While I have nothing to vote for tomorrow, there are hot races in Pasadena and Pearland.
Changes in Pearland’s demographics have mirrored those in Houston, amplifying the effects of what this election will show, University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said.
“This election will tell us a lot about where the future of Houston will go and, therefore, where the future of Texas will go,” he said.
In the mayor’s race, 91-year-old incumbent Tom Reid faces a challenge from Quentin Wiltz, a 36-year-old project manager whom the mayor once recommended for a city park board position. In the council race, businessman and former city council member Woody Owens, 69, is running against 30-year-old pharmacist Dalia Kasseb, the first openly Muslim candidate for public office in Brazoria County history. She has never before run for elective office in the city, but Wiltz encouraged her run.
Owens says his past experience on council and professionally will be a benefit. He maintained that Pearland grew from a solid foundation and that the diverse city still has a united, small-town atmosphere. The campaign of the mayor, who has supported Owens, did not provide comment.
“We’re all Pearlanders,” Owens said.
Wiltz and Kasseb, who have been campaigning together, insist they have much to offer. They knocked on thousands of doors, they said, discussing with residents their ideas on mobility (HOV lanes, park and ride, a rail line), a nearby landfill that has been the subject of residents’ complaints and overall quality of life. They derided anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim social media posts that surfaced.
“Pearland has changed,” Wiltz said. “The challenges have changed.”
This one got a bit nasty, which may have helped generate some turnout. In May, there were 7,660 total votes cast. Early voting turnout for the runoff was 9,740 votes. I have no idea who that might benefit, but it’s interesting. Polling places for Pearland can be found here. I’ll report the results tomorrow.
There’s a more stark contrast in Pearland, both partisan and generational, which is less present in Pasadena.
In addition to the mayor’s race, voters will decide the District A council seat, where Felipe Villarreal and Daniel Vela are vying to represent part of the city’s north side.
The mayor’s race, however, is taking center stage as it marks a change from Isbell, who has led the city, off and on, for decades and now is term-limited.
“I want to give every candidate the benefit of the doubt,” said Cody Ray Wheeler, a councilman who frequently has butted heads with Isbell. “Whoever the next mayor is, I want to work with them.”
Wheeler ran unopposed for his District E seat during the May 6 election.
The runoff comes amid conflicts over racial tensions and access to the ballot box. Nearly two-thirds of city residents are Hispanic, up from less than one-third in 1990.
Moon, a commercial real estate agent and banker who grew up in Pasadena, is positioning himself as the candidate of change, a break from Isbell’s legacy.
“People want change,” Moon said. “They don’t want a continuation of the same, and I believe my opponent is a continuation of the same.”
Moon’s priorities include developing a multi-year capital improvement plan to spread infrastructure projects across the city, including streets and sidewalks. He wants to implement zero-based-budgeting for city departments to make them justify their spending. And he touts his credentials as chief financial officer of Moody Bank, based in Galveston, to help make shrewder financial decisions for the city.
Wagner did not respond to repeated requests for comment by email or phone. After a Pasadena city council meeting Tuesday, Wagner said he would meet a Houston Chronicle reporter outside, before exiting into a private room and reportedly leaving City Hall.
In campaign literature, Wagner touts his experience as a former Houston police officer and as a city councilman. He is widely seen as the candidate most aligned with Isbell.
Wagner and Moon also differ in their stances on the controversial voting rights lawsuit, which the city is appealing. Moon said he would stop the appeal, while Wagner said he would survey city council before making a decision.
As of Monday, according to the Harris County Clerk’s Office, 4,389 people had cast ballots during early voting. About 8,300 votes were cast during the May balloting.
You can find your polling place for Pasadena here. Wiltz and Kasseb in Pearland, and Villarreal in Pasadena are all Project LIFT candidates. One way or the other, there’s going to be some spin on these results.