A white candidate who defeated a black incumbent for a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees by a razor-thin margin denied that he deceived voters by using campaign mailers implying he is African-American.
“Since this was a heavily African-American district and my opponent is African-American, I wanted to keep race out of it,” Dave Wilson, who is white, told ABCNews.com.
Wilson, a small-business owner, garnered 50.1 percent of the vote in last week’s election. His opponent, Bruce Austin, the 24-year incumbent, received 49.9 percent.
The difference between the two men was 26 votes, according to unofficial results, which are expected to be certified this week for the six-year term.
Wilson, who admits he was a “long shot” going into the election, said he decided to engage in some “target marketing” to attract voters. The Houston Community College System counts more than 55,000 students.
Wilson printed campaign fliers featuring public domain photographs of African-Americans he found online, along with some of his black students at a nonprofit electrician’s training program he said he runs. The message emblazoned on them said, “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”
The conservative Wilson said his image was posted on one of his opponent’s campaign mailers, so he fired back with another punch.
“Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” he wrote on one of his mailers, possibly leading some longtime voters to believe he had the backing of a former state representative by the same name, who is Afircan-American, according to Houston station KHOU-TV.
Wilson made it clear in the fine print, though, that he meant his cousin in Iowa.
“My cousin doesn’t have a problem with it,” he said.
ABCNews.com was unable to reach Austin for comment, but he told the Houston Chronicle that he planned to ask for a recount, which he can do after the votes are certified this week.
“He never put out to voters that he was white,” Austin told the newspaper. “The problem is his picture was not in the League of Voters [pamphlet] or anywhere. This is one of the few times a white guy has pretended to be black guy and fooled black people.”
Wilson said he hasn’t heard any complaints from voters and is eager to start his term in January to clean up what he characterized as “waste, mismanagement and corruption.”
“The only people that have complained that I deceived them has been Bruce Austin and the liberal media,” he said. “Not one voter has complained about being deceived.”
The Texas Secretary of State’s office was closed today for Veterans Day, so ABC News was unable to confirm that there have been no formal complaints.