Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee Still Trails John Whitmire Ahead Of Houston Runoff

Houston mayoral candidate Sheila Jackson Lee trails John Whitmire by the same percentage that she did at the conclusion of their general election earlier in November

According to a poll conducted by the Houston Chronicle, Houston mayoral candidate Sheila Jackson Lee trails competitor John Whitmire by the same percentage that she did at the conclusion of their general election in November.

Whitmire and Jackson Lee, who has represented Texas’s 18th congressional district since 1995, sparred in their opening runoff debate about a number of topics. Whitmire, in addition to taking aim at corruption allegations surrounding outgoing Mayor Sylvester Turner, focused on his desire to be a transparent leader.

Jackson Lee was critical of Whitmire’s record in the Texas Senate, drawing attention to his connection to lobbyists as well as criticism of incarceration rates for Black and Latino Texans under Whitmire’s leadership.

On Nov. 27, Jackson Lee received an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton’s statement backs her advocacy for infrastructure, economic development, and resident prosperity.

“Sheila Jackson Lee has been a tireless advocate for Houston’s infrastructure, economic development, and prosperity for residents of all background,” Clinton said. “I’m proud to endorse her to serve as Houston’s next mayor—make sure you have a plan to vote and bring your friends on Saturday, December 9th.”

Jackson Lee does have some room to maneuver as over 20% of voters in the mayoral runoff are undecided, but given the time until the runoff, getting those voters on her side will be difficult.

According to Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, and a co-author of the poll, “It’s not completely insurmountable, but it is really a challenge in a municipal election when you’ve got to juice up turnout, and that’s always a hard thing to do.”

Further complicating things for Jackson Lee, Whitmire has the advantage with voters who are more likely to vote, while Jackson Lee has the advantage with voters who are uncertain about voting in the election.

Whitmire holds strong advantages with white and Latino voters at 63 and 43 percent of those voters respectively, while Jackson Lee holds 63% of Black voters votes in projections. Of note, Whitmire is the preferred choice of Houston Republicans, while Jackson Lee has the support of the city’s Democrats. Most respondents to the poll characterized Jackson Lee as liberal or extremely liberal, while most characterized Whitmire as conservative or moderate. 

Nonetheless, Rottinghaus said that the race ultimately will come down to how many voters participate in the election. “It still looks favorable for Whitmire, but some of these internal dynamics make it potentially a closer race than the top number indicates,” Rottinghaus said.

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