Politics

Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner, Challenger Tony Buzbee Head To Runoff 

Turner received 46.4% of the vote, followed by Buzbee with 28.75%.

The Houston mayoral race is headed to a runoff between incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner and attorney Tony Buzbee. 

Turner received 46.4% of the vote, followed by Buzbee with 28.75%, according to results from 754 of 757 voting centers in Harris County. They were followed by Bill King with 14% of the vote, and Dwight Boykins with 5.9%. Sue Lovell, a former city councilmember, received 1.22% of the vote. The results came out nearly 12 hours after the polls closed last night. 

The results were roughly in line with an Oct. 20 poll from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs that found Turner leading with 43.5% of likely voters, compared to 23.4% for Tony Buzbee. A total of 12 candidates ran for mayor. 

As results began to trickle in late Tuesday night, Turner took the stage at his watch party at the George R. Brown Convention Center, sounding very upbeat.

“Let me ask you to just be patient. Just be patient. I know the numbers will be cranking out- will be coming out,” he said. “But in advance, let me thank you from the very bottom of my heart for allowing me to be your mayor.”

Turner also touched on the potential impacts of the national political landscape on the local elections. “People are just tired of the toxicity that exists on the national level and I think people are prepared to reject it on the local level,” he said.

During the race, challengers criticized Turner’s strained relationship with the city’s firefighters over Proposition B pay raises, a rise in some crime statistics and what they’ve called a slow recovery after Hurricane Harvey. 

Dressed in a green Marine Corps jacket, Buzbee charged up supporters at his Election Night watch party by promising to be a mayor for the poor, the homeless, and other forgotten Houstonians. “There are people in this city that have no representation, and guess what? Tony Buzbee will represent them,” he said. 

Buzbee was short on specifics, but his campaign treasurer Gilbert Garcia gave an indication of how he would focus on differentiating himself from the mayor in the runoff.

“The issues related to the budget. We haven’t really opined too much on the budget yet, but you’ll see us do more and more in that regard,” he said. 

Gilbert said Buzbee will reach out to supporters of Bill King and others dissatisfied with Turner to try to pull off a win.

Businessman and attorney Bill King made ethics a centerpiece of his mayoral campaign. As part of his plan, he said he would restrict campaign donations from people who do business with the city to $500 per year and ban contributions from people who serve on city boards and management districts.

District D Councilmember Dwight Boykins named pay parity for firefighters and aggressive enforcement of the homeless ordinance among his top priorities.

Despite the newly launched countywide voting system, turnout was relatively low during early voting — 152,764 people in Harris County cast ballots during early voting this year, down from 193,966 in the 2015 election. 

“Before you had no choice, but to report to your home location on election day,” Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman said. But this year, voters were able to cast ballots at any of the 52 locations that were open for two weeks of early voting, or any of the more than 700 polling places that were open on Election Day.  

Overall, 16.6% of registered voters in Harris County cast ballots in the election, down from 20.5% voter turnout in 2015.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association endorsed Boykins in the race, but their candidate didn’t make it to the runoff. The union has been in a long battle with Turner over pay raises for firefighters. Turner has said the city can’t afford those raises. 

Union president Marty Lancton declined to say whether they will make an endorsement in the runoff.

“I don’t know at this time. But what I can tell you is that Houston firefighters, their families and supporters, we will stand on the side of democracy every time,” Lancton said.

At the Turner campaign’s Election Night party, SEIU Texas labor union president Elsa Caballero praised Turner’s willingness to meet with workers. 

“We brought to him issues of wage theft that were happening with the janitorial workers who were doing contract work, as well as security officers who did contract work in the city. Not only did he look into it, investigate it, but then he rebid the contracts with higher wages to support those workers and create a path to $15 an hour,” Caballero said.

She said she’s optimistic that Turner will come out ahead in the runoff.

“We’re going to continue to fight for what’s good for the workers regardless of who’s in office,” Caballero said. “But we stand 100% with Mayor Turner.”

A runoff election is scheduled for Saturday, December 14.

Andrew Schneider also contributed to this report. 

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