White Candidate Wins Texas Election by Pretending He’s Black

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By Chris Hoenig

Dave Wilson, a white candidate, won an election in Texas by pretending to be Black.How does a conservative, white Republican win an election in a district overwhelmingly made up of Black Democrats? He pretends he’s one of them.

Dave Wilson did just that to win a six-year term on the Houston Community College System’s board, misleading voters into believing that he is Black. “I’d always said it was a long shot,” Wilson tells KHOU-TV. “No, I didn’t expect to win.” But he did, and he went to great lengths to do it.

Wilson sent out fliers that featured almost exclusively Black people, all of them smiling. On it, he added the call to action: “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.” Only the faces are not Wilson’s friends or neighbors, but rather just pictures that he stole off of various websites.

Dave Wilson, a white candidate, won an election in Texas by pretending to be Black.Another flier proudly announced his endorsement by Ron Wilson, suggesting a Black former state legislator who is well known in the area. Beneath the endorsement announcement, a disclaimer is printed: “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” it reads. Except the Ron Wilson that Dave Wilson is talking about is not that Ron Wilson, who suffered a stroke in 2009 that left him barely able to speak and may never have heard of Dave Wilson.


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Dave Wilson does indeed have a cousin named Ron Wilson, and this Ron Wilson did endorse Dave Wilson’s campaign … from Iowa, where he lives. “He’s a nice cousin,” Wilson says, suppressing a laugh. “We played baseball in high school together. And he’s endorsed me.”

The plan worked and Wilson beat 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin, who is Black, by just 26 votes. “I don’t think it’s good,” Austin said, adding that the campaign caught him off guard. “I don’t think it’s good for both democracy and the whole concept of fair play. But that was not his intent, apparently.” Austin said he did counter with his own mailers that included Wilson’s face and warned voters that he was a “right-wing hatemonger” who “advocated bringing back chain gangs to clean highways.” He plans to ask for a recount, though there is little chance that the results will change.

Wilson says his lies were really no different than any other lawmaker’s lies. “Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters,” Wilson admits. And some analysts say Austin was done in because of insider business deals and expensive overseas expenditures, which forced other incumbents into runoffs. “I suspect it’s more than just race,” says Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst. “The Houston Community College was under some criticism for bad performance. And others on the board also had very serious challenges.”

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13 Comments

  • grannybunny

    In light of the changing demographics of the electorate, we might be seeing more of such deceptive tactics, unfortunately.

  • Um, currently speechless. He might want to take a DNA test. He may be surprised by the results. Caig Cobb, the neo-Nazi, sure was when he recently took a DNA test on public TV. 14% sub-Sahara African! I guess he’ll have to ban his ownself from his all-white town. Bra-ha-ha-ha!!!!

    • I’m with you on this one. It would not be unusual for someone with significant ancestry in the South to discover one of the legacies of slavery is in their DNA. The real issue here is the lack of integrity his behavior demonstrates and therefore his lack of trustworthiness.

      I’m a bit more amazed by the local press waiting until after the election to take note of his deceptive practices. If the local press was serving the public good this would have been a major aspect of the pre-election debate and the Black community and non-Black allies would have been alerted. I do not believe that he was elected because he was perceived as black. I think he was elected because he implied liberal affiliations that did not exist.

      This discourse on “Blackness” of the candidate is a smokescreen for something that is much more insideous and implies something that is not true. Black people do not vote as a group for other Black people because they are Black. We have a bit more discernment than that. Black people, just like other ethnic groups know members of their own group that they don’t trust and would not elect to office, even though they are a member of their ethnic group. So lets not continue this demeaning stereotyp that implies this is the case.

  • So you are saying they voted for the skin color of the people on the pamphlet? And let me take a wild guess Austin is white. Sounds like the voters would vote for anyone as long as they were black, and Wilson guessed as much… Or maybe Austin is just that lousy… It is a wonder new ID laws let any one of color vote… But maybe he only fooled 13 people… No one looks good in this story.

    • The story has been updated to reflect that Bruce Austin, the incumbent in the election, is Black (profile: http://www.hccs.edu/hccs/board-of-trustees-site/trustee-profiles/bruce-a-austin). Thank you for pointing out that that fact was omitted. -Chris Hoenig, Content Manager, DiversityInc

    • Johnny Lash

      His opponent was Black… So, while voters certainly vote for certain candidates due to various reasons, many not related to the issues (i.e. race, religion, general attractiveness, location of origin, etc.),

    • So you are saying no one of color should be allowed to vote? Sounds like you need to move out of the country. The fact that both candidates were assumed black, your assumption people voted only for color kinda flies out the window, doesn’t it? And frankly, given the long history of this country’s treatment of people of color, why would someone of color trust a white candidate? Candidates should earn the trust of the people. This guy is obviously a fraud and proud of it. He may have actually lost some votes because people thought he was black. Predominately, black area? Felt he needed to go that “extra mile” to get a vote???

      • Sorry, they omitted the fact that Austin was white. So I leapt to the wrong conclusion. not a far leap. But I thought in this country I could have an opinion…

    • John Lindsay

      Obviously, you didn’t read the article.
      It clearly says:

      1. He pretends he’s one of them. (a democrat)

      2. Only the faces are not Wilson’s friends or neighbors, but rather just pictures that he stole off of various websites.

      3. Another flier proudly announced his endorsement by Ron Wilson, suggesting a Black former state legislator who is well known in the area. Beneath the endorsement announcement, a disclaimer is printed: “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins”…

      This man is a fraud, a deceiver, and a liar.
      This election should be withdrawn, and another one undertaken.

  • Truthfully, he’s no different than any other politician who says one thing to get elected only to shift their stance after getting elected. Furthermore, while his behavior is vile to say the least, what does it say about the voters, who cast a race-based vote? We (collectively) tend to vote for candidates for all of the wrong reasons. We vote for or against someone because of their race or ethnicity or gender or political affiliation. One of the biggest sources of criticism for President Kennedy was his Catholicism and it was always being raised in the months and weeks prior to the election.

    The things/traits that put people into a protected class and shield them from scrutiny are the very things that are used either for or against someone in elections — with less focus placed on someone’s public policy on the various social or political issues. That, in my opinion, is the real problem with this. We don’t focus what’s really important when we cast our votes.

    • Sharon J.

      How can you say the voters based their choice on race when both candidates were perceived to be black. I live in the predominately black city of Cleveland. We had a white woman defeat a black candidate in a mayor’s race a few years ago. We also had a white man defeat a black man a governor’s race. He did so with strong support from black Ohioians. Give black people credit for having enough sense to vote for the person who has their best interest in mind. Stop making excuses for a liar.

  • It seems that voters don’t pay attention and we should emphatically have more public debates so we can see the candidates. People still don’t read and investigate. Austin should have exposed it to his community before election day.

  • DC Matthews

    It is very sad no one involved brought this up until after the fact. Is that some sort of actionable fraud- pretending to be endorsed by someone supportive who is not and/or pretending one person is another in an advertisement?

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