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Thursday, March 23, 2023


Flashback: Past elections reflect today’s problems

The 1985 Houston mayoral election of Kathy Whitmire vs. Louie Welch contained debates over many of the same issues that plague Houston today. | Kayla Stewart/The Daily Cougar

Tuesday was recognized as Voter Registration Day, and the days until the mayoral elections on Nov. 5 are flying past. Incumbent mayor Annise Parker will be running for what, if she wins, would be her final term.

Parker smashed nationwide records when she was first elected in 2009 as the second female mayor in Houston’s history and one of the first openly gay mayors of a major city in the United States.

The first female mayor of Houston was Kathy Whitmire, from 1982 to 1991. She was reelected in 1985 amidst many of the same issues that plague Houston today: homophobia, economic uncertainty and a suffering oil industry.

Whitmire was a mayor of many firsts. She appointed the first African-American police chief, Lee P. Brown, and the first female police chief, Elizabeth Watson. She also appointed the first Hispanic presiding judge of Houston Municipal Court, Sylvia R. Garcia. A UH alumna, she debated her opponent, Louie Welch, on UH grounds.

Whitmire has publically supported Parker in the past, even holding a fundraiser for her initial campaign in 2009. The two have similarities, to be sure. But looking back on Whitmire’s election can be downright eerie as it becomes clear that Houston’s issues persist even now, nearly 30 years later.

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