Dave Wilson, a white Republican, had little chance of winning over his mostly African-American district in Houston for a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Using an unusual marketing strategy, however, Wilson managed to displace the incumbent of 24 years, Bruce Austin.
Wilson carefully honed his campaign advertisements to make it appear that he was black.
Texas news channel KHOU reported that Wilson decorated direct mail pieces with pictures of African-American faces that he pulled from the Internet. He captioned his fliers with the words "Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson."
Wilson’s mailers also told voters that he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson.” This was, indeed, correct, but the Ron Wilson in question was not the one most voters would think of. Ron Wilson is an African-American former statesman — and also the name of Dave Wilson’s brother.
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The fine print doesn’t hide that fact, stating below the caption that "Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins.”
"He's a nice cousin," Wilson said. "We played baseball in high school together. And he's endorsed me."
Wilson is clearly pleased with himself over his victory, which he gained by a slim 26 votes.
"I'd always said it was a long shot," Wilson said. "No, I didn't expect to win."
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Wilson is a vocal anti-gay advocate. Austin called him a “right-wing hate monger" in his campaign response against Wilson’s mailer.
"I suspect it's more than just race," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. "The Houston Community College was under some criticism for bad performance. And others on the board also had very serious challenges."
A blogger at Off the Kuff wrote that Austin is demanding a recount, though it’s unlikely he’ll see any change in the results.
“He never put out to voters that he was white,” Austin said in a statement. “The problem is his picture was not in the League of Voters (pamphlet) or anywhere. This is one of the few times a white guy has pretended to be black guy and fooled black people.”
Wilson called Austin’s remarks racist.