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Who Will Fill Sylvester Turner’s Seat In The Texas Legislature?

Voters in House District 139 will have two opportunities in less than a month to have their say.



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Today marks the start of early voting in the special election for state representative, Texas House District 139. The contest is only the first of two over the next month that will determine who will fill the seat formerly held by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The May 7 special election pits former Houston city councilman Jarvis Johnson against high school science teacher Rickey Tezino. It's effectively a place holder contest.

"Just in case there's a special session, for example, that might be called by the governor — you know, something unexpected — that person can basically sit on the interim committees. They can basically position themselves for the fall campaign," says Jon Taylor, chairman of the political science department at the University of St. Thomas.

Taylor says name recognition is likely to help Johnson in the special election but could hurt him in the Democratic primary runoff on May 24, where he is also a candidate.

"He had issues related to city contracts, the issue of evading arrest," Taylor says. "I mean, it would be difficult in a normal election cycle for someone with that kind of baggage to actually win election to the seat."

Johnson's opponent in the runoff is Kimberly Willis. Willis, a former staffer to Sylvester Turner, is now a social worker with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department.

"You're looking at a person who might very well, once she's elected, hit the ground running, pushing for issues related to criminal justice reform, even forensics and related to the crime lab issues we've had in Houston in the past," Taylor says.

No Republican is contesting District 139, which is centered on the largely African-American neighborhood of Acres Homes. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will represent the district in Austin come January.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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