Whitmire Trounces U.S. Rep. Lee in Houston Mayoral Race

by | Dec 12, 2023 | News

(The Center Square) – Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, trounced Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in the Houston mayoral runoff election, according to unofficial results Saturday night.

The race was seen as a turning point among conservatives and traditional Democrats opposed to far left and progressive policies they argue have contributed to skyrocketing crime in the city. Whitmire, a state senator since 1973 who worked across the aisle with Republicans, was seen by many as the candidate to help reverse the city’s crime epidemic.

He defeated Lee by a margin of nearly 2 to 1, 65.2% to 34.7%, according to unofficial results published by the Harris County Clerk’s Office.

In key “nonpartisan” races, trial lawyer Tony Buzbee lost to incumbent Mary Nan Huffman, both Republicans, in the race for city council, District G, by a vote of 55.9% to 44%. Buzbee was endorsed by Attorney General Ken Paxton after he represented him and won his case in the impeachment trial held in the Texas Senate in September.

Roy Morales lost to Letitia Plummer for City Council At-Large Position 4 by a vote of 52.9% to 47%, according to unofficial results. Morales was endorsed by Republicans; Plummer by Democrats.

Republican Orlando Sanchez lost to Democrat Chris Hollins for City Controller by a vote of 59.5.% to 40.4%. Hollins, who held a now defunct Harris County elections administrator position for four months, transformed the election process during the 2020 election by creating the state’s first-ever drive-through voting scheme, mail ballot and ballot harvesting scheme, among other new processes. His actions prompted multiple lawsuits and bills filed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, to implement election reforms. The legislature passed many of them, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law.

The top concern among voters, according to multiple polls, was reducing crime. More than half of likely Houston voters said the city was “headed in the wrong direction,” a Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston poll found.

Whitmire’s campaign prioritized fixing the crime epidemic in the largest city in the state, as well as its failing infrastructure. He was ahead in the polls for most of the race, first leading among 14 candidates on the ballot. Since no one received 50% of the vote on election day, he and Lee, who received the greatest number of votes, squared off in Saturday’s runoff election.

Whitmire received endorsements and congratulations from current and former state senate colleagues.

Bettencourt endorsed him and said he voted for him because he was “worried about defunding our police, keeping violent criminals off our streets, and stopping fraud at City Hall.”

Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., emailed a statement to The Center Square, congratulating Whitmire and saying she looked forward to working with him.

“From working with him for years in the Texas Senate, I know John, like myself, is a solution-oriented public servant and looks for creative ways to tackle big issues – this is exactly what the City of Houston needs,” she said. “It’s truly exciting that Houston is turning a page and leaving the incompetence and corruption behind.”

Lee served in Congress since 1995 after first serving on the Houston City Council.

Whitmire replaces outgoing Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, who served eight years and was prohibited from running for reelection because of term limits.

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