Last week, I had the honor of moderating the Garden Oaks Civic Club and Super Neighborhood 12 mayoral forum, where I lost six pounds and maybe helped the 300 in attendance understand a little more about the people seeking to lead our city.
First, about those six pounds: When the air conditioning stops working in an aluminum box at 6 p.m. on a September night in Houston, who needs CrossFit? And when you have eight candidates itching to pull off the perfect one-liner, most of them with little consideration for time limits, the political conversation gets hot.
In the days following the forum, numerous people asked what I thought of the candidates, and up until now, I’ve given a fairly stock answer that all of them were impressive in their own way. But as your TV and social media feeds fill with campaign ads, I thought it might be fun to open up the book and tell you exactly what I think of the candidates. Who knows, maybe it will help you make the most informed decision possible when you vote – and you need to vote – on Nov. 5.
With little name recognition, and a platform that’s more about the “feels” than the policy, Houjami likely isn’t a serious contender to win many votes in this election. During his opening statement at the forum, he asked us all to pause for a minute to think about the victims of gun violence (or mental health issues, depending on where you fall in that conversation). I’ll say this: Houjami is a passionate man who has a kind way about him. He’s one of the reasons people love the diversity of Houston, and I’m sold on him as a wonderful human being who speaks with his heart. As he hones his political acumen over the next few years, he’s someone who can serve our city.
This is a fascinating guy who very few people know. He served time in prison, admits he fought the demons of drug use, and he’s not big on government running our lives. In many circles, Broze would be considered a candidate who had no business being on stage. But if you were one of the people in attendance, you didn’t leave the forum feeling that way. He’s well-spoken, has some “interesting” ideas, and he was incredibly comfortable in his own skin. Kudos to Broze for that.
The Good Pastor doesn’t have much name recognition in Houston, though he does have voice recognition. If you’ve ever called 3-1-1, he’s the automated Siri for Houston, and he made sure we all knew it. Baker has nearly three decades of experience working in Houston, and he’s no novice to the inner-workings of Houston. For all practical purposes, he doesn’t have a chance at this election, but he’s a wonderful contributor to the city’s overall debate, and if he works hard, he’ll find a place in political service if he really wants it.
The council member from District D is a lively personality with an understanding of political service, and while he’s been at odds with Turner over the handling of the firefighters’ pension issue, Boykins hasn’t found a defining issue that sets him apart from Turner’s challengers. He’s as legitimate of a candidate as there is in this race, but his campaign needs serious focus quickly. If he doesn’t find it, Boykins will pull votes from Turner, thus ensuring a run-off after the general election. I don’t believe Boykins will be in that run-off.
If you haven’t met Lovell, you should. As a former city council member and political consultant over the past few years, this lady knows as much about the operation of our city as any person on the stage. Lovell probably doesn’t have enough campaign money to blast the airwaves, and in some ways, that’s too bad. Lovell is a voice of reason. She has no frills about her, and if she doesn’t win this election, we’ll be better off if she remains active in public service.
For someone new to politics, Buzbee has two things mastered: A check book and organization. Long before candidates got there (while Buzbee sat outside in a cooled SUV), his team of D.C.-looking staffers scoured the forum hall. When it was time to get on stage, Buzbee did exactly what you’d expect after being inundated with his relentless media campaign. He attacked like a trial lawyer, he had prepared one-liners, and he stuck to his script. If he makes a run-off or wins, he’ll be proof that organization and money are more important than anything else in politics. I think Buzbee would be wise to look back a couple of years to a lady named Kathleen Wall, who sought to fill the seat of Ted Poe. Wall spent so much money, and filled the airwaves with non-stop promotion that people got really sick of her and she didn’t even make a run-off against eventual winner Dan Crenshaw. Just a thought.
If there’s a statesman in this field of candidates, King is that guy. At the forum, he was cool and calm – maybe even a little too cool and calm. But if King were in my office seeking advice, I’d tell him to get really focused on issues, and stop with the pay-to-play talk (Buzbee could stand the same advice). The reality in politics is those elected give special consideration to the people who supported a campaign, and my perception is people are tired of hearing about pay-to-play. King also needs to separate himself from Buzbee – not Turner. He has a chance to make another run-off, but he’s not going to make it if he doesn’t shift his focus away from Turner.
No matter how you feel about Mayor Turner, the man understands how politics work. For the most part, he’s being attacked by Buzbee and King with one-liners, and Turner just as quickly retorts with his own one-liners that stick just as well. And in a Twitter-verse of politics, Turner’s quick responses are plenty to fend off most of his challengers. In order to win a second term, I’m not sure Turner needs to do much else than limit the votes Boykins takes from him, trade jabs with Buzbee and King, and keep doing what he’s doing.