Houstonians experienced scandal, high crime, and unreliable infrastructure over the past years and this coming November, voters will decide who will succeed outgoing Democratic Mayor, Sylvester Turner. Nine candidates have already announced, including Amanda Edwards, Chris Hollins, Lee Kaplan, Naoufal Houjami, Raykey Tezino, Robin Williams, Robert Gallegos, Gilbert Garcia, and State Sen. John Whitmire, with others expected to announce.
Of all the problems that surfaced under Turner’s two terms, the people of Houston expressed that their biggest concern was crime according to the Houston Region Business Coalition (HRBC) and Protect and Serve Texas PAC (PSTX PAC) Poll. 29% of voters cited crime as their top issue in the next mayoral election.
Accordingly, one in four voters were personally victims of crime and almost half of voters had friends or family who were victims. Reflective of the local experience, a majority of voters stated that they were more likely to vote for a candidate who was backed by the Police Officers’ Union and/or the Fire Fighters’ Association.
This is one of the many reasons why Whitmire has become a leading contender in the race so far. Recently, the Houston Police Officer’s Union announced their endorsement for him as he pledged to tackle the Houston Police Department officer shortage that was first reported in 2014. HPD has been short over a thousand officers during Mayor Turner’s administration.
As HPD looked for ways to expand recruitment, which included hiring expos and monetary incentives, Whitmire stated that he was going to take an active role in police recruitment. “I know for a fact I could go to the corrections’ officer pool and immediately recruit 500 officers that would want to join HPD,” stated Whitmire.
His current alignment with HPOU has been met positively with the public as they recover from the lingering crime wave from 2019-2022. HRBC and PSTX PAC reported that he is currently leading the polls with 39% being in favor of him and roughly 75% being able to identify him. He also has over three times the ballot share than any other candidates polled and is projected to lead by over 20-points in any given head-to-head scenario.
The poll also reported that City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins are Whitmire’s biggest competitors, yet they lag far behind him in terms of favorability (Amanda Edwards 7% and Chris Hollins 8%). In head-to-head scenarios with Edwards and Hollins, Whitmire is projected to lead Edwards 41% to 17% and Hollins 39% to 14%. There is still much time for these candidates to gain momentum, but until then, Whitmire finds himself comfortably leading the way.
Cruz Garcia is a research fellow at the Urban Reform Institute. He received his masters degree from the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan College of Literature Sciences and Arts. His past research has focused on domestic politics and economic mobility in low-income communities.
Image: CC 2.0 License