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20 November 2013 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

Setting The Record Straight: Ron Wilson Says HCC Election Confusion Could Have Been Avoided

Former Texas State Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston) sat down with the Houston Forward Times (HFT) to give his take on the Houston Community College System (HCCS) District II Trustee race involving Bruce Austin and the man who defeated him, Dave Wilson.

Of course, all eyes have been on the city of Houston since this race initially garnered nationwide attention and because Ron Wilson found his name being tied to one of the most shocking political upsets in recent memory.

Dave Wilson implemented a strategy to subtly convince voters in this predominately Black district that he himself was Black; a strategy that proved successful. Wilson sent campaign fliers, which he called “targeted marketing,” to community members using stock photos of African-Americans with messages like, “Please vote for our friend and neighbor, Dave Wilson.”

One of the most impressive illusions performed, however, was a mailer that was sent to voters indicating that Dave Wilson was being endorsed by “Ron Wilson.”  This is important to note, because Dave Wilson didn’t actually lie about being endorsed by “Ron Wilson.” The “Ron Wilson” he was talking about being endorsed by, however, was actually a cousin, with the same name, who lives in Iowa.

Ron Wilson found the outcome of the race both sad and amusing, but says that he doesn’t believe that Austin did enough to win his race and believes that he did not capitalize on the political capital that he had at his disposal. 

“I should have been his [Austin] first call,” said Ron Wilson. “No one from Bruce Austin’s campaign called me before or after the election to ask me for my help in clearing up this deception. When the thing first went down, he could have called me and I would have been more than happy to tell the voters that this guy [Dave Wilson] was trying to trick them and that he was using my name improperly. I just don’t know why he didn’t call me.”

Austin, who served in his position on the HCCS Board of Trustees since 1989, and was chairman at the time of his defeat, wasn’t able to overcome the strategy used by Dave Wilson to win the election; a strategy that many people called deceptive. 

Ron Wilson doesn’t know how Austin could allow Dave Wilson to come in and fool the voters without putting up a fight in his predominately African-American district.

“He [Austin] had nearly every Black elected official endorsing him,” said Ron Wilson. “As a 24-year incumbent, this election result tells me that he took his constituents for granted and didn’t work hard enough for their continued support.  It’s unfortunate.”

Austin, who lost the race as a 24-year incumbent by only 26 votes (Wilson-5,961 votes/Austin-5,935 votes), has been widely critical and vocal about Dave Wilson’s campaign tactics.  Austin believes Dave Wilson deceived voters and has discussed having a recount because of the close vote count. 

Ron Wilson doesn’t believe that having a recount is going to change the outcome of the election.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I honestly believe that he [Austin] has got to just live with the election results and move on,” said Ron Wilson. “I mean if that’s gonna make him feel better, I guess he’s got to do something, but I don’t see anything changing in my opinion.”

Ron Wilson, who served in the Texas House from 1977 to 2004, has always been known as one of the most controversial and expressive state representatives in recent memory. He was infamously targeted for political defeat by many of his Democratic colleagues, as he was the only African-American lawmaker in Texas that voted for the controversial Republican-crafted redistricting plan that added one African-American seat in Houston, but gave the GOP a majority of the state’s congressional delegation statewide.  That current seat is being held by U.S. Congressman Al Green (D-Houston).

He has done quite a few things, such as being a sponsor of the legislation that allowed Texans to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun; helping create the Texas Human Rights Commission; and leading the fight to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a recognized holiday in the state.

Back in August 2009, Ron Wilson, at the age of 55, had a stroke in Austin, Texas, that left him barely able to speak. Wilson had suffered a series of small strokes the week before having a major one while having lunch with his oldest son, Eric Wilson. While eating lunch with his son, Ron started slurring his words and having difficulty holding his fork.  His son called Ron’s wife, Treina, who told him to take Wilson immediately to the emergency room.  He has since been recovering and doing well. 

He is currently working as the Office of Civil Rights Director for the Texas Department of Transportation and is involved on several other projects.