Politics

Here’s What You Need To Know To Vote In The Runoff Election For Houston Mayor

Wednesday is the first day of early voting for the city of Houston’s runoff election.

Headshots for Turner and King
Sylvester Turner and Bill King.

So you did your civic duty and voted in last month’s election.

Well, if you live in Houston, you’re not quite done yet. We won’t know who Houston’s next mayor will be until Dec. 12.

I talked to some Houstonians to find out if they are planning on voting in the runoff election.

Rolando Garcia says he votes in every election.

“I already know who I’m going to vote for,” he says. “I’m definitely planning on voting – probably early.”

Leila Garrett didn’t vote on Nov. 3, but she says she might in the runoff.

“I don’t know,” she says. “I need to research more of who’s actually running. I haven’t had time to really do a lot of research on what they stand for and different things like that on the issues.”

The race for mayor is between State Rep. Sylvester Turner and businessman Bill King.

But there’s more.

 “We also have a controller’s race – that position is for the chief financial officer of the city,” Jay Aiyer, political science professor at Texas Southern University, says. “We’ve got several council races, both at-large and runoffs in the district races as well.”

Add to that two Houston ISD board races.

Of the seven city council races, four include incumbents: David Robinson, Jack Christie, Richard Nguyen and Mike Laster.

Their challengers are Pastor Willie Davis, Sharon Moses, Steve Le and Jim Bigham.

Aiyer says it’s no coincidence that all of the challengers opposed Houston’s equal rights ordinance, also known as HERO.

“A lot of these races, I think, were thrown into runoffs, in some cases, in large part because of the HERO referendum,” he says. “So one of the interesting things will be the impact we have without HERO being on the ballot.”

Aiyer says this is especially true for the at-large positions, which, unlike district council members, are elected by the whole city.

Houstonians voted to repeal HERO on Nov. 3, but both mayoral candidates have indicated that they’re interested in bringing back some sort of non-discrimination ordinance.

The race for city controller is between Chris Brown and Bill Frazer.

Jon Taylor, who chairs the political science department at the University of St. Thomas, thinks that’s the most interesting race besides the one for mayor.

“It’s kind of a parallel to the Turner-King race, in the sense of partisan Republican vs. Democrat,” Taylor says. “You’re not seeing that necessarily in city council races, but you’re seeing this at the citywide level, which is kind of fascinating for elections that are officially nonpartisan.”

Taylor says candidates now focus on getting those who voted for them in the general election to turn out again.

“I guarantee both campaigns are beating the bushes trying to find people who voted this first round, begging and pleading, ‘Are you going to vote this time? Please vote. Please tell me you’re going to vote. Can we get you to the polls?’” Taylor says.

The thing is, runoff elections traditionally have lower turnout than the general election.

Twenty-seven percent voted for mayor in the first round last month. Jay Aiyer expects turnout to drop by at least 4 percentage points in the runoff.

Professor Taylor can think of a few reasons why that is, including the fact that Election Day is on a Saturday less than two weeks before Christmas.

“One, sometimes people just forget,” he says. “Two, they’re just not interested in the second round. Three, they’re like, ‘Uh, you know what? If I get to it, I get to it. But I’ve got to go shop for the kids for Christmas. We‘ve got to get a Christmas tree; we got to go to an event. There might be a football game on – something. And then all of a sudden it’s 7 o’clock and oops, I forgot to vote. Oh well!’”

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart strongly urges everyone to vote.

“You know, the turnout is all up to the voters,” he says. “Those who want to have a say-so can show up. And those who don’t, they’re going to stay home. But you can’t complain, though, if you don’t go vote.”

And he has some tips for voters.

“No. 1, know who you’re going to vote for before you show up,” Stanart says. “Do your homework. Study the ballot. Go to harrisvotes.com. You can find your specific ballot there. Remember we still need your photo ID to vote. And you know, join us. We’re waiting for you.”

Early voting runs from Dec. 2 through Dec. 8, and Election Day is Dec. 12.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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