Tug-of-war over black vote grows heated

Mayoral hopefuls Brown, Locke trade more attacks over

claims white councilman is buying support



Oct. 25, 2009, 10:15PM

Two candidates vying to become Houston’s next mayor traded heated accusations over their support in the African-American community Sunday, ushering in the final week of the campaign with the most combative rhetoric so far in the race.

The sparring underscored the decisive role black voters will play in picking the replacement for term-limited Mayor Bill White in a contest that has otherwise failed to capture the public’s attention.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke, the only black candidate, has found himself with a surprisingly low level of support among African-Americans, who form one of the largest voting blocs in city elections.

Numerous pastors and supporters stood with Locke Sunday, repeating allegations that City Councilman Peter Brown is trying to buy the votes of black Houstonians. Locke made reference to an instance first reported in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday in which Brown donated $150 to the True Light Missionary Baptist Church and then erroneously claimed its minister, the Rev. John Bowie, as a supporter on flyers distributed at the church the next week.

“Peter has a history of doing that,” Locke said during a 90-minute radio program Sunday morning that included himself, Brown and City Controller Annise Parker. He made note of another episode in which Brown’s Web site claimed a long list of supporters, many of whom are actually backing other candidates. “I know because five of my staff people were on that list. … At some point, you’ve got to say to ‘Peter, Peter, stop doing this.’ ”

A handful of black ministers also joined Brown onSunday to say they were offended by the notion that their endorsements could be bought and that they resented any implication that the community could not make its own decisions. Brown said he has frequently made donations at churches as a tithe, something the ministers said was common with most political candidates. Both the ministers and Brown declined to characterize the scope of his philanthropy.  Read more.

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