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Turner & Whitmire

No, not the latest buddy cop movie, just two old legislative friends helping each other out.

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

Texas’ most senior state senator turned to the crowd during a September fundraiser for state Rep. Sylvester Turner and ribbed his friend and would-be Houston mayor.

“My name is John Whitmire, and I’m Sylvester Turner’s state senator,” he said, a go-to laugh-line that landed in a sea of donors. “Everyone in my district is important, but Sylvester Turner kind of stands out.”

Kind words like those – exchanged again and again over the past 12 months in both directions – have gone a shade past the standard “good friend” lavished by nearly every politician on their predecessors at a dais. The alliance between Turner, a powerful Democratic state representative, and Whitmire, the most senior Democrat in the Senate, say people familiar with their ties, is genuine yet politically potent and already is sculpting the local Democratic landscape.

“The moon, the sun and all the planets have come together in the Sylvester-John orbit,” said Carl Whitmarsh, a longtime Democratic activist close to both men.

Sen. John Whitmire

Sen. John Whitmire


Facing his first primary challenger since winning the seat in 1992 – and an African-American one at that, in a district that is only 28 percent Anglo – Whitmire called on Turner to introduce him to his Acres Home base. Other black legislators rallied behind Whitmire in the final months before his primary against Damien LaCroix. Turner hugged Whitmire tightest, introducing him to ministers and bringing him to black churches.

“I don’t think it was a race that John was in danger of losing,” said Mark Clark, who directs the police union’s political work. “But it seemed to me that Sylvester was investing as much as he possibly could to communicate with voters out there that Sen. Whitmire was the guy and still is the guy.”

Some point to that backing to explain Whitmire’s prominence in the mayoral race.

“They’ve been allies for a long time. It doesn’t surprise me that they support each other,” said Turner opponent Oliver Pennington, a city councilman who is critical of the pension deal struck by the Democratic pair.

I see this story as kind of a Rohrschach test. How you feel about Rep. Turner and/or Sen. Whitmire going in almost certainly correlates to how you feel about them teaming up like this. The main takeaway for me is that Turner isn’t going to leave the Anglo Dem bloc to the Bell/Costello/McVey/King/Garcia (*) crowd. He had very little traction with those voters in 2003, thanks in part to Bill White’s months-earlier entry into the race and heavy TV advertising. Things are different this time. We’ll see how much effect it has.

(*) Until he actually says he’s in, I’m giving Sheriff Garcia an asterisk.

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One Comment

  1. joshua ben bullard says:

    john whitmire helped me out a few years back,over my 20 years of working with imnates
    as they re enter society i stumbled across a tdcj female inmate that had been lost in 23 hour a day solitary confinement , for over 2 years straight,i rushed to tdcj officials but was brushed off abrasively and told it would be another 6 months before tdcj inmate kamesha brown could even be reviewed,so i rushed over to john whitmires office and sounded the alarm,with out notice about 3 weeks later kamesha brown was suddenly released back into general population,now thats good goverment and thats good access to goverment,but at the end of the day thats an elected official doing his job he was elected to do and i cant take anything away from john whitmire for that,however on damian lacroix,heres the big problem with damian , a= he has very very troubling interpersonal skills per his communication with voters,he thinks that campaigns should run his way rather than the way the run every time , damians campaign was more about his personal agenda to the system than his message or any message to the voters,whitmire can be beat at the polls,but not the way damian went about it,as for turner, if hes not willing to come to the table and have a rational discussion about my city issues then thats concerning.

    joshua ben bullard