It turns out that he, being an Irish immigrant, had followed his regular practice in the voting booth. When challenged by a line where he didn’t know any of the candidates he simply pulled the lever of the guy with the most Irish name. When talking with his friends the next day and they told him that the good Irishman, so and so, had lost to a black candidate he commented, “So Murphy lost then. Well, I voted for him anyway.” To which his friends replied “You jackass, Murphy was the black guy!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. M says:

    Anyone who votes based on skin color gets what they deserve (and that goes both ways). Stupid is as stupid votes

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. Matt says:

    @Alan Srout: I’ll give you a 3/10 for making me almost respond point for point debunking your stupidity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. dazedandconfused says:

    He pretended to be black in mailers only, so there’s a real question if anyone who voted for him thought he was black.

    Does anyone here read their political junk mail?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Alan Srout says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Every country in the world now, and in the past, since the beginning of time, has “tortured” prisoners and if we could hop into a time machine and go to the 25th or 30th century, they’ll be “torturing” their prisoners, too. Grow up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. pylon says:

    @Alan Srout: JimBob should stop talking to himself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0