Council Candidates Head into Runoff
Following last Tuesday’s election, 12 of the 16 city council races on the ballot are heading into a runoff because the top vote-getter failed to break the 50 percent threshold.
The few that were decided outright were incumbent Council Members Dave Martin (District E), Greg Travis (District G), Robert Gallegos (District I), and Martha Castex-Tatum (District K), leaving all at-large council seats and a scattering of Districts up for grabs in the December runoff.
Incumbent Council Member Mike Knox came in first with 36 percent with challenger Raj Salhotra pulling in 22 percent.
Mike Knox (i): Knox has been a sober voice around the city council table, as well as a thorn in the side of the administration, when need be. When you hear $3 million for bands in the airport or some of the other frivolous things the city has spent money on, Knox was often the first to call attention to it. Prior to serving on council, Knox served in the U.S. Air Force and as a Houston Police Officer for more than 15 years.
Raj Salhotra (challenger): Salhotra is a political newcomer with a robust educational resume. He attended Rice University and then Harvard for law school before returning to Houston. His campaign platform has centered around economic opportunity, quality of life, and flood mitigation, all of which he says he hopes to tackle if elected to city council.
Incumbent Council Member David Robinson came in first with 37 percent of the vote. He’s headed into a runoff with the same challenger from 4 years ago, Pastor Willie Davis who pulled in 27 percent.
David W. Robinson (i): Robinson is currently in his second term on city council and has largely used his position to support the mayor’s agenda. Unlike other at-large members who often find themselves as the most outspoken critics on council, Robinson hasn’t taken that approach.
Willie Davis (challenger): Davis is a native of Houston’s Third Ward. Prior to running for office, he served in the Army and then went on to become a pastor. He currently ministers at the MacGregor Palm Community Baptist Church.
Incumbent Council Member Michael Kubosh, who pulled in 47 percent of the vote, came just short of missing a runoff with Janaeya Carmouche who came in at 21 percent.
Michael Kubosh (i): Kubosh, like Mike Knox, has been an incredibly vocal at-large council member. Often finding himself at odds with the administration, he hasn’t let Houston’s strong-mayor form of government silence him or sway his positions. According to Kubosh’s site, his themes are transparency, fiscal responsibility, and advocacy for a regional crime lab, all issues he has pushed during his four years of council.
Janaeya Carmouche (challenger): Carmouche is a communications specialist running on a platform to support small businesses, better government, and empowered communities. Her campaign has taken on a uniquely interactive approach by allowing supporters to be involved in “workgroups” on livable wages, early educational programming, and human trafficking.
In this open seat race, Anthony Dolcefino came in first with 20 percent trailed by Dr. Letitia Plummer who had 15 percent.
Anthony Dolcefino: Though unconfirmed, people are already giving Dolcefino the credit of being the youngest candidate to make a council runoff in a major U.S. city. He has run a unique campaign that hasn’t allowed him to be pinned down to one community or one side of the policy debate. His major themes have been tackling special interests, corruption at city hall, flood prevention, and supporting first responders particularly when it comes to firefighter pay raises.
Letitia Plummer: Dr. Plummer is a dentist and the granddaughter of the first African-American judge in the state of Texas. Plummer previously ran for congress, which is when, she says, she realized that if she wanted to really make an impact in her community, the best path for that was city council. She has focused heavily on economic potential, health equity, and infrastructure.
Sallie Alcorn came in first in this open seat race with 22 percent trailed closely by Harris County Department of Education Trustee Erick Dick with 20 percent.
Sallie Alcorn: Alcorn has long served the city of Houston in various capacities. Working for three council members and the city’s flood czar Stephen Costello. Her campaign has been heavily focused on flood prevention, transportation and walkability, and promoting economic growth and opportunity.
Eric Dick: Dick currently serves on the board of trustees for the Harris County Department of Education. His chief issue has been overturning the city’s ban on feeding the homeless with a permit.
Amy Peck narrowly missed an outright win pulling in 45 percent to George Harry Zoes 16 percent.
Amy Peck: Peck has served the city of Houston and District A for years as Chief of Staff to Council Member Brenda Stardig. She has also worked for then-State Senator Dan Patrick as well as Senator Jon Lindsay. Peck ran on a platform of reducing wasteful spending, protecting residents from flooding, and providing more resources for police and fire.
George Harry Zoes: Zoes says that with 30 years of experience he can bring a business approach to District A and cut the red tape. He says he wants to improve safety, fix drainage, and balance the budget.
The Bottom Line: Peck has long ties to the Spring Branch community both personally and professionally which was reflected in her near outright win on Election Day and will certainly be beneficial heading into the December runoff.
Tarsha Jackson came in first in this race with 20 percent followed by Cynthia Bailey with 14 percent.
