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Why Houston Matters

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Following Saturday's landmark election, in which Houston voted in Annise Parker as mayor and in doing so became the largest American city with an openly gay mayor, Politico's Jonathan Marks and Ben Smith have written a column titled "Houston Election Signals Key Trend."

In the column, the men write that Parker's election provides further evidence of a trend that helped elect Barack Obama to the White House: that politics in some of the nation's fastest growing cities, which are becoming the most racially diverse, are increasingly post-racial and, apparently, now possibly post-gay.

While John Kerry lost Houston's Harris County by more than 100,000 votes in 2004, Obama carried both Houston and its suburbs in 2008. And "as people become more comfortable with ethnic diversity they also become more comfortable with sexual diversity, according to Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University.

Despite that Parker was hit with antigay attacks in the eleventh hour of her campaign, experts told Politico that those attacks ultimately hurt her opponent. "It backfired without any question," said former mayor Fred Hofheinz, a Democrat whose father built the Astrodome. "We don't care that she's a lesbian here, it's just not a big deal."

It was with that understanding that Parker dealt with the issue herself. "She handled her sexual orientation in much the same way Barack Obama dealt with his race: He acknowledged the undeniable history, but did not make race central to his candidacy," said Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who grew up in the Houston area. "Ms. Parker, too, focused on kitchen-table, bread-and-butter issues, not on her own sexual orientation."

Read the full column here.

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