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NYT on Ellen Cohen

You don’t expect Houston City Council races or candidates to get written up in the Times, but Ellen Cohen isn’t your everyday candidate. Well, and there’s the partnership with the Texas Tribune, too. Of interest is the question of whether going from the Lege to Council represents a step down of some kind.

Running for City Council “is on a different scale, sure,” [Cohen] said, “but the immediacy of being able to do something in the city you chose to move to is really appealing.”

Given Texas’ current political climate, it is a shrewd move for an effective Democrat, said Bill Miller, a political consultant in Austin who has worked with candidates on both sides of the aisle. Most politicians run “upward,” Mr. Miller said, from city government to statewide office and beyond. Some fall backward, running unsuccessfully for unrealistic seats, then working their way back to local government.

It is the rare candidate who is committed enough to public service to run for the seat where he or she will have the most impact — even if it is not the most high profile.

Cohen isn’t the first person around here to attempt this kind of move – HISD Trustee Carole Mims Galloway was Council Member for District B before being elected as Trustee in 2007; she had served as HISD Trustee for two terms before her time on Council, so perhaps that’s not an apt comparison. Be that as it may, as the story notes Cohen would have more constituents as a Council member than as a State Rep, and she’d be in a body just over ten percent the size of the House. I suppose the idea that it’s a step down is that it’s municipal government versus state, so it must be smaller somehow. I guess it’s all in how you look at it. Speaking of which:

Houston political observers suggest that Ms. Cohen, who would have more constituents in her City Council district than she did in the House, would have greater influence and more authority at home than she had in Austin. There is already buzz about whether she would make a possible mayoral candidate down the line.

Ms. Cohen scoffs at that buzz and said she is intensely focused on her City Council race, in which the appeal is all local.

What say we figure out the district in which Cohen lives first? Just a thought. And while I agree with the basic thesis of this story, let’s remember that we’re still in a strong-Mayor system here, so there’s only so much that any Council member can do – unlike the Lege, a Council member can’t introduce a bill, for instance. However you look at it, it’s a different experience.

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  1. JJ says:

    Of course there seems to be a developing consensus that her path to City Council violates the Voting Rights Act. Did the NY Times not notice that little tidbit?

  2. Garwood says:

    From James Rodriguez:

    “In looking at the map, one of the new districts … is poised to elect an Anglo – an Anglo Democrat or Anglo progressive – again I don’t have a problem with that. But can you see the frustration on the faces of Latino leaders and activists when they look at the proposed map and they see a current two out of nine districts is now two out of eleven. Where are the Latino gains in this map?”

    From Jarvis Johnson:

    “How can we justify the creation of a new Anglo majority population district, when the population growth of the city has been in the Latino, African American, and Asian American communities?”

  3. […] sorry to see this happen. Be that as it may, I guess this is further evidence that Council doesn’t represent a “step down” from the Lege. We could have three former State Reps, on Council next year if Kristi Thibaut and Ellen Cohen join […]

  4. […] represented a fair piece of this district while serving in HD134. Cohen’s candidacy drew some national attention early on, but really, this is just another open seat Council race, with the usual assortment of […]