Updated Nov 7, 2023 - News

Jackson Lee, Whitmire head to runoff for Houston mayor

Two photos of two people speaking, side by side.

Photos: Marcus Ingram/Getty Image (L) and Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images (R)

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, two longtime Democrats, will head to a runoff next month after neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the crowded field for Houston mayor.

The big picture: Whitmire garnered 43% of the vote and Jackson Lee got 34.9%, according to Harris County unofficial election results as of 5:30am Wednesday.

Of note: Gilbert Garcia ran a distant third at 7.3%.

Why it matters: The December runoff winner will succeed Mayor Sylvester Turner, who has been in office since 2016 and has reached his term limit.

The intrigue: Runoffs are vastly different from Election Day, as a narrower and more dedicated set of voters head to the polls.

Context: Early polls suggested that a runoff was highly likely, with Whitmire having a slight edge.

What we're watching: Whether Whitmire will maintain an advantage in the runoff and who will garner support from voters who previously backed other candidates.

Meanwhile, Houston propositions A and B both passed — a major win for Houston's grassroots organizers.

Catch up quick: Passage of Proposition A means three or more City Council members can add items to the council's weekly agenda, a power previously only wielded by the mayor.

  • Proposition B will amend the city charter to require Houston to leave the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) if the planning group doesn't agree to increase Houston representation on the board within 90 days. Proponents say increasing Houston-based members could eventually result in more federal resources for the city.

What they're saying: "The future of the Houston metro is bright," said Michael Moritz, an organizer with Fair For Houston which collected signatures for the Prop B referendum. "We are excited to see the H-GAC modernize its voting structure and are dreaming of a future where the region plans a built environment that is bold, creative, and liberating."

Seven incumbents on City Council retained their seats: at-large Position 5 Council Member Sallie Alcorn, District A Council Member Amy Peck, District B Council Member Tarsha Jackson, District C Council Member Abbie Kamin, District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas, District J Council Member Edward Pollard, and District K Council Member Martha Castex-Tatum.

  • Two newcomers won open seats: Fred Flickinger beat out Martina Lemond Dixon for the District E seat, and Joaquin Martinez beat Rick Gonzales in District I.

Of note: Three incumbents will face a Dec. 9 runoff with their top challengers: District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz will face community organizer Travis McGee, District G Council Member Mary Nan Huffman will face famed trial lawyer Tony Buzbee and at-large Position 4 Council Member Letitia Plummer will face challenger Roy Morales in the runoff.

  • The rest of the council races are headed for a runoff.

Also: Chris Hollins and Orlando Sanchez will face each other in a runoff for city controller, Houston's elected financial watchdog.

Plus: Texas voters passed 13 of 14 constitutional amendments on yesterday's ballot, voting down a measure that would have allowed judges to retire at a later age.

What's next: The runoff election will be two days before the deadline for candidates to file to run in the March primary elections.


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