Whitmire defeats Sheila Jackson Lee in Houston mayoral runoff

A runoff race was held Saturday to choose the next mayor of Houston. The two candidates were Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and State Senator John Whitmire. Both are Democrats.

Whitmire shellacked Jackson Lee and I’m not angry about that. Jackson Lee has served in Congress for almost 30 years. She is 73 years old. She was fond of saying she wanted to “come home.” John Whitmire is 74 years old. He is the longest-serving member of the Texas State Senate. Whitmire ran a campaign centered on crime and bringing the community together. His campaign outspent Jackson Lee The last time a Republican was elected mayor was 1978-1982.

Whitmire is a Houston native and has a compelling personal story of rising from very humble beginnings to a successful career in state politics. His political ads featured Whitmire talking to everyday Houstonians. Sheila Jackson Lee focused more on herself and her career in Washington, D.C. Jackson Lee ran into some problems when an audiotape of her berating and cursing a staffer surfaced. That was an October surprise for her campaign. The rumors have been out there for years about how she treats her staff. She is consistently voted the worst boss on Capitol Hill and her staff turnover is high.

Jackson Lee concentrated on endorsements from her pals in Washington, D.C. like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Hakeem Jeffries. Houstonians weren’t impressed. Whitmire received endorsements from politicians he worked with at the State Capitol. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, for example, endorsed Whitmire over her colleague Jackson Lee. Jackson Lee received a last-minute endorsement from the current mayor. She also received the endorsement from former Mayor Kathy Whitmire, the former sister-in-law of John Whitmire.

Whitmire’s victory was a landslide. He snubbed Jackson Lee in his victory speech. He didn’t say her name but said “We don’t bully people.”

“People want to go to work for me because we respect people. We don’t bully people,” Whitmire said in his victory speech Saturday night. “My family taught me to treat people the way you want to be treated, and that works wherever you are, regardless of what community you’re visiting. Treat these individuals like you want to be treated.”

Jackson Lee said she would work with Whitmire and her left the door open to running for re-election to Congress. Whitmire blasted Jackson Lee for her claims that she was the one to bring the most money to Houston of the city’s Congressional delegation. Something Jackson Lee did was claim that she fought for abortion, yet the mayor had nothing to do with that issue.

Still, the mayor-elect also noted some of his priorities as mayor, including a fair contract for the Houston firefighters who have been in litigation with city administration, fixing water and road issues, transparency at City Hall, and recruiting more police officers.

“Great cities solve their problems,” he said. “We will face challenges, but I see that as an opportunity, and I need you to join hands with me. Well, meet our challenges, and it’ll be an opportunity to show the nation what the city of Houston could do.”

Whitmire has his work cut out for him. The crime rate in Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, is high. Criminals are arrested and released in short order. It’s easy to see why crime was at the top of the voters’ list. There is a controversy brewing over water rates, too, with Houstonians being billed high amounts for water. Whitmire also concentrated on talking about filling potholes and taking care of street flooding when it rains. He was more relatable than Jackson Lee. It paid off.

Houston dodged a bullet in this election. I saw a tweet posted by a non-Houstonian filled with excitement that this election can turn things around for Republicans in Houston County. That should have been Harris County but either way, a change isn’t going to be happening. Houston is a very blue city. Democrats were able to flip Harris County to their side for the first time in years during a previous cycle and there is no indication that the Democrats are going to lose races. Republicans helped Whitmire. Republican voters often vote for the least crazy Democrat in city elections.

Whitmire pledged to recruit more officers, support the officers we have, and build a coalition with other agencies. He said he would augment Houston police with 200 DPS troopers. Jackson Lee opposed bringing DPS troopers.

More than $600 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding is running out. Whitmire said the city must get on a more sustainable financial footing but he has not presented ideas on how to do that.

“We need to look at ways to balance our budget, such as consolidating some of the city’s departments and combining services with other government entities,” he wrote in response to the Chronicle’s questionnaire this fall. “The future of this city remains bright, but we are at a tipping point. If these long-term structural challenges are faced head-on, then we avoid falling off a fiscal cliff.”

The overall challenge will be balancing a tighter budget with the added costs of various other improvements Whitmire has promised – like more police officers, garbage truck drivers, and permitting staffers.

We’ll see what happens. The city could use a fresh start and new ideas. I imagine Shelia Jackson Lee will run again to return to Congress. She doesn’t sound like she is ready to give up her power and the perks she demands.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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