Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is in for Mayor

Okay then. The Quorum Report was first on the scene.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Sources: In a closed-door event over the weekend, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told pastors she is running for mayor of Houston
The chatter is getting louder out of H-Town, where sources this morning indicate that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on Saturday told attendees at a closed-door event that she is indeed running for mayor.

Some of those who went to the Ministers United for Houston’s Future event on Saturday have said that when she was speaking onstage, Rep. Jackson Lee confirmed her plans to enter the crowded field to succeed Mayor Sylvester Turner, who of course is term-limited.

As you know that field already includes Sen. John Whitmire, Chris Hollins, Amanda Edwards, Gilbert Garcia, Robert Gallegos, Lee Caplan, and others.


It has developed.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a mainstay in Houston politics for more than three decades, is running for mayor.

Speaking to the City Cathedral Church on Sunday, the congresswoman told parishioners she intends to run in the November election to succeed Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is term-limited.

“Sheila Jackson Lee wants to come home to be your mayor, for the city of Houston,” the congresswoman said in the video, streamed online and first shared on social media by Urban Reform, an online advocacy group. “I will not be able to do it without each and everyone of you.”

Jackson Lee has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Rumors have swirled for years that Jackson Lee may be interested in City Hall’s top job. The political chatter had reached a fever pitch in recent weeks and months, as polls tested her viability.

Jackson Lee immediately becomes a front-runner in the race, and her entry likely scrambles the calculus for other mayoral contenders. The field now includes seven Democrats. While municipal elections are nonpartisan, each of those candidates is working to assemble winning coalitions from overlapping voter bases.

They include state Sen. John Whitmire; former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins; former City Councilmember Amanda Edwards; attorney Lee Kaplan; Councilmember Robert Gallegos, and former Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia.

Whitmire enjoys a $10 million war chest and decades in the Texas Legislature, qualities that made him an early front-runner. Jackson Lee’s long tenure in the House, a more visible role, put her at a similar advantage, according to political analysts. She is a prolific presence at political events, community gatherings and news conferences, and she has a well-documented knack for getting to the front of the crowd to greet the president after a State of the Union address.

“I think that’s her stock and trade, in terms of being able to work the community and speak out on issues,” said Michael Adams, a professor of political science at Texas Southern University. “If you were to rank the order of Black elected officials in terms of visibility or electability, Sheila Jackson Lee is probably the most visible and recognizable member of Congress out of all of the congressional delegation in Harris County… She’s well recognized.”

Familiarity in a partisan role, though, cuts both ways: Just as Jackson Lee has proven popular in her district, Houstonians outside its boundaries, especially those who do not share her political leanings, may know her only in a negative light.

“She’s been out there for a long time,” Adams said. “Since she’s been an elected official for a lengthy time, she will have scar tissue; that comes with the territory.”


The question is whether Jackson Lee will be able to expand on her voter base to win a runoff, according to Jeronimo Cortina, a professor of political science at the University of Houston.

“You core base is always going to support you, but you have to start making inroads with other voters,” he said.

Whitmire has assembled the most institutional support to date, collecting endorsements from influential labor groups and elected officials, including Rep. Sylvia Garcia, Jackson Lee’s colleague in the House. A recent poll testing Jackson Lee’s prospects asked several direct questions about how she would compare to Whitmire, according to recipients of the poll.

That last link is to my February 1o post about CM Robert Gallegos entering the race, in which I noted that I had been the recipient of a poll call about the Mayor’s race, and I asked who paid for the poll. It would be more accurate to say “according to one person who asked about the source of the poll” or words to that effect, but whatever. At least they included the link.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, so let’s get to it.

– In general, I tend to agree with the consensus that Rep. Jackson Lee becomes a top tier candidate, on the strength of her name ID and years of serving a large portion of the city of Houston in Congress. I think things get complicated when the field is this big, and there will be a lot of overlap in each candidate’s base of support. Clearly, though, it’s easy to see what her path to a runoff looks like.

– It should be noted that Rep. Jackson Lee has never been a huge fundraiser, mostly because she hasn’t had to be. Indeed, as of December 31, 2022, her federal campaign account had $300K in it, which is quite a bit less than those of the four earliest entrants – Whitmire, Hollins, Edwards, and Kaplan. I don’t think she’ll have any trouble raising money – she has connections out the wazoo, and plenty of colleagues who I’m sure will write her a check. Her name ID means she needs a pile of money less than other candidates, because most of them have to introduce themselves to the electorate, which she won’t have to do. But if she wants to run TV ads and employ a field team, she’s gonna need at least a million bucks, probably two or three million. Best get started soon.

– Many times in 2015, I said that there’s only so much room for qualified and well-funded candidates in a Mayoral race. I said that at the time in the ultimately mistaken belief that someone would look at the field and their own prospects and drop out before the filing date. I’ll say it again this year, because the field is now even bigger and there’s an obvious need for a good Democrat to move over to the Controller’s race. The first current Mayoral candidate to make that move becomes in my opinion the favorite in that race, and if they’re young enough to run for Mayor again in (gulp) 2031 – or maybe 2027 – then they could be the frontrunner at that time. We’ll see how wrong I am in this belief this time.

– This is where I say again that in general polling for city races is dicey and should be taken with skepticism. This is mostly because it is hard to identify the likely electorate, as turnout can vary wildly and 30% turnout is quite high, so polls of “registered voters” will include responses from a lot of people who won’t actually vote.

