Houston elects veteran Democrat John Whitmire as mayor - Hindustan Times
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Houston elects veteran Democrat John Whitmire as mayor

Dec 10, 2023 12:35 PM IST

Veteran Texas lawmaker John Whitmire secures Houston mayoral victory in a runoff against US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Houston has elected Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire as its new mayor, following a runoff election on Saturday night. Whitmire, a seasoned Texas lawmaker with 50 years of service representing the city, secured a victory over US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Voters in Houston are heading to the polls to elect a new mayor to lead the nation’s fourth-largest city. They will choose from a crowded field that includes U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. Whitmire, two longtime Democratic lawmakers. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, file)(AP)
Voters in Houston are heading to the polls to elect a new mayor to lead the nation’s fourth-largest city. They will choose from a crowded field that includes U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. Whitmire, two longtime Democratic lawmakers. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, file)(AP)

At 74 years old, Whitmire is one of the most influential Democratic legislators in Texas and is now poised to lead America’s fourth-largest city. His campaign was centered around key issues such as crime reduction, street improvements, and fostering unity among the people.

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Whitmire’s campaign expenditures far exceeded those of Jackson Lee, who was vying to become Houston’s first Black female mayor.

The release of an unverified audio recording in October, which allegedly captured Jackson Lee profanely criticizing her staff, posed a challenge for her campaign. Despite this, Whitmire managed to establish a commanding lead among early voters, winning this demographic by a margin of 30 percentage points.

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In his victory speech, delivered to a ballroom filled with enthusiastic supporters at the city’s convention center, Whitmire expressed, “I don’t mind telling folks what a great city we have. But we’ve got great challenges. If we will come together and realize it won’t be easy. In fact, we will face challenges. But I see that as an opportunity. And I need you to join hands with me. We’ll meet our challenges. It’ll be an opportunity to show the nation what the city of Houston can do.”

Jackson Lee graciously thanked her supporters at her election night party. She congratulated Whitmire on his win.

“It’s sweeter to be saying what a sweet victory it is. It’s equally as sweet to acknowledge we put up a good fight,” she said.

The journey to the runoff saw Whitmire and Jackson Lee emerge from a crowded field of nearly 20 candidates in the general election held on November 7. Both candidates, who are prominent political figures in Houston, leveraged their extensive political experience as a testament to their qualifications for leading a city that is grappling with issues such as crime, deteriorating infrastructure, and potential budget deficits.

Whitmire’s political career began in the Texas Legislature in 1973, where he served as a state representative and later as a state senator for the majority of his tenure. Jackson Lee has been representing Houston in Congress since 1995 and previously served on Houston’s City Council.

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Houston’s rapid growth over the past decade has brought both challenges and opportunities, transforming the area into a burgeoning stronghold for Texas Democrats. Although the mayoral race is officially nonpartisan, both Whitmire and Jackson Lee are Democrats.

As the oldest big city mayor in the US, Whitmire will lead a city that is increasingly youthful, with a median age of around 35 and a quarter of its population under 18, according to census data. The election of Whitmire, who is 74, and Jackson Lee, who is 73, sparked some frustration among younger Democratic voters who are eager for fresh political talent in Texas to challenge the GOP’s 30-year statewide dominance.

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