by Cierra Duncan
Bruce Austin, a longtime member of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, said he lost the recent election because of deception on the part of his opponent.
Small business owner Dave Wilson beat Austin by 26 votes on Nov. 5. Wilson received 50.1 percent of the vote for the HCC District 2 race. Austin, a 24-year incumbent, received 49.9 percent.
District 2 is a predominantly African-American Democratic area that covers parts of North and Northeast Houston. Austin believes Wilson was able to get so many votes because he deliberately deceived voters into thinking he was black.
Wilson, a white Republican, did not have his picture on his website or campaign materials. His direct mail pieces featured only African-Americans and one mailer advertised he had the support of Ron Wilson, the same name of a former African-American state representative. In the fine print it stated that “Ron Wilson is Dave Wilson’s cousin.”
“We learn in a democracy it depends on honesty and transparency so that voters can make an informed decision,” Austin said. “In the case of Wilson, fraud undermined the integrity of our political system.
“If you look at the problem, he plotted from the very beginning to deceive voters. He sent out pieces that had lies and misinformation in them. This is the relationship he has established with the constituents of District 2.”
Austin said Wilson’s campaign tactics could damage his reputation with HCC students. “You are telling students one of their board members has deceived them for political gain,” he said.
“Since I have been on the board my concern has been about creating economic mobility for the people that I serve,” Austin said. “The bottom line was to get them in line for a higher wage job. I don’t think that is the intent of Mr. Wilson.”
Wilson could not be reached by the Defender for comment. However, he told KHOU-TV that he was surprised by the victory.
“I’d always said it was a long shot,” he said. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”
When asked about his cousin’s endorsement, he said, “He’s a nice cousin. We played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”
Wilson said on his website he is “uniquely qualified” to be on the HCC board because of his business background and his commitment to education. He also said he is committed to keeping “our” money for “our” children.
Austin encourages voters to pay attention to who is running during elections and their campaign platforms. He said he will request a recount after the narrow loss.
“I haven’t finished the election,” Austin said. “There are things that are yet to be done in terms of checking the process. I don’t know what the future holds but I hope the best. What I’m doing is what I can to make sure justice is served.”
The above article was published in Volume 83, Number 3 (November 14, 2013) of the Defender newspaper in Houston, TX.