Tarsha Jackson: Jackson was born and raised in Acres Homes, Greenspoint, and North Forest and says she has been fighting for District B since the early 2000s. She says she went from being a working mom to parent-advocate when her son was incarcerated at age 11 and since she has become a tireless criminal justice reform advocate which is one of her platform planks.
Cynthia Bailey: Bailey was born and raised in Settegast, Houston. She created a nonprofit that helps redevelop and empowers disadvantaged youth. She ran a campaign on creating better paying jobs, building safer and cleaner communities, and bringing economic development to District B.
The Bottom Line: In this race, 168 votes pushed Bailey into the runoff rather than third place candidate Renee Jefferson Smith, but now Jefferson-Smith is suing. Jefferson-Smith contends that Bailey should be ineligible to appear on the ballot because of a 2007 felony conviction for theft of over $200,000. Jefferson-Smith also argues that Bailey lied on the candidate application by claiming she had not been convicted of a felony and that if the court allows her to appear on the ballot it would all but secure a win for Jackson which would deny District B residents a vote. The court has not moved on the issue, yet.
Abbie Kamin came in first with 31 percent followed by Shelley Kennedy with 14 percent.
Abbie Kamin: Kamin is an attorney who has been running on a platform of civil rights, flooding, neighborhood servicers, public safety. Kamin served as the Associate Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southwest Regional Office as well as the Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence.
Shelley Kennedy: Kennedy has lived in the district for over 20 years and served on various boards including Bike Houston, the Human Rights Campaign, the Independent Police Oversight Board, and the Keep Houston Beautiful Commission.
The Bottom Line: The District C race was one of the most hard-fought, contentious council races. Kamin has the support of the Houston Chronicle, Houston Police Officers Union, and current Council Member Ellen Cohen. Kennedy has the support of the Houston Firefighters, State Sen. John Whitmire, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, and former Mayor Annise Parker. This race will certainly be one to watch.
Carolyn Evans-Shabazz came in first with 17 percent followed by Brad “Scarface” Jordan with 14 percent.
Carolyn Evans-Shabazz: Dr. Evans-Shabazz serves as the Chair of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees.
Brad “Scarface” Jordan: Jordan serves as the co-founder and chairman of The Positive Purpose Movement a non-profit that creates and supports programs for underrepresented communities. He also is a member of the National forum for Black Public Administrators. Jordan ran a campaign focused on public safety, education and job creation, infrastructure, and quality of life.
The Bottom Line: Despite Evans-Shabazz having endorsements from state lawmakers and local pastor, the two were separated by only about 500 votes. Ultimately this race will come down to name I.D., which both have plenty of, and turnout which will likely be significantly lower than the November general election.
Tiffany Thomas took first with 38 percent followed by Van Huynh with 22 percent.
Tiffany Thomas: Thomas, a longtime Alief resident, has served on the board of Alief ISD and has been actively involved and engaged in District F. Her campaign has addressed issues like poverty, homeownership, job creation, and safety.
Van Huynh: Huynh served the past 3 years as Chief of Staff for District F council member Steve Le. His campaign has centered on public safety and crime, streets and drainage, and trash and recycling pickup.
The Bottom Line: This seat is being vacated by one-term Council Member Steve Le who became embroiled in an ethics scandal when his former council employee was found to have been collecting a salary while not showing up to work. Le largely ignored the issue and, as such, decided not to seek reelection.
Incumbent Council Member Karla Cisneros came in first with 38 percent followed by Isabel Longoria with 27 percent.
Karla Cisneros: Cisneros has served on council for one-term and education has been a major issue of hers. She chairs the Council Economic Development Subcommittee on Education in large part because of her previous experience serving on the board for Houston ISD.
Isabel Longoria: Longoria serves on the Houston Planning Commission and has served on boards for the League of Women Voters, the Mayor’s LGBTQ advisory board, and the mayor’s housing transition team.
The Bottom Line: Much of the Democratic support in this race has lined up behind Longoria. She’s received endorsements from Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, the SEIU, and Harris County Young Democrats to name a few.
Edward Pollard took first with 30 percent followed by Sandra Rodriguez with 29 percent.
Edward Pollard: Pollard was born and raised in southwest Houston where he attended HISD before going off to Morehouse College. Pollard has been a practicing attorney and opened a firm in District J, the Pollard Legal Group.
Sandra Rodriguez: Rodriguez is a Gulfton resident who works for the city and serves as the President of the Gulfton Super Neighborhood Council. Rodriguez also serves on the mayor’s complete communities advisory committee.
The Bottom Line: Less than 50 votes separated the candidates heading into the runoff between Pollard and Rodriguez. As both candidates are engrained in the community, this race, more than most, will come down to true grassroots activism.