HOUSTON – The Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of an HISD trustee candidate on Sunday after he distributed a flier that the newspaper and gay rights groups call hateful and homophobic.
Current HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez Jr. is seeking re-election. He is running against Ramiro Fonseca in HISD District III.
Late last week a flier from the Rodriguez campaign began arriving at homes in the district. It lists Rodriguez’s accomplishments including his Catholic church membership, his 38 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart and a photo of his four children and five grandchildren.
But in large red letters the flier says, “Vote NO for my opponent.” It lists his opponent as having “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights...not kids.” It also points out that his candidate is a “54-year-old man with no children” and that he has a “male partner.”
“It’s the low road. It’s disgusting campaigning,” said Noel Freeman with the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. “He’s taken it to a level that for years voters have rejected.”
Freeman responded Sunday because his organization is mentioned in the flier too. Fonseca is among the candidates endorsed by the caucus which Rodriguez’s flier lists as the “south’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.”
Those words are underlined for emphasis in the Rodriguez flier.
Freeman calls the flier openly homophobic, especially in a city that overwhelmingly elected an openly gay mayor.
“So this idea that anyone who supports GLBT rights shouldn’t serve on the school board is just completely and totally ridiculous,” added Freeman.
KHOU 11 News reached Rodriguez by phone Sunday morning. He declined a request for an on-camera interview, but did make a statement over the phone.
“It’s the truth,” he said. “I don’t understand why people are so offended by the truth.”
Ramiro Fonseca declined an on-camera interview as well. His campaign issued the following written statement:
“I am saddened that my opponent wants to conduct his campaign with offensive language. Over the next few days I will continue to engage the voters of District III on issues that are important to the parents, students, teachers and taxpayers of HISD.”
Art Pronin with the Meyerland Area Democrats Club said he has one other problem with the flier. HISD recently passed an anti-bullying code to protect gay students.
“I’m sure there are a lot of gay public school students in this trustee’s district and their parents got this in the mail. And how unfair and cruel is that?” asked Pronin.
In retracting its endorsement of Rodriguez, the Chronicle also likened the flier to hate speech and bullying.
“Members of the school board are supposed to be role models, not bullies,” the Chronicle wrote.
The election is Tuesday, November 8.