May 11, 2003
And then there were three

Orlando Sanchez has finally made it official by announcing his entry into the 2003 Houston Mayoral race.

The former City Council member has been courted by the White House to run for Congress. State officials have talked with him about an appointment to the Texas Railroad Commission.

Sanchez has taken two new jobs, one with an investment group and another with an accounting firm. He's joined boards of local companies and institutions.

In short, Sanchez, a Republican, has become a hot property since he fell 10,702 votes shy of becoming the first Hispanic mayor of Houston at a time when the GOP is courting that growing section of the population.

Despite the many opportunities that have come his way, one thing has remained constant since Sanchez delivered his concession speech before a packed crowd of supporters at the Hotel Derek in December 2001.

Sanchez's steel blue eyes -- which were highlighted in some of his 2001 campaign advertising -- have been focused on the 2003 mayor's race.

"I knew, standing in that podium, looking at the crowd, that I would run again in 2003," Sanchez said. "It's what I want to do and be. When I start something, I stick to it."

Monday, after months of speculation, Sanchez will officially kick off his campaign to replace Brown, who has served six years and is term-limited.

"Sanchez's steel blue eyes", eh? Never knew John Williams got his start writing Harlequin Romances.

Anyway, to answer Kevin's question, I think it's good news and bad news for Sanchez so far. The bad news is that I truly believe he's lost some momentum to Bill White and Michael Berry. I'm already seeing a lot of White and Berry yard signs and bumper stickers. Every one of the Berry signs, and probably a few of the White signs, belongs to a voter that Sanchez will wish he had in November. I think Sanchez has some ground to make up, despite his coronation as frontrunner.

There's also going to be a fair bit of pressure on Sanchez this time around. I think if he loses again, his political career is in serious jeopardy. In addition, I'm sure the state and national GOP would like nothing more than to highlight a high-profile win by a Hispanic candidate. As the article notes, he can't just run as the not-Lee-Brown candidate this time. I remain a bit surprised that he's been so much out of the limelight since 2001. If he's been developing ideas and themes for this election, he hasn't been forthcoming with them yet.

On the plus side, both Sylvester Turner and Bill White have had to deal with distracting issues they can't control. Turner's law firm represents the Houston Rockets, which means Turner is caught up in the current unpleasantness, in which minority leaders are threatening to boycott the team over owner Les Alexander's alleged backtracking on promises about minority participation in the construction and operation of the new basketball arena. If Turner suffers an electoral backlash as a result of his ties to Alexander, he not only has no shot at the runoff, he may wind up in last place.

Turner also has to worry about a special Legislative session being called in August to finish passing a budget. There are a lot of big bills still being debated, and there are only three weeks left in the regular session. If he has to head back to Austin later in the summer, his campaign may never really get off the ground.

Meanwhile White, who has made transportation his main campaign issue, has had to thread the needle with Metro, whose recent regional mobilty proposal would end road subsidies for the cities it serves, and potential supporters like former Mayor Bob Lanier, who think ending the subsidy is a bad idea. White doesn't absolutely depend on a successful Metro referendum to succeed, but he'll be way better off if he's in harmony with them. Sanchez, an avowed build-more-roads candidate, can sit back and take pot shots while Metro gets its act together.

For now, I'm more inclined to believe the poll that Bill White recently took, which has Sanchez with an 27-22 lead over White (with Turner getting 15 and Berry 8) rather that Berry's bizarre poll. I don't think polls will really mean anything until Turner's status is formalized, though.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 11, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack