Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee kicked off her campaign for mayor Friday night with a rally on the rooftop of Post Houston, promising to “unlock City Hall” for all residents and embrace their diversity while outlining a municipal agenda to tackle issues like housing, the wastewater system, crime and neighborhood lighting.
The rally came nearly three weeks after Jackson Lee first shared news of her candidacy with churchgoers. On Friday, the congresswoman made her case publicly for the first time.
“I want you to see in this campaign — no matter what stage of life you’re in, what age you are, there is hope in this city, and in this city there are results,” Jackson Lee said. “This is an international city. I proclaim this is a city for all people.”
Jackson Lee laid out her vision for city government, pledging to build on progress she said has been made under Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration. She vowed to use the political capital she has amassed in Washington, D.C., to continue bringing federal funds to Houston.
The congresswoman said she would use “public and private financing” to create a top-of-the-line water and wastewater system. Houston has struggled for years with sewer overflows and recently agreed with the federal government to spend $2 billion upgrading that infrastructure.
“I know where the money is, I know where the folk are, I know we can get this done,” Jackson Lee said.
Jackson Lee said the city and Metro would continue building out its rail system, including a promise to bring rail to both Hobby and Bush Intercontinental airports. She said she would use federal money to bring more neighborhood lighting to communities, and she promised to tackle street repairs and crime by sector, dividing the city into smaller parts to focus on more localized needs.
“We have got to get in front of crime. We cannot ignore it,” Jackson Lee said. “We cannot ignore Houstonians who don’t feel safe.”
And the congresswoman said she would use her experience on the budget committee to shepherd the city through difficult budgets, without sacrificing raises for employees, including firefighters, who have been locked in a contract dispute throughout Turner’s term.
On flooding, Jackson Lee vowed to bring mitigation money to the city. The state has proposed giving Houston none of an initial $2 billion allotment in Harvey recovery money for that purpose.
“There is an IOU outstanding. We’re going to cash on that IOU,” Jackson Lee said.
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, one of several speakers to endorse and introduce Jackson Lee, said the city faces difficult days ahead.
“We need someone who’s experienced in government and delivering things to Houston, and that is Sheila Jackson Lee,” Ellis said.
Other speakers included Amber Mostyn, Jackson Lee’s campaign treasurer; community activist Cesar Espinosa; Bishop James Dixon; and Ray Rodriguez, president of the Communication Workers of America Local 6222. Rodriguez said the union would endorse Jackson Lee.
The crowd also included state Rep. Ron Reynolds, [Controller candidate Chris] Hollins, Fire Chief Sam Peña and At-Large Councilmember Letitia Plummer.
Jackson Lee’s daughter, Erica Lee Carter, introduced the congresswoman.
See here for the background. The story notes the effect her entrance has had on the race, both with Chris Hollins moving to the Controller’s race (and endorsing SJL for Mayor; I can tell you from past interviewing experience that candidates for other city offices are usually reluctant to offer any opinion on the Mayor’s race) and Tony Buzbee opening his mouth. I will be very interested to see who endorses whom in this race – Rodney Ellis going with Sheila instead of his longtime former Senate colleague Whitmire is notable – and who stays out of it, at least until the runoff. There’s no mention in the story about whether SJL will remain in Congress or step down to run, which strongly suggests she will stay.
As for the substance of her speech, I like what she’s talking about. I don’t know how doable some of them are – what are the means to overcome the state’s resistance to giving Houston any flood relief money, and why haven’t we already taken them if they’re likely to work? – and of course it’s up to Rep. Jackson Lee to convince us that she is the person to make them happen, but her overall vision is appealing. This is what campaigns are about. I’m very much looking forward to the July finance reports, and I think this will be one of the more fascinating interview seasons I’ve gotten to do. What do you think?