In the race for Houston’s next mayor, the endorsement game can be a big get, especially when it comes from the individual who holds the job you hope to secure. That’s exactly what’s happened with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who has picked up an endorsement from Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The term-limited Sylvester Turner, who had refrained from publicly backing a potential successor in the runup to Tuesday’s election, says he is “fully supportive” of Jackson Lee and will vote for her in the Dec. 9 runoff.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that a vote for Sheila Jackson Lee is not just a vote for the person but a vote for the City of Houston,” Turner said during an afternoon news conference at City Hall. “So come Dec. 9, I shall gladly go to the polling location, step in and cast my ballot for Sheila Jackson Lee. And I hope Houstonians of all persuasions will do the same. You cannot sit on the sideline in this election. The runoff signifies a new start.”
Turner praised the congresswoman’s efforts during natural disasters and the pandemic, plus her ability to bring federal dollars to Houston.
“You take away the federal dollars, Houstonians as a whole will suffer,” said Mayor Turner. “We need someone who is experienced, that has the relationships there, that as mayor can pick up the phone and make things happen.”
Jackson Lee, 73, a former Houston City Council member who has represented part of the region in Congress since 1995, received about 35% of the vote Tuesday in a mayoral race that included 17 candidates on the ballot. The 74-year-old Whitmire, a state lawmaker representing Houston since 1972, led all mayoral candidates by garnering about 43% of the vote.
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They are vying to succeed the 69-year-old Turner, a fellow Democrat who first was elected to City Hall in 2015. Turner also gave an endorsement Wednesday to Chris Hollins, who dropped out of the mayoral race after Jackson Lee entered and is now facing Orlando Sanchez in a runoff for city controller.
“I respect Mayor Turner’s right to endorse the candidate of his choice,” Whitmire said in a statement released by his campaign. “I will continue to focus on what Houstonians care about – public safety, infrastructure, affordability, garbage pickup and other city services that Houstonians expect.”
Among those to endorse Whitmire are former Houston Mayor Lee Brown, U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, state Sen. Carol Alvarado, the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation and the city’s unions for firefighters and police officers.
Jackson Lee previously secured endorsements from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, along with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county that encompasses Houston.
Jackson Lee has vowed to approach this runoff as a completely new election.
“This endorsement is not an endorsement of a ‘me, too,’ to the extent of, ‘I’m following,'” Jackson Lee said of Turner’s backing. “It is two professionals, two public servants who have a common vision about the greatness of this city and how to move to the very next steps. So I thank the mayor.
“… I want to move Houston into the future, into the next level, and to be able to realize that you can fix basic services, you can fight crime, you can deal with the needs of healthcare and infrastructure,” Jackson Lee added. “You can deal with the drainage fees and water and wastewater. You can deal with that, but you must give the people hope. You must give them inspiration. You must give them something to say, ‘This is Houston and we’re moving forward, and we’re not moving backwards.”
Mayor Turner has also endorsed former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins for City Controller. He will be facing Orlando Sanchez in a runoff.
“This thing is not over,” said Hollins. “We have 30 more days to get to this finish line, and then the real work starts.”