Former At-Large Councilmember Jack Christie launched a campaign for Houston mayor on Wednesday, making a late entry into an increasingly crowded race to lead the city for the next four years.
Christie, a Republican, launched a website Wednesday and told supporters he would be the “sole fiscal conservative” in the race. Urban Reform, a Houston nonprofit, first shared the announcement on Twitter.
“Serving three terms as City Councilmember At-Large has prepared me to both protect our tax dollars from waste and protect our communities from crime,” Christie said in the statement. “Houston’s next mayor must be a fiscal conservative and I feel a duty to give a voice to thousands of Houstonians who know that to be true.”
Christie enters a crowded field that a recent poll found is dominated by longtime state Sen. John Whitmire and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, both Democrats. Other contenders include attorney Lee Kaplan, District I Councilmember Robert Gallegos, and former Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia. The field includes 16 candidates in all, making a December runoff likely.
City elections are nonpartisan, but the leading candidates are Democrats or left-leaning contenders. Christie, 74, will seek to consolidate Republicans, who make up about a third of the city electorate, and conservative-leaning voters.
Political analysts have expected Whitmire, a moderate who is running a crime-focused campaign, to pull in most of those voters. He has many GOP donors and supporters, including Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and real estate developer Richard Weekley.
Still, Christie said he saw a conservative lane as the field took shape.
“It changed the playing field where there was a possibility of a fiscal conservative winning because the two leaders will be fighting each other,” Christie said Wednesday. “I saw a winning play.”
It will be an uphill battle, according to Bob Stein, a professor of political science at Rice University. Stein said conservatives are perfectly content with Whitmire, and he thinks Christie will have difficulty raising money or garnering support.
“All that Jack can do is siphon votes away from John Whitmire,” Stein said.
Christie said he expects to peel many of Whitmire’s conservative backers into his fold, though he faces a steep financial disadvantage. In his last campaign finance report in 2019, he reported having under $3,000 in his account. Whitmire has nearly $10 million, and Garcia — also expected to pursue conservative voters — invested $3 million of his own money.
See here for the background. Gotta say, if I’m MJ Khan right now, I’m pretty upset that I didn’t even merit an “also in the race” mention. No respect, I tell ya.
I’m no more impressed by Christie’s candidacy than I was when his name first surfaced. I’ve said all along that I expected another Republican to enter the race, but I was thinking about more of a Dan Patrick type, not someone who could delude themselves into thinking they could win but who would provide someone that someone like them would want to vote for. Jack Christie, bless his heart, was being labeled a RINO during the George W. Bush administration. I don’t see him as someone who is going to generate a bunch of excitement.
That said, I do agree with Bob Stein that he’ll take some votes away from John Whitmire. The question is how many. If you quite reasonably believe that it’s a Whitmire/Jackson Lee runoff in the making, then it only really matters if it might affect Whitmire’s place in the top two. I think Christie would have to get to at least fifteen percent to maybe have an effect, and that depends in part on there being a third place person separating themselves from the rest of the pack. If he can get enough support that could be Christie himself, but to do that he’s going to need some money to get his name out there. I’m sure he can raise a few bucks, but part of the challenge for him is that by this time a lot of the regular donors are already spoken for. My guess is he writes himself a check, at least to get himself started. We’ll see what his 30-day report says. Houston Landing, whose story did mention MJ Khan, has more.