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Chron Mayoral profile: Marty McVey

This is the sixth in a series of profiles on the top candidates running for mayor in Houston.

Marty McVey

Marty McVey

Standing in his sparse west Houston office this summer, Marty McVey traced his route to victory across a city map hung on the wall.

The long-shot mayoral candidate began around the edges, pointing to the predominantly minority districts along the city’s southwestern border, before circling in toward downtown.

“I do see a path,” said McVey, 41, who has never held elected office and raised just $60,000 in the first half of the year, though he loaned himself another nearly $1.1 million.

In a city where the political world often feels so small, McVey is the odd exception: an investor who, when he arrived on the local Democratic fundraising scene about a decade ago, was unknown to many of Houston’s longtime political players.

His candidacy, too, took some by surprise.

“He’s been kind of a mystery man,” said former City Councilman Gordon Quan, for whom McVey previously fundraised.

This outsider status is one McVey touts, pitching himself as a businessman with the financial acumen required to spur Houston’s economic development and tackle its looming $126 million budget deficit.

“I see that we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions, and I’ve been through tough decisions,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve helped companies to turn around and be successful, and I’ve seen the best and worst of a lot of financial situations.”

On the campaign trail, McVey advocates for filling city coffers, in part by bringing more businesses and residents to Houston, though the city’s revenue cap limits how much it can collect in property taxes from that new growth.

He supports issuing bonds to cover the city’s unfunded pension liability – a core issue in this year’s campaign – and often addresses budget gaps with vague references to getting more federal funding.
Throughout, McVey cites his experience creating and saving companies.

“I know what risk is. I know how to manage. I know how to look for opportunities,” McVey said at a recent mayoral forum.

Yet McVey declined to comment on the specifics of many of his investments and companies, saying they were private, and a recent child support case shows his monthly resources were $2,500 as of December 2014.

I’ve met McVey, but in keeping with the theme of this story I don’t really know him – I certainly don’t know him as well as the other candidates, and had never heard of him before he announced his candidacy – so I learned a lot from reading this. McVey has a lot of business experience, but it’s not clear how much any of that experience bolsters his case for Mayor. Honestly, and it gives me no great joy to say this, I don’t know what the case for McVey is. As a first-time candidate who wasn’t particularly well-known to begin with, he has no obvious base of support, and he doesn’t check off any box that Chris Bell doesn’t. He’s loaned himself a million bucks – and again, let’s be honest, that’s what separates him from the “minor” candidates – but he hasn’t spent much if any of that money introducing himself to voters. He could start spending it now, but I doubt there’s enough time to make a difference, and unlike a certain other unknown businessman Mayoral candidate who (at first at least) wrote his own check, he wouldn’t have the airwaves to himself. People run for offices for their own reasons, and in my experience most of those reasons are good. McVey’s reasons for running are honorable. I just don’t know what he expects to get out of the experience at this point.

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3 Comments

  1. Steve Houston says:

    Sorry Marty, if you’re going to tout your business acumen for fixing businesses, you need to provide folks with the names so they can see what kind of fixes you provided as well as just how truly successful they were.

    “He supports issuing bonds to cover the city’s unfunded pension liability”
    In what form though? If this is just another set of pension obligation bonds like Bill White used to act like a drunken sailor on shore leave, not even giving the pensions the full amount raised, it will simply end up as another balloon payment to deal with with added costs. If it’s a scheme to pay off existing pension debts and then make wholesale changes to all employees moving forth (lowering benefits even further), I doubt it will work as intended.

  2. I have known Marty for over eight years. I know of both his business and political endeavors. He is a good and honorable person who is trying to make a positive contribution. He is not a schmoozer or back slapper and he is definitely not like some of the jaded characters who feel as though Houston cannot do without them sitting in the Mayor’s office. Personally, if I were not supporting and voting for Sylvester Turner, my vote would go to Marty because I think this city needs the energy of a younger candidate and the ideas of a bussinessperson who is not (and I hate to use this word again) jaded by what is, what isn’t what has been and what hasn’t been in the operation of the government. Do I think Marty will will, NO! But I do think this race will introduce him to folks for future endeavor and I don’t think after November Marty McVey is going to slink into the darkness of night. Lot’s more to hear from him in the future…and in my opinion its things we need to hear and heed.

  3. Steve Houston says:

    Carl, be that as it may, when you run for office based in large part that you have done X, Y and Z, it is expected that you allow people to independently verify your claims. Expecting people to take your word for it or rely on extremely vague second, third or fourth hand accounts really doesn’t generate the kind of excitement he seems to think it should.