– As noted before, I expect we will have a new high in city election turnout this fall thanks to the increase in registered voters since 2015. That would be an incremental increase, but would still represent maybe 40-50K more voters than the last open Mayoral race, and quite possibly a lot more “new” city election voters. There is a scenario in which interest in the city elections is higher than usual, and the overall increase in local election participation since 2016 combines to make it a more significant step increase, say to the 350-400K level. I don’t know how likely that is, but it is the range of possible outcomes. If that does happen, who knows what the effect might be on the races themselves. See my point above about how hard it will be to poll this election.

– The Trib accurately notes that Jackson Lee, like Whitmire, does not need to resign to run for this office. Mayor Turner remained in the State House in 2015 when he got elected. That’s true, but Turner then and Whitmire now could reasonably expect to be done with their legislative gigs as of Memorial Day, giving them the entire summer and fall to campaign fulltime. Congress doesn’t work that way, and it’s also a much longer trip from DC to Houston than it is from Austin to Houston. Jackson Lee will have to face a choice they didn’t, which is to largely abandon her current gig, which will open her up to attacks about missed votes and the like, or step down in the near future and give herself the time to fully commit to the campaign. This could go either way, but it’s not clear to me that she will remain in office while she runs.

– If she does step down, or if she wins and then resigns from Congress next January, the field to succeed her in CD18 will be at least as big as the Mayoral field is now. This is my Congressional district, and the thought of having to do interviews with all those candidates, both for a special election and a 2024 primary, is giving me palpitations. I’m going to go lie down now.

That’s what I think for now. I’m sure there will be plenty more to say. What do you think? Does this change anything for you? Leave a comment and let me know. The Texas Signal has more.

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24 Responses to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is in for Mayor

  1. Manny says:

    Anyone but Whitmire, the Republican candidate.

  2. Michelle says:

    Exactly Manny

  3. J says:

    Blech. I support Chris Hollins, I was hoping SJL would stay out.

  4. Manny says:

    J, Hollins was my choice also, but SJL was very helpful to my wife in helping her daughter obtain her permeant residency. SJL is not my congressional representative. Al Green is our representative, his office won’t respond to respond to emails. He will get involved if it will be in the news.

  5. Frederick says:

    I’m not considering Jackson-Lee at all.

    Much better candidates available to lead our city.

  6. Manny says:

    Are they (better candidates) running Frederick, or will you only say you don’t like SJL? She did a good job as an at-large council person.

  7. asmith says:

    Can’t vote for anyone down there but big fan of Amanda Edwards. Maybe she will consider the Controller race. Sounds like it will now be a SJL/Whitmire fight.

  8. C.L. says:

    Like a moth to a flame (SJL to any reporter’s microphone or camera flash). Say what you want about her, but she’s consistently delivered XY&Z to her constituents…except for that time in Sept 2008 when I, smack dab in her District, released multiple written letters and emails to her Heights and DC office re: my 17 days (ultimately) without electricity and recvd zero acknowledgment or reply. Yup, still a lil bitter about that one.

    73 year old J. Whitmire…meh. Longest running Senator in Austin (I believe) with very little to show for it. Wasn’t he the cat that has consistently prevented Metro from running a light rail line down Richmond Ave ?

    C. Hollins… an Atty who served as Harris County Clerk for <6 months now has the skills to run the 4th largest city ?

    Color me unenthused at this point.


  10. “Wasn’t he the cat that has consistently prevented Metro from running a light rail line down Richmond Ave ?”

    C.L. – No, that was now-former Congressman John Culberson, who managed to derail (pun intended) federal funds for the University line while he was in office. The Legislature doesn’t have much to do with Metro’s operations or construction plans.

  11. C.L. says:

    Nice pun. Thx, Kuff.

  12. Frederick says:


    I don’t like Sheila Jackson-Lee. For a number of reasons.

    My preferred candidates currently are Hollins, Kaplan and Whitmire and I think they are better candidates and would do better than Jackson-Lee as mayor.

    Jackson-Lee’s colassal self-importance will not serve Houston well with her as mayor.

  13. Manny says:

    F, One of the best mayors, in my opinion, was Bob Lanier, and he was full of self-importance.

  14. Ross says:

    Manny, Lanier knew how to manage people. SJL manages people by screaming at them, and has one of the highest turnover rates for employees of any member of Congress. She also has a history of pressuring companies to give her stuff, like when she tried to get Continental Airlines to give her free flights. She represents her constituents well in Congress, but has no business being Mayor of Hosuton.

  15. Paul Kubosh says:

    I will be voting for SJL.

  16. voter_worker says:

    Just a housekeeping note: any voters living near the Houston city limit line should verify if they are in or out of the City if they are unsure about it for any reason. Finding out you live outside of Houston when you go to vote for mayor and council is not fun.

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  18. Manny says:

    Ross, ask Rob Todd how he managed people.

    Dave Walden was often his stick.

    Reporters did not write bad things about him, one did and got demoted.

    I know several people who worked for SJL. If you did your job there were no problems.

  19. Frederick says:


    Jackson-Lee is not a Bob Lanier.

  20. Manny says:

    Frederick, you and Jason, birds of a feather.

    I guess Obama is no Trump.

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