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Houston Mayoral Runoff Campaign Becoming More Negative

Expert: Sylvester Turner is trying to get potential Bill King voters to stay home.

The newest ad by the Sylvester Turner campaign looks back at Bill King’s tenure as mayor of Kemah more than a decade ago.

“When the fire chief serving under King was exposed as a criminal, King refused to fire him, even though he was a registered sex offender, who had molested a child,” the ad says.

In one of his ads, Bill King takes Turner to task, although never mentioning him by name.

“Houstonians have a clear choice,” he says. “A career politician who wants to raise your property taxes by more than 4 percent a year or a businessman who thinks the city ought to live within its means.”

Turner’s ad is one of several attacking King.

Here’s what is behind the one above: The chief of the Kemah Volunteer Fire Department, David Dockens, resigned under pressure from the local water board in 2002 after it discovered his conviction of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

It’s important to note here that King did not have the power to hire or fire the chief. That was up to an executive board within the fire department, according to current Kemah Fire Chief Brent Hahn.

But according to a Galveston Daily News article from Aug. 24, 2002, King called the chief’s resignation “a great disservice” to the community.

Here’s how the paper quoted him:

“Dockens was a hard-ass, no-nonsense guy who kicked a lot of guys out of the department for not showing up for meetings,” said King. “I think a great disservice has been done to the community. We talk about justice in this community but what about forgiveness?”

Turner’s campaign manager Sue Davis doesn’t think the ad is a far stretch.

Bill King speaks with reporters
Former Kemah Mayor Bill King speaks with reporters at his election night rally at the Westin Galleria

“As a mayor, you can’t just say, oh well, that wasn’t my responsibility or somebody else did that or whatever,” she says. “The buck stops with you.”

Davis says the ads simply ask King to explain his record.

“We’re not going negative. Everything we’re doing is issue-based,” she says.

The Turner campaign has dedicated a whole website to criticizing King’s record, called “Delete Bill King.”

Meanwhile, King gives the impression that he’s above the fray.

“I have no intention of responding to the negative ads my opponent is running,” King says in one ad. “My 40-year business career speaks for itself.”

photo of Sylvester Turner
Sylvester Turner speaks with reporters on election night.

King campaign manager Jim McGrath criticizes Turner’s ad, calling the allegations contained in the ad about the former Kemah fire chief “a boatload of lies.”

“Sylvester Turner is doing what career politicians do when they’re losing,” he says. “And it’s just sad to see.”

Sue Davis argues King’s campaign is just as negative, regularly referring to Turner as a “career politician” in a demeaning way.

In King’s ad, where he claims Turner wants to raise property taxes, he is talking about Turner’s support of amending the revenue cap, which limits the amount of property taxes the city can take in.

The Turner campaign disputes the claim that Turner wants to raise taxes.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, has observed that between the two candidates, Turner is running the more negative campaign.

He says the goal is to bring down turnout.

“Higher turnout, especially among Republicans, means King performs better,” Rottinghaus says. “And what the Turner campaign would like to see is that those voters essentially stay at home.” 

Rottinghaus says there have been much more negative campaigns and he doesn’t expect this one to get really ugly.

 

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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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