Primer on the Houston mayoral elections
Houston’s city level elections will take place on Nov. 5 this year, and already there are a slew of mayoral candidates who have entered the race.
Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner has many challengers and some are pouring in big money to unseat him, including current Houston City Councilman Dwight Boykins, former city Councilwoman Sue Lovell, former Mayor of Kemah and Turner’s perpetual rival Bill King, and famous trial lawyer Tony Buzbee. The issues of the current race revolve around City Hall’s finances, Houston’s preparedness for another storm like Harvey, and the pay parity conflict between City Hall and the firefighter’s union.
While the field is currently still open (candidates have until August 19th to file to get on the ballot) some of the candidates have already started campaigning.
The Players in the Mayoral Race
Sylvester Turner (incumbent)
Current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is a UH alumnus seeking a second term as a nonpartisan candidate.
Turner served as the Democratic representative for Texas House District 139 from 1989 to 2016.
His platform includes expanding METRO and Houston’s business relationships
Turner’s administration saw Houston through Hurricane Harvey, and his coordination of the city’s response earned him praise.
Turner has faced criticism for his stance on the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association’s push for pay parity.
Turner was publicly opposed to Prop B, a bill which pushed for pay parity between firefighters and police officers, but despite his opposition, the bill passed, and in response Turner announced layoffs and demotions in the fire department, trying to keep costs down.
However, Prop B was recently ruled unconstitutional, preventing both the planned lay offs and firefighter raises.
City District D’s representative Dwight Boykins runs as another nonpartisan candidate, platforming on “courage and compassion,” and promising to be an ally to the firefighters in the wake of the pay parity crisis.
Boykins is running on a platform of streamlining the city budget, fast-tracking Harvey’s recovery, healthcare reform for city employees, and improving contracting opportunities for small businesses.
Boykins recently faced criticism over his address to students at a “youth advocacy summit” where he allegedly advised the students to “keep their legs closed.” Boykins released a statement on Facebook that said his only aim was to lay “a positive path forward for our youth.”
Bill King is a former mayor of Kemah, who ran in the Houston mayoral election against Turner in 2015, losing out in the runoff. While generally leaning to the right, King is running as a nonpartisan candidate as well on a platform of “cleaning up City Hall.”
King plans to address Houston’s flooding problem by putting funds toward draining infrastructure and implementing “common sense” regulations.
King also wants to expand the police department and waste departments, reform City Hall’s budgeting and make the Office of Inspector General independent from the mayor.
UH alumnus and a wealthy attorney Tony Buzbee is running also as a nonpartisan candidate and is funding his own campaign. He has promised to donate his mayoral salary to a random voter every year.
Buzbee’s platform is primarily built upon fighting “corruption” in City Hall and “following the will of the voters” on Prop B, but also addresses the rising crime by wanting HPD to adapt to a Comparable Statistics style of policing — where police place an emphasis on analyzing crime data.
According to Buzbee’s campaign website, Compstat policing is built on four principles: accurate and timely information, rapid deployment of coordinated forces, legal but effective tactics, and relentless assessment and follow up.
Buzbee is famous for defending former Governor Rick Perry when Perry was indicted for two felony accounts alleging abuse of power.
He has also criticized Turner for pay-to-play issues, bringing manure to a press conference to compare it to a $6.7 million awarded to his former law firm.
Buzbee ran as a Democrat for a Texas House seat in 2002, but he has donated to both Democrats and Republicans throughout his life.
Former City Councilwoman Sue Lovell, who served for three terms from 2006 to 2012, is running on the experience of her tenure as the chair of the city transportation committee.
Lovell also emphasized her LGBTQ+ rights advocacy and her desire to be an ally to the firefighters, siding with the union during the Prop B dispute against Turner.