Chris Hollins, the former Harris County clerk, said Thursday he is dropping his campaign for mayor and will seek the controller’s office instead, roughly one week after Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she would enter the race.
Hollins had postponed a fundraiser scheduled for the day after news broke of Jackson Lee’s entry, and his campaign stopped sending fundraising emails and updates to supporters. That fueled speculation he would bow out. On Thursday, he made it official.
“You may know that we’re facing some real financial challenges in this city. It’s been projected that the next budget that we will have to pass, in the first term of the new mayor and the new controller, will be one where we have a $200 million-or-more structural deficit,” Hollins said of pursuing the controller’s office. “It’s going to take real smarts, real ability, real commitment to thread that needle, and that’s not even talking about having to pay our firefighters.”
Hollins, who also serves on the Metro board, sought out young and progressive voters, regularly criticizing the state’s Republican leadership and one of the mayoral race’s front-runners, state Sen. John Whitmire, a moderate Democrat.
He had raised $1.67 million for his campaign as of Dec. 31, slightly more than competitors Amanda Edwards, a former City Council member, and attorney Lee Kaplan. His campaign consultant, Grant Martin, was part of winning campaigns for Mayors Sylvester Turner and Annise Parker.
Like many of the mayoral contenders, though, Hollins has relatively low name recognition with city voters. His campaign needed to separate him from that pack to make a runoff, a task made much taller by Jackson Lee’s entry. The congresswoman’s base of voters includes many of the folks Hollins was hoping to attract.
Jackson Lee made her entry official earlier Thursday morning, designating a campaign treasurer for her mayoral run in the city secretary’s office.
The controller’s race has three other declared candidates; Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin, a longtime accountant who represents District E on City Council and chairs the council’s budget committee; At-Large Councilmember Michael Kubosh, a former bail bondsman; and Shannan Nobles, who works in the controller’s office now.
Nobles, who filed a treasurer form in January, announced her candidacy Thursday.
“With over 20 years of public service experience and a background in finance, I am excited to bring my expertise to the table to help shape Houston’s future,” Nobles said in a release Thursday morning. “As Chief Deputy City Controller, I have worked tirelessly to safeguard the city’s assets and bring financial literacy to our communities.”
Hollins starts with a steep financial advantage in that race, thanks to the $1 million he had amassed for his mayoral bid as of Dec. 31. Controller races are much less expensive than mayoral contests.
Martin had $162,000 on hand as of December, with Kubosh further behind at $54,000. Nobles has not had to file a campaign finance report yet.
– As I said when SJL stepped into the Mayor’s race, the field was awfully big and full of credible candidates, and that at some point it might be difficult for one or more of the current candidates to stay in the race. I said the same thing in 2015 and was wrong then, but this time I was right. Good to know I’m no worse than a coin flip on these matters.
– I also suggested that the Controller’s race would be a potentially enticing option for whoever might consider it as an alternative. I specifically had Chris Hollins and Amanda Edwards in mind when I wrote that, in part because they’d be prominent Democrats in a field that at the time only contained Republicans, and in part because they’d already raised more money than Controller candidates normally dream about. I’m on a roll here, I should buy a lottery ticket.
– On the subject of Hollins’ fundraising, Campos wonders if “he will give back the dough folks gave him to run for mayor”. My guess is that if someone asks for their contribution back he will do so, but he’s not going to go ask everyone who gave to him about it. I suspect his bottom line will not change much at all.
– Could other current candidates switch from the Mayor’s race to the Controller’s? Eh maybe, but I kind of doubt it. I feel like it’s a great decision for the first person, and much murkier for the second. But who knows?
– As for Shannan Nobles, I got an email announcement of her candidacy, which she also posted on Facebook, yesterday. The email arrived a couple of hours after the text I received from the Hollins campaign announcing his switch. I’m going to guess she’s not too happy about the way events transpired.
– If he gets elected Controller, Hollins would be well positioned to run for Mayor again at the next good opportunity. Normally that would be in eight years, which is to say the year 2031, which I swear is a real year and not a made-up date from an Arthur C. Clarke novel. The thing is, as I have noted before, both John Whitmire and Sheila Jackson Lee will be in their eighties in the year 2031. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t still be serving as Mayor at that time, but as I have wondered on more than one occasion, they might not want to still be Mayor at that time. It’s a hard job, and one might like to enjoy a retirement while one can. This is a longwinded way of saying that he would be as well-situated to run in 2027 as he would be in 2031, if the circumstances are there.
– I will once again remind everyone that nothing is set in stone until the filing deadline, all polls should be taken with large amounts of salt, and no one knows how these races will play out. There are just too damn many variables.
– Because my brain hates me, it occurred to me while writing this that Hollins’ departure makes a Tony Buzbee candidacy slightly more likely, on the grounds that at least some Hollins-for-Mayor supporters will migrate over to SJL’s camp now. As penance for bringing this up, I will say three Hail Marys and go sit quietly in a corner for an hour to contemplate my life choices.