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6 Months After Houston’s City Council Elections, District B Is Still Waiting On A Runoff

The City Council District B runoff race has been stuck in courts for months. And residents of the district may have to wait until November to decide who will represent them — a full year after they first went to the polls.

Jen Rice/Houston Public Media
District B Councilmember Jerry Davis with candidates Tarsha Jackson and Cynthia Bailey.


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Houston City Council member Jerry Davis shouldn't be in office anymore — he's term limited and the election to replace him was held six months ago.

But the race went to a runoff, and while most Houston runoff elections were held Dec. 14, residents in City Council District B are still waiting. Renee Jefferson Smith, the third-place candidate in the race, is contesting the November general election results, arguing the second-place candidate, Cynthia Bailey, isn't eligible to be on the ballot because of a felony conviction.

For now, Davis is continuing to serve until his replacement is elected, though he’s currently in a runoff of his own.

"I did have to alter my plans,” Davis said. “I'm in the race for the runoff for state representative of 142. Did I have more time planned dedicated for that? Yes, I did. But at the end of the day, you know, I took an oath to serve the people."

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Not having a duly-elected representative in office has had some consequences for District B residents, Davis said.

"We had transitioned many of our staffers,” he said. “We had brought the staff numbers down and there were few people working harder. So now, we had to bring a few more people on and it was almost like rebuilding. We're still serving — still taking the phone calls about illegal dumping, still taking the phone calls and answering questions about various things, but now it's just taking a little bit longer."

On the flip side, as the city is navigating a pandemic, he said some District B residents are happy to have a representative on council who already knows the system.

"They're happy that we do have some institutional knowledge here to help them,” he said. “But again, I've been talking to the two candidates that made the runoff – and I do expect those two to be in the runoff sometime soon – and they've been out helping, as well.”

First elected in 2011, Davis is now the longest-serving member on council.

Though his replacement was supposed to take over the seat on Jan. 1, he said he’s not treated differently than before.

"Obviously I'm without a term, so therefore I had to give up vice mayor pro tem. I had to give up the economic development committee,” Davis said. “I still give my input, still have the mayor's cellphone so we can still talk about certain things.”

While some District B residents hoped the race would be on the ballot in January, the case was further delayed multiple times.

Davis said it’s possible the courts could have expedited the process. Asked if the case would be resolved by now if the contested election were for mayor instead of District B council member, Davis said it’s difficult to say.

"I can't answer that because I'm not privy to all the ways of the courts. If I had to answer yes or no, I would say no, we wouldn't be waiting on the mayor for this runoff,” Davis said. “But also, some of the courts did have a ruling in a timely manner, but then there was just another appeal, from my understanding. Therefore you had to abide by the court systems. Now, do I think maybe one of the courts would have moved through this scenario expeditiously? Yes."

Davis is expecting the election might not be held until November — a full year after District B residents went to the polls.

"That's what I've been told,” Davis said. “But right now we're taking it day by day. We're going to work on this budget. You know, this budget's a killer right now. So we're going to be in a situation and that's my next focus right now."

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