Mayor Sylvester Turner has led the Bayou City for the past six and a half years, steering Houston through countless storms, including the Memorial Day Flood (2015), Tax Day Flood (2016), Hurricane Harvey (2017), Independence Day Flood (2018) and Winter Storm Uri (2021).
Turner took office facing a different storm—an out-of-whack city budget that stood to force hundreds of city workers out of jobs; a budget he balanced and continued to balance every year A storm of a different kind swept the nation—a racial reckoning—with the murder of Houston-born George Floyd, and ongoing police killings of unarmed Blacks (Jalen Randle, for example).
The grades Turner receives, of course, depend on who you talk to, even though he’s revered nationally for the job he’s done in H-town. But whether you give Turner an A, F or “undecided,” incredibly, his time as Houston’s mayor is coming to an end due to term limits.
Hence, come November 2023, the city of Houston will have a new CEO.
Thus far, five individuals have announced their candidacy: Chris Hollins, former Harris County Clerk; Amanda Edwards, former Houston City Council member; State Senator John Whitmire; attorney Lee Kaplan; and police officer Robin Williams.
Because the amount of money campaigns can raise divides the pretenders from the contenders, it is important to take a look at the campaign funding race.
“Money talks loudly in political campaigns,” said Sharon Watkins Jones, longtime political strategist and founder of Watkins Jones LLC, a public affairs and legislative advocacy firm. “Money buys television and radio spots. It pays for digital and print materials. Money purchases transportation for and lodging for stump activities. Money pays for campaign staff, strategy and canvassing. If a political tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it loses.”
Here is where the funding stands at the moment for Houston’s mayoral candidates, with the latest figures coming from July 2022:
|Chris Hollins||$1,1 million|
|State Senator John Whitmire||Whitmire has a “war chest” of $9.7 million in his state account, though it is not yet clear how much of that he will be able to legally dedicate towards his campaign due to unclear city codes.|
|Robin Williams||Not data available|
For context, in 2015, Turner started his mayoral run with $900,000. And in 2019, attorney Tony Buzbee had $2 million in his campaign coffers, though his campaign was self-funded. But the fact that Buzbee made it to a run-off with the then incumbent Turner shows the impact and importance of a well-funded campaign.
That being said, Hollins, Kaplan and Edwards, based solely on campaign fundraising, are basically in a dead heat. Thus, the wildcard in this race is Whitmire, and the amount of funds he will be able to bring to the table.
Still, Kaplan and Williams face the daunting task of raising campaign funds without the name recognition enjoyed by Hollins, who made national news for his work as Harris County Clerk to facilitate record-breaking voting during the November 2020 presidential election amid a pandemic; Edwards, who is not only a former Houston City Council member, but a force of nature in the community via her Be the Solution organization; and Whitmire, who is a longtime state politico and state senator who is known for being out front on issues involving social justice and human rights.
But Kaplan sees his “outsider” positioning as an advantage.
“I think people are attracted to individuals from the private sector more than those from the public sector, i.e. somebody like me,” said Kaplan. “Many view us as bringing new ideas and a fresh perspective to public office.
“This entire campaign process is fun. I like talking to people and asking them for money to support my campaign. And they can make their decision to do so or not. My ego is not so big that I will be hurt if they don’t.”