Karla Cisneros and Isabel Longoria, who are competing for the District H seat on the Houston City Council, are worlds apart in terms of their styles and campaign strategies.
But while they are political opponents for the first time, their worlds have been colliding for decades.
Cisneros and her husband, Tim, were architecture graduate students at Rice University in the early 1980s when Longoria’s father, Rafael, also was studying the subject at the school. Rafael Longoria now is a professor at the University of Houston, and over the years he has periodically invited Tim Cisneros to architectural events and to be a guest lecturer.
“It’s kind of funny,” Isabel Longoria said. “She knew me when I was a very little girl.”
The current relationship between Karla Cisneros and Longoria, who are both Democrats, is more of an acquaintanceship than a friendship. They are opponents in a runoff election that will be decided Saturday, Dec. 14, when polling places across Houston will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Cisneros, the incumbent, did not receive enough votes on Election Day Nov. 5 to avoid a runoff but still led a four-candidate field by receiving 38.2 percent of the 13,200 votes cast. Longoria was second, receiving 27.2 percent of the vote.
“It’s hard to get a majority,” Cisneros said. “I’m really pleased that I was the top vote-getter. Actually, I was the top vote-getter for mail-in ballots and early voting and for the day of, so I feel strong about that.”
Longoria criticized Cisneros’ four-year tenure and questioned her stances on some of the key issues facing residents of District H, which includes the eastern part of the Heights, Independence Heights and Sawyer Yards. The challenger said Cisneros hasn’t taken a strong-enough stance against the proposed reconstruction and expansion of I-45, which would negatively impact some existing homes and businesses in District H.
Longoria said there are needs for more affordable housing as well as flood mitigation in the district – positions shared by Cisneros – and that the Houston Planning Commission needs to impose stricter guidelines for development in a city without zoning laws. Longoria served on the planning commission for nine months and also has worked for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as well as in the offices of former state legislators Jessica Farrar and Sylvia Garcia.
In 2018, while working for AARP, Longoria was named Hispanic Female Executive of the Year by the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“I love community work. I love being a public wonk,” Longoria said. “I just want to get projects done. I think I have the ideas, plans and the heart to get it done.”
Cisneros was an elementary school teacher and Houston ISD trustee before being elected to the city council in 2015. She supports the arts, which are especially valued in the Heights and Sawyer Yards, and has spearheaded a number of educational and quality-of-life initiatives during her four years at City Hall.
Among them are the TechConnect Program, which provides internet access and learning tools to low-income residents, resource fairs for immigrants in the community and a spay-and-neuter initiative to help control the stray pet population. Cisneros also promoted the use of hidden cameras to combat illegal dumping and thereby reduce flood risks in the district.
“We are on a roll,” Cisneros said. “Everything that I have initiated has grown and gotten bigger, richer and deeper with the connections that we’ve made.
“I think we’ve got the best staff in city of Houston, of all the council offices, and we’re raring to go for next year.”