Texas state Sen. John Whitmire will be the next mayor of Houston, CNN projects, after winning a runoff Saturday over US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to lead the country’s fourth-largest city.
“While this marks the beginning of the true challenge ahead, as you all know, my only reason for running was to make a difference. I’m fired up to get started,” Whitmire said on social media.
Whitmire and Jackson Lee, both Democrats, were forced into the runoff after neither took more than 50% of the vote in last month’s crowded first round in the officially nonpartisan contest.
Whitmire, 74, will succeed term-limited incumbent Sylvester Turner, a former Democratic state lawmaker who had endorsed Jackson Lee in the runoff.
Whitmire campaigned on reducing crime and improving city infrastructure andservices and called for better relations between Houston and the Republican-controlled state government.
“I just want to get things done. I do not personalize issues. I see the issue, and I look for solutions,” he said at a recent debate hosted by ABC13. “I was asked by Houstonians, not powerbrokers, Houstonians, to come closer to the problems, use my experience and contacts to get things done.
Whitmire has served in the Texas legislature for more than 50 years. He was first elected to the state House in 1972 and won election 10 years later to the state Senate, where he is currently the chamber’s longest-serving member. He had endorsements from Houston-area US Rep. Sylvia Garcia and two former Houston mayors – Lee Brown, who was the first Black man to lead the city, and Annise Parker, the city’s second female and first out gay mayor. He also had the backing of former Houston City Council Member Jack Christie, a Republican who placed fourth in the mayoral race last month, and several local law enforcement groups.
The Houston Chronicle editorial board endorsed his candidacy, touting his experience and pragmatism in the state legislature. “What he lacks in youthful pep or pigment he makes up in connections and know-how,” it wrote.
Jackson Lee, 73, who represents Texas’ 18th Congressional District, was first elected to the US House in 1994 after earlier stints on the Houston City Council and as a Houston municipal judge. She was endorsed by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.