Texas lawmaker John Whitmire tops Sheila Jackson Lee in runoff election for Houston’s next mayor

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Texas state Sen. John Whitmire is projected to be Houston’s next mayor after beating his opponent, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, in a special runoff election on Saturday. 

Whitmire inherits a city facing many challenges, including crime, crumbling infrastructure, and potential budget shortfalls. But despite these issues, booming growth over the last decade has turned the nation’s fourth-largest city into an expanding stronghold for Texas Democrats.

Election-2023-Houston-Mayor

Houston mayoral candidates, state Sen. John Whitmire and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, speak at a mayoral forum, Dec. 3, in Houston. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)

Jackson Lee and Whitmire, both Democrats, made it to Saturday’s runoff after breezing past a crowded field of nearly 20 candidates in the Nov. 7 general election.

Jackson Lee, 73, has represented Houston in Congress since 1995. Before that, she served on Houston’s City Council.

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On the campaign trail, Jackson touted her years of experience bringing federal funding to Houston for flooding relief, job training programs, and education.

“I want people to have confidence that as soon as I hit the ground running, I will have solutions coming, programs coming, answers coming,” she said. 

Texas State Senator John Whitmire

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, left, looks on as Texas State Senator John Whitmire speaks during a press conference. (James Nielsen / Chronicle via Getty Images/File)

Whitmire, 74, is one of Texas’ most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature, where he has helped drive tough-on-crime policies while also casting himself as a reformer during his 50 years in office.

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His campaign focused on reducing crime, improving streets and reaching across the political aisle.

“It’s going to be a tough job. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m going to reach out and bring people together, and we’re going to fix our infrastructure,” Whitmire said.

Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas (Marcus Ingram/Getty Images/File)

Whitmire heavily outspent Jackson Lee in the campaign. Her campaign also had to deal with fallout from the release in October of an unverified audio recording that purported to capture her profanely berating her staff.

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Whitmire will replace Sylvester Turner, who has served eight years and can’t run again because of term limits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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