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Turner defeats King

It was close, but he led throughout.

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

State Rep. Sylvester Turner won the Houston mayor’s race with a down-to-the-wire finish to edge businessman Bill King Saturday.

While Turner won the most ballots in early voting, King narrowed the gap quickly on Election Day.

“We thought the early vote was going to be very close,” King said. “We were a little surprised we lost that by as much as we did but we felt very good about going out and visiting the polls today the energy we were seeing at the precincts. We think we’re going to continue to win the Election Day vote it’s just whether it will be enough to offset the early vote or not.”

More than 113,000 Houston voters cast an early ballot, down from roughly 130,000 in the Nov. 3 general election that narrowed the 13-member mayoral field. Turner emerged from early voting in the lead, but saw that lead shrink as Election Day returns filtered in.

“We’ve never had a mayor’s race where the word ‘pension’ was ever even mentioned before, so if nothing else we’ve at least brought that issue to public awareness and we got every single candidate in this race to admit the current system’s not sustainable,” King said. “That in and of itself we think is a big victory.”

Turner, a 26-year state representative, entered the race a frontrunner and maintained that status throughout, positioning himself as the Democratic establishment pick after two unsuccessful mayoral bids in 1991 and 2003.

Turner won by 4,082 votes out of 212,696 cast. This spreadsheet, which tracked the returns from all three counties, shows how it broke down. The margin for Turner was all of 678 votes in Harris County, and for awhile he was trailing in Harris, but thanks to his 93% performance in Fort Bend, he was always in the lead. As far as final turnout goes, if you bet the under on the projections, you would have won.

In regards to Turner’s early vote lead, which was about 4,700 votes in Harris County (Harris results here, Fort Bend results here), I want to highlight a couple of quotes from before the election. Quote 1, from December 9:

“I would expect King to win the early vote and Turner to win the election day vote, with the election then being decided by the margins for those two respective segments,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said.

Turner actually won early voting by about 7,300 votes, but King won Election Day by about 3,200. Oops. Now here’s Quote 2, from December 8:

“Right now, I would say that King has the momentum and Turner is on the defensive,” Jones said in an email, citing what he said were King’s more concrete policy proposals and Turner’s negative campaigning. “I think the election outcome could rest on how effective Turner is in mobilizing African-American voters on Election Day.”

That’s a more accurate take, though how one squares Turner winning Election Day while on the defensive and with King having the momentum is a bit of a mystery to me. It does cover all the bases, I admit.

Snark aside, this is the result I wanted. A lot of folks like me were expressing fear and doubt over the past couple of days. I think making this a partisan race was the smart thing to do, not just for Turner but for the downballot candidates – see my next post for more on that – but boy howdy would it have sucked to lose with that strategy. I’ll be very interested to see what the precinct numbers look like. Until then, congratulations to Mayor=elect Sylvester Turner. It was a lot of hard work getting here, and there’s a lot more hard work to come, but for now we can all take a deep breath and celebrate.

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One Comment

  1. […] how to answer is why did King do better on Election Day than he did in early voting, despite the expectations of some pundits? Turner clearly did a good job getting his voters out early. Maybe that’s all there was to […]