Former Houston City Councilmember Jolanda Jones narrowly defeated Realtor Danielle Keys Bess in a low-turnout special election on Saturday to fill out the remainder of the recently retired Garnet Coleman's term as state representative for House District 147, according to unofficial results from the Texas secretary of state's office.
The final tally had Jones at 2,305 votes, compared to 2,103 for Bess, a margin of 52.29% to 47.71%, according to the secretary of state's website.
Jones’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, Bess said that despite falling short she was nonetheless encouraged by the fact that she had strong early voting and Election Day turnout.
Now she hopes to carry that momentum inti the primary election runoff — a race between the same two candidates to see who will fill Coleman’s seat during the next legislative session, which kicks off in January.
“My energy, passion, and enthusiasm propels me to get things done for our community,” Bess said. “Voters will have a front row seat on how I persevere in the face of obstacles, and I will take that same drive and determination with me to Austin. Together, we can build a strong coalition while moving District 147 forward.”
Michael O. Adams, a political scientist at Texas Southern University, said that Jones benefitted from a strong mail-in vote, outpolling Bess in mail-in ballots by roughly two-to-one, “but in terms of early voting and on Election Day, it seemed as though Danielle Keys Bess did a better job.”
Adams noted that he lives and voted in the district.
The May 7 vote capped a spirited contest, which saw Coleman himself endorsing Jones and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee endorsing Bess.
But it also marked a dry run for the primary runoff scheduled for Tuesday, May 24. Early voting for that race begins next Monday, May 16.
Adams said Jones can’t count on any momentum from the special election and that she’ll need to work hard over the coming weeks if she wants to win a full term representing HD 147.
“This election outcome should be a clarion bell for Jolanda (Jones) to rethink the get-out-the-vote effort in particular as it relates to Election Day, given the fact that she didn’t do well in the early voting numbers (compared) to Danielle (Keys) Bess, and she cannot take this for granted,” Adams said.
Coleman represented HD 147 for 31 years, before announcing his retirement in November 2021. He then decided to retire early, on Feb. 28, triggering a special election to fill out the remainder of his current term.
Coleman's decision to retire early stemmed from his desire to give his district more power in Austin, rather than starting from scratch.
"Since someone’s going to be replacing me, this gives them a leg up in seniority," Coleman told Houston Public Media at the time. "This will make them, if they get elected in a uniform election date, probably number 120 instead of number 150. And that makes a difference with seniority appointments.”