Endorsement watch: Sticking with SJL

The Chron, in what I believe is its final endorsement of interest for this cycle, stays with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Jackson Lee, Espinosa told us, “has a track record of really stepping in for families.”

That record rarely shows up in the Congressional record, where the congresswoman is consistently ranked one of the most effective lawmakers. But what really makes her effective is her seniority, her institutional know-how, and her ability to get the right person on the phone when her constituents need it — whether it’s opening an emergency warming shelter in northeast Houston during a hard freeze or making sure a grieving grandson can make his evening flight.

That’s why we are sticking with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and encourage voters to do the same.

We did not meet with Robert Slater, whose fundraising numbers suggest he’s not a viable candidate in this competitive race.

But the other competitor in this primary cannot be written off. The impressive Amanda Edwards, 42, is the first real threat to Jackson Lee since she took office since 1994. Edwards’ policy chops and savvy (she’s a municipal finance attorney) made her a standout on Houston City Council. She was also out in the community fixing up homes after Hurricane Harvey.

Edwards was hailed as a rising star in 2019, when she stepped down from City Council. But since then, she’s struggled in elections: First she got buried in a crowded primary race for U.S. senator in 2020. Then, after she entered the Houston mayor’s race, Jackson Lee jumped into it at the last minute, undermining Edwards’ likely sources of support. Edwards dropped out of the mayor’s race, and ran for what appeared to be Jackson Lee’s open congressional seat.

If Jackson Lee had won the mayor’s race, Edwards would have been a shoo-in for this seat. But of course, Jackson Lee didn’t win. And now she wants to keep her old seat.

There’s a chance that Jackson Lee’s mayoral loss has hurt her enough to leave the door open for Edwards. In this race, Edwards has raised far more money than Jackson Lee. The younger candidate has, it seems, used that money in part for glossy campaign videos that present her as the candidate with a fresh perspective with deep Houston roots, ready to take the torch.

On policy issues, there’s little difference between the two candidates. And in a few areas, including technology, we even believe Edwards would be the better policymaker. She wants to think about systems — whether immigration or disaster recovery or health care — to get things done more efficiently. In our meeting, she recalled her father’s battle with cancer: “I happen to be someone who, at a very early age, witnessed systemic breakdowns,” she said.

Most elections, as others have noted, boil down to “Experience matters” versus “It’s time for a change”. That is entirely the choice here, and I understand anyone making either one. (Those who will vote for Slater, I have to ask: What election did you think you were voting in?) You can listen to my interview with Amanda Edwards here; I trust you know enough about Rep. Jackson Lee to do without an interview, though I did try to get you one. As I noted before, my gut says that Rep. Jackson Lee will win, but it won’t be easy and I won’t be shocked if this intuition is wrong. If there’s any polling data out there, I am unaware of it.

In re: SJL’s mayoral debacle maybe hurting her in the CD18 primary, Campos (a big Whitmire booster) thinks it should. I disagree – I don’t think this Mayoral election was nastier in any way than others were. That’s partly because SJL had no money in the runoff, which contributed to her margin of defeat and quite likely the lack of nastiness, since she had no budget for any scurrilous attacks, at least of the old fashioned kind. That same lack of resources might be keeping this race on the civil side as well; there are plenty of Edwards ads out there, but they’re all about her. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

Further reading: this Trib story about the CD18 primary. Much of it is ground we have covered here – the Mayor’s race and its timing, Edwards’ fundraising advantage, that recording of SJL berating staffers – but this bit was of interest:

The runoff election for the Houston mayor’s race stretched over nine congressional districts overlapping Harris County. Jackson Lee beat Whitmire among voters in her own district but only by a narrow two-point margin. Vincent Sanders, a Harris County Democratic Party precinct chair, said that’s a signal that the congresswoman could be vulnerable.

“It did show some cracks in that solid image of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee,” he said. “That’s kind of where we are and it did show that she was somewhat vulnerable,” he said.

Jackson Lee’s battle to retain her seat is made tougher by 2021 redistricting, Sanders said. because the 18th district now inhabits more young white professionals who do not have the same level of loyalty to her as longtime district residents.

“A lot will come down, I think, to turnout and particularly the ability of Edwards to turn out younger voters and Anglo voters, because if the turnout is predominantly African American and older, that’s going to benefit Congresswoman Jackson Lee,” [Rice poli sci prof Mark] Jones said.

There’s something to what Vincent Sanders says, though again I think her lack of money for the runoff needs to be taken into account. No money means no ground game. I firmly believe that one reason SJL scored fewer votes in December than in November is that she didn’t have the resources needed to remind her voters that they needed to get back out there and vote again. Job #1 in any election is to make sure everyone you want to vote for you knows there’s an election and that you’re in it. Hard to do when you don’t have any money.

But again, we’ll see. The rest of that story reminds us that while Edwards has scored some nice endorsements, SJL still has tons of institutional support, and that will carry some weight in a primary. We’ll know soon enough.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Election 2024 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Endorsement watch: Sticking with SJL

  1. Joshua Bullard says:

    Amanda Edwards 50.4% for the win march 5th

  2. Pingback: That other guy in CD18 drops out and endorses SJL | Off the Kuff

Comments are closed.