Voters to choose between US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire for Houston mayor

HOUSTON (AP) — Two of Houston’s most powerful and longest serving political titans are facing off in a mayoral runoff election Saturday to see who will lead the nation’s fourth largest city, a young and diverse metro area facing challenges including crime, crumbling infrastructure and potential budget shortfalls.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, both Democrats, made it to Saturday’s runoff after breezing past a crowded field of nearly 20 candidates in the Nov. 7 general election.

If elected, Jackson Lee, 73, would be Houston’s first Black female mayor. Since 1995, she has represented Houston in Congress and before that served on Houston’s City Council.

Whitmire, 74, is one of Texas’ most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature, where he has helped drive tough-on-crime policies while also casting himself as a reformer during his 50 years in office.

His campaign focused on reducing crime, improving streets and reaching across the political aisle.

“It’s going to be a tough job. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m going to reach out and bring people together and we’re going to fix our infrastructure,” Whitmire said earlier this week.

Jackson has touted her years of experience bringing federal funding to Houston for flooding relief, job training programs and education while reaching out to voters.

“I want people to have confidence that as soon as I hit the ground running, I will have solutions coming, programs coming, answers coming,” Jackson Lee said this week.

Jackson Lee was heavily outspent by Whitmire and her campaign also had to deal with fallout from the release in October of an unverified audio recording that purported to capture her profanely berating her staff.

Booming growth over the last decade has caused municipal headaches but also has turned the Houston area into an expanding stronghold for Texas Democrats.

The new mayor will have to deal with new laws from the GOP-led state government over control of local elections and the ability to impose local regulations.

Whichever candidate wins will be the oldest big city mayor in the U.S. Either Jackson Lee or Whitmire will lead a city which is becoming younger, with a median age of around 35 and with 25% of its population below 18, according to census figures.

The new mayor will replace Sylvester Turner, who has served eight years and can’t run again because of term limits.


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