The Houston Sun
In the packed grand ballroom at the George R. Brown Convention Center, about 1,000 citizens awaited the election returns in the mayor race between State Representative Sylvester Turner, 61 and former Kemah Mayor Bill King, 65. Turner was the front runner coming out of the November General Election and kept that lead through the runoff, albeit it was a slim 678 votes according to the Harris County election results. Even with the thin margin to victory, the crowd never lost its vigor. They danced to the music of “Tonight is going to be a good night.” They engaged in song, dance, and much chatter and moved with joy to “Can’t Touch This” while taking cellular phone selfies photos and smiles with anticipation was abound. A jubilant Maldrick Bright said, “It’s one of the most exciting and unprecedented mayoral races in the city of Houston. It’s the time and place for him [Turner] to be elected. Turner had sought the Mayor’s office and was defeated in a run-off to Bob Lanier in 1991. He ran again in 2003 where he did not make the run-off and finally making it to victory in the 2015 run-off election. Joseph Bennett said, “I believe the race is tight because people really weren’t paying attention in the beginning and when they realized what the issues were, they got on board later.”
Once entering the victory stage, Turner said that Saturday, December 12 was mostly a night for ‘thanks’ and after he expressed appreciation to many, he gave the largest “shout out” to Ft. Bend County, saying, ““I love me some Fort Bend!” where a mostly African American voter base in an incorporated section of Houston delivered him 3,728 votes to King’s 277 when there were just 500 votes separating them.
Depending on an electorate that is disengaged in civic affairs, the two candidates had to split the meager 209,794 (21.42%) who cast ballots in the run-off mayoral race. According to Harris Votes County Clerk’s office, of the 979,401 registered voters in the City of Houston, Turner garnered 104,639 votes (50.16%), to King’s 103,961 (49.84%). With the slim margin of 678 voters, Turner, a Democrat, became the 60th Mayor of the fourth largest city in the country after Turner had received 50.2% of the Harris County votes and 93% of Ft. Bend County votes. It was after 10 o’clock in the evening when King, a Republican, made the call conceding defeat to Turner.
Vicky McBride, PhD in urban planning said, “This is an opportunity of inclusion where many of us had been left out, unable to participate and make use of our talents and skills. In this election, all were a part of this victory–from baby boomers to the millenniums. It takes us all to make this a vibrant city.” Demetrious Guidry Moore said, “My view of this race is I believe that the citizens of Houston have made the best decision based on the information provided the people. The people had been misled.” In his victory speech, Turner said that he will be the mayor for all the people whether they voted for him or not.
The three-time mayoral candidate from Acres Home, with his sisters standing on the stage with him said that this campaign has been a long journey that started with him mother (who died in April) when she signed a loan paper for him to go to college at the University of Houston where he graduated magna cum laude and later received his law degree from Harvard. He told his audience with much emotion that his mother taught the children to “never overlook those who are at the bottom.” He shared the crowd that ‘everyone will be welcome at the table in a Turner administration. He continued saying, “I’ll do by very best to represent every single Houstonian. The only question I will ask, ‘Is what you are asking — is it in the best interest of the city of Houston.’”
Ending his talk to the audience who were all dressed up and nicely attired for a victory, Turner said, “Stay strong, work hard and believe.” Shelly Kennedy, a member of the State Democratic Committee said, “I am a strong supporter of our new mayor; he has the experience. He has the legislative experience that we need here in Houston. He knows where the money is and he can help us get it. He loves Houston.” Term-limited At-Large City Council member Clarence O. Bradford said that the Turner victory is great for Houston. He knows how to unify people as he did in the legislature while serving for 26-years and this will be good for Houston according to Bradford. Lawrence Payne said that Turner’s win is huge and he has what it takes to run the city. “He has the legislative skills to do the job well. He knows how to work with all people.”
Since the beginning of his campaign 22-months ago, Turner has proclaimed that he would be the mayor for all the people and after waiting for 24 years, the people have helped him quench his thirst that started as a boy who rode the bus from Acres Homes to downtown. He now has the opportunity to lead Houston after earning more than 93% of the African American vote while King took 71 % of the white vote. He won the predominately African Americans populated city council districts precincts and the two Latino districts precincts while losing the “progressive” District C by 10% where incumbent city council member Susan Cohen was re-elected. Turner becomes Houston’s second African American mayor with Lee P. Brown being the first in 1998.
Several attendees at the watch night party were concerned, however, about Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, the Starkville, MS native and Houston businessman,
insertion of himself into the campaign against Turner. One Acres Home residents began to discuss the location of McIngvale’s first store saying that Mack made his money off the black community and ‘he turned on us. He continued saying that ‘he should have stayed out of the race and now we should stay out of his stores.’
In other races, runoff races Steve Le defeated incumbent Richard Nguyen for the District F council seat. In open seats Karla Cisneros beat Jason Cisneroz for District H, and Mike Laster defeated Jim Bigham for District J.
In the At-Large council seats, Mike Knox narrowly defeated Georgia Provost for Position 1, while Position 2 voters returned David W Robinson in his victory over Willie R. Davis. In the open at-large seat that was filled by Clarence O. Bradford, Amanda Edwards handily defeated Roy Morales for Position 4 and Jack Christie won the Position 5 seat defeating new-comer to politics Sharon Moses. Finally, in the Controller’s race, Chris Brown narrowly defeated accountant Bill Frazer for the Controller’s office.
Turner along with the other newly elected officials will be sworn in January 4 at Jones Hall and will take office for the new term limits that were approved for 4-year terms. (This ballot issue is being challenged in court). The inauguration is free and open to the public. Guest should arrive starting at 8 AM.