July 22, 2003
Mayoral race update

Believe it or not, there are other political stories in Texas right now, and the biggest one is the upcoming race in Houston to replace term-limited Mayor Lee Brown. There are six candidates in the race, four of whom can be counted as serious. The race promises to be the most expensive ever, probably by a wide margin, as I noted earlier.

Today, Orlando Sanchez picked up an endorsement from Gov. Rick Perry, who sent out a fundraising letter on Sanchez's behalf.

The mail-out came shortly after campaign finance reports submitted last week showed candidate Bill White with more than a 2-1 campaign funding edge over Sanchez, who was second.

"Orlando Sanchez is serious about making Houston great again, and he needs your support in realizing that vision," Perry wrote. "If you can, I hope you'll take the time to donate to his campaign by giving $50 or $100 today. It's important to Houston and important to Texas."

Three weeks ago, Sanchez won support from the Associated Republicans of Texas, a GOP business lobby that has pushed for congressional redistricting and limits on civil lawsuit damage awards.

In the coming weeks, Sanchez is expected to announce backing from Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and other statewide Republican elected officials.

This will probably help Sanchez more in fundraising than in converting undecided voters. He ran as an unabashed Republican in 2001, running TV ads with endorsements from President Bush, former President George HW Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, and then-Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. Though he's toned down his anti-rail rhetoric somewhat, there's no question about his party membership or his political perspective - I mean, he practically has "HEY! I'M THE REAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE!" in blinking neon over his head.

I consider this race a must-win for Sanchez. If he wins, he's a rising star - a Republican Hispanic who won in Democrat-friendly territory - and will have a decent shot at statewide office in 2006. (Yes, Houston is Democrat-friendly. Harris County, which includes the heavily Republican independent townships of West University Place, Hunter's Creek, Spring Valley, Bellaire, and Southside Place, among others, is not. Subtracting all of that out leaves behind Houston and a modest Democratic majority.) If not, he's a two-time loser who couldn't oust an unpopular incumbent or win an open seat despite a ton of party support. I believe the question of whether he will ever run for elected office again will be settled this fall.

The other candidate making his second attempt at this office is State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who has the ghost of the 1991 campaign and a strong challenge for progressive and minority voters from Bill White to overcome. The latter is likely to cause him more grief than the former:

Turner's new team was quickly put to the test when the Tejano Democrats met to endorse candidates in the coming municipal elections. [Consultant Frank] McCune had predicted that [former Lanier and Brown campaigner Marc] Campos would be able to pull strings with elected officials in his client stable to snatch the endorsement from White, a charter Tejano member. But Campos was unable to deliver the support of allies such as City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, who spoke in favor of White.

Turner forces tried to make the best of a bad situation by getting a joint endorsement, but only a few members voted for that, so the endorsement went to White.

That's as much a function of the four-way race, in which everyone expects Sanchez or Michael Berry to face Turner or White in an inevitable runoff. Much bet-hedging will occur between now and the first race. Sanchez has also felt the effect of this, as the Houston Firefighters Union board declined to endorse him, despite their strong support of him in 2001.

So sit back and relax, this will be a loud and expensive campaign, and if anyone tells you right now they know who will win, don't believe them.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 22, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack

Just because you can raise money doesn't mean you are the best person for mayor. In the 2001 NYC election, Mike Bloomberg spent $70 million to win the election. Right about now, I would rather have Abe Beame back in office.

Then again, I would rather have Mayor McCheese running NYC.

Posted by: William Hughes on July 22, 2003 3:09 PM

I agree that it's too soon to predict winners, but I've got one of those sinking feelings that Sanchez is going to pull it off. This will suck not only because of his unpleasant political stance, but because his dead, reptilian eyes cause me to break into a cold sweat every time I see him on TV. I'm going to have to swear off local news.

Which may not be such a bad thing.

Posted by: Pete on July 22, 2003 3:46 PM

Pete! Didn't you get the memo? Sanchez's eyes are steel blue. Get with the program!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 22, 2003 3:50 PM

Dead, reptilian eyes?


And I thought I was being harsh in criticizing Bill White's perpetually pained look (who knows, maybe he's arthritic or something).

Posted by: Kevin Whited on July 23, 2003 8:55 AM