This is the sixth in a series of profiles on the top candidates running for mayor in Houston.
Standing in his sparse west Houston office this summer, Marty McVey traced his route to victory across a city map hung on the wall.
The long-shot mayoral candidate began around the edges, pointing to the predominantly minority districts along the city’s southwestern border, before circling in toward downtown.
“I do see a path,” said McVey, 41, who has never held elected office and raised just $60,000 in the first half of the year, though he loaned himself another nearly $1.1 million.
In a city where the political world often feels so small, McVey is the odd exception: an investor who, when he arrived on the local Democratic fundraising scene about a decade ago, was unknown to many of Houston’s longtime political players.
His candidacy, too, took some by surprise.
“He’s been kind of a mystery man,” said former City Councilman Gordon Quan, for whom McVey previously fundraised.
This outsider status is one McVey touts, pitching himself as a businessman with the financial acumen required to spur Houston’s economic development and tackle its looming $126 million budget deficit.
“I see that we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions, and I’ve been through tough decisions,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve helped companies to turn around and be successful, and I’ve seen the best and worst of a lot of financial situations.”
On the campaign trail, McVey advocates for filling city coffers, in part by bringing more businesses and residents to Houston, though the city’s revenue cap limits how much it can collect in property taxes from that new growth.
He supports issuing bonds to cover the city’s unfunded pension liability – a core issue in this year’s campaign – and often addresses budget gaps with vague references to getting more federal funding.
Throughout, McVey cites his experience creating and saving companies.
“I know what risk is. I know how to manage. I know how to look for opportunities,” McVey said at a recent mayoral forum.
Yet McVey declined to comment on the specifics of many of his investments and companies, saying they were private, and a recent child support case shows his monthly resources were $2,500 as of December 2014.
I’ve met McVey, but in keeping with the theme of this story I don’t really know him – I certainly don’t know him as well as the other candidates, and had never heard of him before he announced his candidacy – so I learned a lot from reading this. McVey has a lot of business experience, but it’s not clear how much any of that experience bolsters his case for Mayor. Honestly, and it gives me no great joy to say this, I don’t know what the case for McVey is. As a first-time candidate who wasn’t particularly well-known to begin with, he has no obvious base of support, and he doesn’t check off any box that Chris Bell doesn’t. He’s loaned himself a million bucks – and again, let’s be honest, that’s what separates him from the “minor” candidates – but he hasn’t spent much if any of that money introducing himself to voters. He could start spending it now, but I doubt there’s enough time to make a difference, and unlike a certain other unknown businessman Mayoral candidate who (at first at least) wrote his own check, he wouldn’t have the airwaves to himself. People run for offices for their own reasons, and in my experience most of those reasons are good. McVey’s reasons for running are honorable. I just don’t know what he expects to get out of the experience at this point.