Elections

Missing Houston mayoral debates unlikely to hurt John Whitmire, Sheila Jackson Lee, expert says

The two frontrunners have had to miss a number of forums because of their legislative duties and competing events.

Whitmire Jackson Lee
AP Photo/Eric Gay; AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Mayoral candidates (left) Texas Sen. John Whitmire and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Several of the Houston mayoral debates and forums have gone ahead with one or both of the frontrunners absent. That's likely to mean less for them than it would for their rivals trailing in the polls. State Senator John Whitmire and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee have had to miss debates because of their legislative duties and competing events.

"I think, given their schedules, given the fact that they are working public servants, I think the public should understand that they will not be able to attend all of the forums," said Texas Southern University political scientist Michael Adams. "The lower-tier candidates are the ones who have to be retailed in terms of getting in front of the voters, whether it's in a public forum, or they would have to spend more in terms of advertising."

Adams says that TV and social media advertising likely plays a bigger role in reaching Houston voters than any one forum. That's where money comes in. Whitmire, Gilbert Garcia, and Jackson Lee are respectively the three best-financed candidates in the mayor's race.

"This is a citywide election," Adams said, "and so the potential for reaching 2 million voters, certainly you don't reach them in a forum or shaking hands or going door-to-door. If you can buy media advertisement, that's the best way and the means of getting the message there."