Texas State Senator John Whitmer is expected to become the next mayor of Houston after defeating his rival, US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, in a special election runoff on Saturday.
Whitmer inherits a city facing many challenges, including crime, crumbling infrastructure and potential budget shortfalls. But despite these issues, booming growth over the past decade has transformed the nation’s fourth-largest city into an expanding Democratic stronghold in Texas.
Jackson Lee and Whitmer, both Democrats, reached Saturday’s runoff after outlasting a crowded field of about 20 candidates in the Nov. 7 general election.
Jackson Lee, 73, has represented Houston in Congress since 1995. Before that, she served on the Houston City Council.
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During the campaign, Jackson touted her years of experience bringing federal funding to Houston for flood relief, job training programs, and education.
“I want people to have confidence that once I get to work, I will have solutions and programs coming and answers coming,” she said.
Whitmer, 74, is one of Texas’ most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature, having helped push tough-on-crime policies while also portraying himself as a reformer during his 50 years in office.
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His campaign focused on reducing crime, improving streets, and reaching out across the political aisle.
“It’s going to be a tough job. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to reach out and bring people together, and we’re going to fix our infrastructure,” Whitmire said.
Whitmer spent heavily on Jackson Lee in the campaign. Her campaign also had to deal with the fallout from the release of an unverified audio recording in October that allegedly depicted her berating her staff with obscenities.
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Whitmer will replace Sylvester Turner, who served for eight years and cannot run again because of term limits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.