After moderating a couple of political forums in our area over the past month, I’ve been asked a few times if The Leader plans to endorse candidates in the Nov. 5 elections. If you’re a Houston Chronicle reader, you know they’ve spent the past couple of weeks doling out their preferences.
For the most part, community newspapers have never made political endorsements a priority. For starters, we don’t have a fancy conference room with smart people sitting around asking important questions. Instead, we have me and our wonderful editor, Adam Zuvanich, just trying to figure out what we’ll publish in the next edition.
Beyond that, community newspapers rarely endorse candidates because there’s nothing for us or our readers to gain from the practice. If you didn’t already know, we don’t have much of an editorial staff, and you know that if we endorse a candidate, it’s probably because I support the candidate.
Here’s the other thing: If we endorse a candidate and another candidate wins, we’ll get the full cold shoulder from the winning candidate for an entire term – two or four years, whatever it may be. While elected officials can’t ignore the reach and strength of newspapers like the Chronicle, they don’t lose a wink if they ignore us while they’re in office.
In the end, that’s not a service to our readers, because the more access we have to local, elected officials, the better it is for the people who take the time to read The Leader.
Now, as readers of my column have likely learned over the past seven years, I’m not afraid to give my opinion, and while I don’t plan on telling you how I’ll mark my ballot in a few weeks, I do want to give some insight into two important races facing our district.
The past couple of weeks have proven difficult for incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner. He’s been caught lying about hiring an intern, he’s had to grapple with crime numbers – some that say one thing, others that say another – and he’s been forced to attack the person spending the most money in this campaign.
Basically, Turner has had to do exactly what every incumbent candidate has to do: Defend his or her record.
Meanwhile, Tony Buzbee has now poured $10 million of his own money into a campaign devoted to attacking and rarely providing any solutions to the issues he says Houston must fix.
I suppose there’s a real chance Buzbee will get in a run-off with Turner, because it seems ludicrous to spend $10 million and not at least get a seat at the table. What I’m learning more about his campaign is that Buzbee energizes a group of voters, likely on both sides of the aisle. He’s spent a career winning big dollars for his clients (often minorities), and he has campaigned all over Houston with a posse of politico-types who would rather work in D.C.
What’s most sad to me is that Bill King and Sue Lovell are being drowned out by Buzbee’s millions. If you could combine those two candidates – from very different sides of the political spectrum – I think you’d have the perfect mayor for this city, which is probably why Buzbee has shifted some of his advertising dollars to attacking King.
There’s still time in this race, and it’s going to get ugly in the next three weeks, but it looks like Turner and Buzbee are headed toward a run-off that will make us all hate politics even more. Meanwhile, please spend a few minutes listening to King and Lovell as they continue campaigning. They are civil, they are both smart, and they both would make wonderful mayors.
City Council District C
After spending an evening on the stage with these candidates, the only thing I know for certain is residents of our district will be in good hands no matter who gets the nod. I don’t even like telling you which candidates were best, because it will come across as putting down the others, but at some point we’ll have to narrow down the field.
The most impressive candidates, as you might expect, are the same ones who have raised the most money for this campaign. Abbie Kamin, who had nearly $180,000 in the bank as of last week’s reporting period, is a political newcomer who understands a great deal about the issues in this race. Even though she’s the youngest person on the stage, she can’t be out-gunned on knowledge. She’s a left-leaning candidate, and she’ll fight for votes from Shelley Kennedy, who has been appointed to positions by previous mayors Turner and Annise Parker. Kennedy, like others in this campaign, has a strong understanding of city issues, and she’d do a fine job on council.
On the right side of the political spectrum, Mary Jane Smith has spent a big chunk of money filling social media feeds across the district. She has touted endorsements from community leaders, but those will only get you so far in an election. She’s an intelligent and connected woman who would be an advocate for this district and isn’t afraid to spar with other elected officials. That’s not a bad quality for our city council, which needs more debate, in my opinion.
Last, Greg Meyers is probably the most moderate candidate in the race, and while he has to answer for his time on the clown show that is the Houston ISD Board of Education, any voter who has heard him speak knows he understands how budgets work, and that’s something our city sorely needs.
And all of that means absolutely nothing, because the District C race will come down to one thing: Which candidate can get the most voters to the polls. I expect turnout will be rather good given the contentious mayoral campaign, but like any good political campaign, the candidates who win usually have a well-greased machine devoted to getting friendly voters to the polls.
In District C, Kamin has the clear advantage with her whopping contributions lead.
Next week, I’ll spend some time on other important races in our area. Until then, please learn about all the candidates – and not just from your Facebook feed.