John Whitmire, Sheila Jackson Lee seek to broaden support as they prepare for Houston’s mayoral runoff

Endorsements and advertising are likely to play critical roles in luring voters back to the polls for the December 9 contest.


Atirikta Kumar/Andrew Schneider
Sheila Jackson Lee (left) and John Whitmire at their election night parties. Both candidates are running for mayor of Houston.

Early voting in the Houston mayoral runoff starts two weeks from today. Both State Senator John Whitmire and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee are looking to broaden their bases of support in order to claim the final victory. Endorsements and advertising could play key roles in motivating voters to turn out for the second time in less than a month.

Early voting in Houston's runoff elections takes place from November 27 through December 5. Election Day is December 9.

Jackson Lee trailed Whitmire by more than eight percentage points in the first round of voting, so she has the steeper climb. Michael O. Adams, who teaches political science at Texas Southern University, says the progressive Democratic congresswoman will need to appeal to independents and Republicans somehow in order to beat the moderate Democratic state senator in what is officially a nonpartisan contest.

"Also," Adams said, "she would need a record Black voter turnout, and what I mean by record (is) I think she wins if we can see an 85% or 80% (Black) voter turnout."

Adams said here she may have an ace in terms of her endorsement last Wednesday by Mayor Sylvester Turner, the city's second elected African-American mayor. "I think that the mayor's endorsement could help her in that category in terms of increasing or ginning up the Black voter turnout," Adams said. Houston’s first elected African-American mayor, Lee Brown, has endorsed Whitmire.

Adams added that Jackson Lee could also benefit from an endorsement from third-place finisher Gilbert Garcia, while Whitmire could see gains among conservative voters if fourth-place finisher Jack Christie endorses him.

By contrast, Adams said, Whitmire benefits if there's a strong white and Hispanic voter turnout. Whitmire also enjoys a strong financial edge heading into the second round.

"He has a war chest," Adams said, "we know it was $9 million at the start, and you can surmise he may have $7 million or $6 million. And so he can do more media, more media buys, more advertisement, and Sheila Jackson Lee I think she has about $100,000, and that may prove to be the difference."

One other factor that could favor Whitmire is a runoff in one of the down-ballot races.

"The District G runoff, I think that also helps Whitmire, that race between (incumbent City Councilmember Mary Nan) Huffman and (attorney and former Houston mayoral candidate Tony) Buzbee, because again, we know that that's a Republican-leaning district," said Adams. "So, if those voters go back out, I think it works against Sheila Jackson Lee and it favors Whitmire."

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...

More Information