A lot of what’s in here is stuff we already know. I want to focus on this bit from later on:
“I think both Whitmire and Jackson Lee are kind of institutions in town, so the fact that there could be two open seats — a state Senate and a congressional seat, which is rare — I think there’s going to be a lot of people lining up to get into those races,” said Michael Kolenc, a Houston-based Democratic strategist who is not working for any of the candidates. “I think candidates would be wise to look at the calendar and start early.”
The toughest scenario may be if the mayoral runoff falls after the filing deadline for the 2024 primary, meaning Whitmire and Jackson Lee could have to decide whether to seek reelection before knowing the outcome of the mayoral race. The last time there was a mayoral runoff in Houston — in 2019 — it came five days after the filing deadline for the following year’s primaries.
Under a law passed during the latest regular legislative session, House Bill 357, the runoff would have to fall on a Saturday between 30 and 45 days after the November election. That leaves two options, Dec. 9 and 16 — one date falling before the filing deadline and the other after.
At least two Democrats have launched campaigns for Senate District 15. The first in was Karthik Soora, a renewable energy developer, followed by Molly Cook, an emergency room nurse who challenged Whitmire in the 2022 primary, receiving 42% of the vote as Whitmire’s only opponent.
Both Cook and Soora say they are running regardless of what Whitmire decides to do.
“I’ve had this conversation with a million people, but for me it makes no difference at all,” Cook said in an interview, adding that she “never stopped running” after her 2022 campaign.
Both indicate they would bring a more progressive perspective to the seat than Whitmire.
“I think that what we see with the Texas Legislature, with the attorney general’s impeachment, is that people are sick of this establishment that’s not serving them,” Soora said in an interview, pitching himself as a “real Democrat.”
As for Jackson Lee’s seat, she has held it since first winning election in 1994, when she beat former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington in the Democratic primary. It was last open in 1989, when Washington won a special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland.
Edwards is the most prominent Democrat already running for Jackson Lee’s seat. The former Houston City Council member and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate was running for mayor until she dropped out In June, switched to the congressional race and endorsed Jackson Lee for mayor.
“I do think Congresswoman Jackson Lee can win the race and certainly anticipate that her seat will be the one that becomes open,” Edwards said. Still, she added, she “will remain in the CD-18 race even if Congresswoman Jackson Lee decides to pursue CD-18 again.”
Edwards has already raised more than $600,000 for her congressional campaign and has been endorsed by Higher Heights for America PAC, a national political action committee that works to elect Black progressive women. The group has also endorsed Jackson Lee for mayor.
First, let me remind everyone that there would be special elections in either or both of these districts, depending on whether the loser in the runoff (yes, I’m assuming it will be a Whitmire/SJL runoff) also steps down from their existing post. Some of that action would happen right around the same time as the 2024 primary. It will be a huge pileup no matter how you look at it.
Now then. We knew already that Karthik Soora and Molly Cook intended to stay in the SD15 primary regardless of what happens. One might be a little surprised to hear Amanda Edwards being so forthright about intending to run in CD18 regardless of Rep. Jackson Lee’s status, but that was the whole point of jumping straight into CD18 once she departed the Mayor’s race. It’s still early and things can happen, but I’m taking them all at their word.
The factor that I was not aware of before now was this new law affecting when the runoff date may be. As far as I can tell by looking at the text, there are two differences. One is that the runoff must be at least 30 days after the election, not 20; the maximum time is 45 days after the election. The other is that the Secretary of State sets the runoff date; I can’t tell from the existing law who had that power before; maybe it was the City Secretary.
I don’t think this changes a lot, in the sense that the usual runoff date for city elections has been the second Saturday of December. That would be December 9 this year, which is two days before the primary filing deadline of December 11. The point is that the runoff could also be on December 16, in which case Whitmire and Jackson Lee would have to decide about 2024 before they know about 2023. I don’t know why the runoff date would be a week later than usual, but it could be, and so we have to consider it.
As to other candidates jumping in, that’s certainly a possibility, but keep in mind that for many potential candidates, to do so would mean giving up the seat they currently have. State Reps would have to file for something other than their current office. Houston City Council members would have to resign to run. That at least puts up some obstacles for a number of serious potential contenders. I agree with Michael Kolenc that anyone who doesn’t already have some resources available to them needs to get started soon, as both Edwards and the SD15 contenders have a head start. I just don’t know offhand who those folks might be.