Houston Mayor

Mayor Sylvester Turner endorses Sheila Jackson Lee in Houston mayoral runoff

The longtime Congresswoman was the second-leading vote-getter in Tuesday’s election, behind Texas Sen. John Whitmire. They will compete in a Dec. 9 runoff.

Sheila Jackson Lee Election Night
Atirikta Kumar for Houston Public Media
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee arrives at her Election Night Party on November 7, 2023. Jackson Lee is running for mayor.

A day after qualifying for a runoff in the race to become Houston's next mayor, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee picked up an endorsement from the outgoing mayor.

The term-limited Sylvester Turner, who had refrained from publicly backing a potential successor in the runup to Tuesday's election, said Wednesday he is "fully supportive" of Jackson Lee and will vote for her in the Dec. 9 runoff. Jackson Lee is facing Texas Sen. John Whitmire, the leading vote-getter on Tuesday, in a matchup between a pair of longtime Democratic politicians.

"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."

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.

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.

"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."