Sheila Jackson Lee is running for Houston mayor, 'wants to come home': 5 things to know
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is joining a crowded field to be the leader of Texas's largest city after serving decades in Congress.
“Sheila Jackson Lee wants to come home to be your mayor, for the city of Houston," Lee said in a video announcement posted Monday on Twitter.
"I will not be able to do it without each and every one of you.”
The 73-year-old lawmaker, a fiery progressive who has been in the House since 1995, will be among roughly a dozen contenders vying for the seat.
Houston's elections are nonpartisan, but seven out of 11 candidates are Democrats and Lee is almost assured to be at the top of the pack given her name recognition.
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"Let the fire start now," Lee said Sunday at City Cathedral Church.
Here are some things to know:
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee would make history
For starters, if Lee were to win that would make her the first Black woman to be mayor of Houston, which is the fourth largest city in the country.
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This bid comes as a time when the top four U.S. cities in the country — New York, L.A., Chicago and Houston — all have Black mayors.
There has been speculation for months that Lee, who coasted to victory in Texas's 18th congressional district, would run for mayor. And because the election is this year, she won't have to give up her House seat.
From Congress to City Hall?
Lee's candidacy, which has been rumored for months, is another example of a progressive firebrand in the House looking to leave Washington this year, and run for their top local office instead.
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The most high-profile example was last November when California Rep. Karen Bass broke barriers to be elected mayor of Los Angeles. She is L.A.'s first Black woman mayor after serving years in Congress.
Earlier this year, Illinois Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García made a bid for Chicago mayor, but he failed to advance in the February runoff.
Lee's decision is also a bit of a homecoming. She served for four years n the Houston city council in an at-large position, and previously as a municipal judge.
Lee supports federal police reform
Lee's decision to run is happening at a time when cities are at the forefront of the national political dialogue over violent crime, police abuse and home rule.
The Texas congresswoman has been outspoken about the need for changes to law enforcement in the wake of high-profiled police killings, such as the Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols cases.
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In 2021, she hosted some of Floyd’s relatives when supporting a reform package named in his honor (which failed to see daylight in Congress).
Lee renewed a call to pass those changes earlier in March when responding to findings from a federal investigation connected to Taylor's death of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
"All of these actions have been rejected by good police officers across the country," Lee said.
"That is why I renew my call for nationwide policing and public safety reform and working on the commitment to introduce federal legislation with my congressional colleagues."
Who else is running for Houston mayor?
The Houston mayoral contest to succeed incumbent Sylvester Turner, who is term-limited, has been underway months before Lee's entry.
It includes heavy-hitters in Texas politics, namely state Sen. John Whitmire, who is viewed as the early frontrunner and raked in early support from big name leaders, including an endorsement by Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a colleague of Lee.
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Great to be with friends at the 30th Anniversary Heroes Gala. Thank you to the Assist the Officer Foundation for everything they do for our officers who are injured or critically ill. pic.twitter.com/iTMV1TvlZu
— John Whitmire (@whitmire_john) March 26, 2023
Other candidates in the race are Amanda Edwards, a former City Council member; Robert Gallegos, a Houston City Council member; Gilbert Garcia, former chairman of the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority; and Chris Hollins, a former Harris County clerk.
Crime could matter most
Whitmire is known for being a moderate Democrat who works with the GOP in the Texas legislature, which could make for an uneasy pathway to win in a blue-leaning city such as Houston.
A Republican-leaning poll found 29% of Houston voters listed crime as the most important issue in 2023, followed by 15% who cited infrastructure and 10% who said it was affordable housing and homelessness.
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Whitmire has leaned into a tougher on crime approach leading up to the mayoral race, such as his call for requiring bail bond companies to collect 10% of a bail amount before a person is released from jail.
“No one should finance an armed robber or murder’s bond," Whitmire told a local TV station last November. "That just incentivizes them to go commit more crimes."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee running for mayor in Houston: What we know