Houston, TX Mayor: Veteran Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee upended Houston's race for mayor on Sunday when she announced her entry into the crowded field looking to succeed term-limited incumbent Sylvester Turner this fall.
Jackson Lee has represented the Houston area in Congress since 1995, after she won a landslide 63-37 primary victory over then-Rep. Craig Washington, who had opposed projects important to the region such as the International Space Station. During the ensuing three decades, Jackson Lee burnished her reputation as an outspoken progressive and became one of the most prominent Democrats in the city, giving her instant name recognition. She also won't have to give up her safely blue House seat (which includes 20% of Houston's population) in order to seek the mayoralty, since voters will decide this November, with a runoff the following month if no candidate takes a majority.
That seems likely, given the large number of hopefuls already vying to run Texas' largest city. The most notable of these is state Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat who's been running since 2021 and has a $10 million war chest. He also has the support of a number of major Republican donors as well as Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia, who represents a district that neighbors Jackson Lee's.
A pair of conservative organizations, the Houston Region Business Coalition and Protect and Serve Texas PAC, responded to Jackson Lee's announcement by releasing a month-old survey from Republican pollster Ragnar Research showing Whitmire with a slender 20-19 lead over the congresswoman, with three other candidates in the low single digits and a large 46% plurality undecided. The two groups, however, emphasized a head-to-head matchup between the two that had Whitmire in front 45-33. Both say they have not endorsed in the race, though HRBC has backed Whitmire in the past despite typically backing Republicans.
While the race is officially nonpartisan, almost all of the credible candidates are Democrats. No Republican has been elected mayor of Houston, which voted for Joe Biden by a 64-32 margin, since Jim McConn won a second two-year term in 1981. (Mayors only began serving four-year terms in 2015.) Houston is also a very diverse city, with an eligible voter population that's 34% white, 31% Hispanic, and 28% Black. Like Jackson Lee, two of the contenders named in the Ragnar poll, former City Councilor Amanda Edwards and former Harris County interim Clerk Chris Hollins, are Black, while Whitmire is white and City Councilor Robert Gallegos is Latino.