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Houston Mayor Parker tosses hat back in ring

Jayme Frase, Houston Chronicle
Updated 11:37 pm, Saturday, May 11, 2013
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HOUSTON — The crowd shimmying to Michael Jackson's “Billy Jean” cheered and closed around Mayor Annise Parker as she arrived at Stude Park on Saturday afternoon.

Now, the campaign kickoff party could really begin.

At the celebration, Parker, who has served as mayor since 2010, formalized her intent to seek re-election in the fall, the last possible under term limits.

Former City Attorney Ben Hall has announced his intent to oppose her, but Parker dismissed his campaign at the event.

“I've been asked if I have an opponent this year,” Parker said as members of the crowd of hundreds yelled back, “No.”

“I have an opponent, but I don't have competition,” she said to louder cheers.

Her speech echoed her State of the City Address on April 26, saying, “The best can get better.”

She outlined successes increasing job opportunities and investing in infrastructure without raising taxes.

“Let's keep the momentum going,” she said. “Let's make sure we return the mayor of Houston that has helped guide this progress.”

Parker warned the crowd, however, that she still needs Houstonians to support her in the voting booth.

“Count me in! Count me in!,” chanted the crowd as Parker left the stage to greet more people.

Joe and Stephanie Wong are among those planning to again vote for Parker.

They brought their daughters Iris, 8, and Lyla, 4, to reinforce lessons about civic responsibility and to show them politics as “good people doing good things,” Joe Wong said.

Iris, a lover of Houston parks and bike trails, said she was excited to meet the mayor for a second time. The first time was at the rodeo.

Although too young to count in the campaign's tally of supporters, Iris and her sister joined their mother in signing a list carried by a volunteer, who leaned down so the clipboard was within reach and held it steady as they printed their names.

Robert Gallegos said Parker is the first mayor he worked with as a civic organizer that actually got things done, from conducting feasibility studies of overpasses and saving a century old school building from being sold.

Gallegos, who works for the Harris County Sheriff's Department and previously worked for Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, has announced his intent to run for the District I seat on the City Council, which represents the east end.

While Parker introduced all the City Council candidates who attended her event, she made clear she had not endorsed anyone.