DemDaily: Whitmire Wins in Houston

December 11, 2023

In the Houston mayoral election, Texas State Senator John Whitmire (D) defeated 14-term Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D) by a landslide 64.42% to 35.58% in the December 9 general election runoff.

Although its mayoral election is run on a nonpartisan ballot, Houston's politics have been dominated by Democrats since 1982. The Lone Star State's largest city, Houston is also the country's most racially and ethnically diverse major metropolitan area.

The two longtime political figures had emerged as the top finishers from a field of 18 to succeed term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) in the November 7 open general election. Whitmire secured 42.8% of the vote and Jackson Lee 36.2%, with the remaining 16 candidates coming in under 7.3%. As no one received more than 50% of the vote, the candidates advanced to the December 9 general runoff election.

Although Jackson Lee was endorsed by Turner and a lengthy list of high-profile Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, the more moderate Whitmer -- the longest-serving member of Texas' upper chamber -- dominated state and local endorsements, as well as fundraising.

The State Senator, who had $4.3 million in the bank going into the runoff, outraised Jackson Lee 4-to-1 and outspent her 10-to-1. According to AdImpact, Whitmire spent over $2 million on ads in the general election runoff, while Jackson Lee spent just over $60,000.

Jackson Lee has been on the defensive after a recording of her berating a staffer with profanity was posted on social media in October, for which she apologized -- blaming the leak on the Whitmire campaign.

Whitmire himself has been dogged by ethics allegations of conflict of interest between his state senator office and his law practice. The Houston Chronicle, which endorsed Whitmire in late October, published a December 1 article outlining his history of “blurring lines between his public and private roles."

Jackson Lee, who conceded the race Saturday night, said she is committed to collaborating with Whitmire to serve Houston. Noting that her work is "not completed," she filed today for reelection to the US House of Representatives in 2024.

Elsewhere, Republican Celeste Maloy prevailed in the November 21 Utah Second Congressional District Special Election to fill the vacancy of Republican Congressman Chris Stewart (R). Maloy, who was Stewart's chief legal counsel, defeated Democrat Kathleen Riebe, 57.1%-33.6%.

In Salt Lake City, Utah's Mayoral election, November 21, incumbent Democratic Mayor Erin Mendenhall won reelection to a second term in office with 58.48% of the vote, fending off a challenge by former Mayor Rocky Anderson (D) (34.46%) and filmmaker Michael Valentine (7.06%). This was the first mayoral election in the city's history to utilize ranked-choice voting.

The three elections close out the last contests of 2023. Go to DemDailys for all of 2023's election results!

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Texas Tribune, BET, CBS, City of Houston, Houston Landing, KUER

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