Race for the 18th District

With the March second primary just days away — there's a lot of attention focused on Texas's 18th Congressional District. It has long been held by Sheila Jackson Lee — but Houston councilmember Jarvis Johnson is a strong challenger who says it's time for a candidate who will take the position seriously. Laurie Johnson reports.

Jarvis Johnson is chatting with a couple dozen people at a campaign event in Montrose. He towers over most of the others, sharply dressed in a tailored suit — he's the kind of man who usually attracts attention.

Johnson, a three-term Houston councilmember, is counting on his name recognition and position in the community to give him a chance at unseating Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

"Let's be real. It's very hard to unseat an incumbent. But being an elected myself gave me not only the platform, but the availability and the access to the funders that then could bring the type of money that we needed to be able to make a serious challenge to a 16-year incumbent."

He's also counting on dissatisfaction among voters. In the 18th district, which includes much of Houston's inner city
as well as areas to the north of town, Johnson says he's heard from thousands of constituents in the who say they want a new voice in Washington.

"If leadership is not there for you, why should you be there for them? She has been late to many debates, she has chosen not to show up to others. And this is the kind of behavior that we can't continue to accept."

It seems like a long shot for anyone to take on Jackson Lee, who has served in Congress for four terms.
But Johnson says experience and effectiveness aren't the same thing.

"Leadership is marked by what you have done, not what you're promising to do. It's not marked by unfulfilled promises. And we want to be able to demonstrate the work that we've already done as a city councilmember for District B in creating more job opportunities, in creating better sustainable housing and then certainly being a strong champion for young children and families."

Johnson says he wants the chance to address ongoing issues specific to the 18th Congressional district — including the rising drop out rate and the number of people entering the penal system.

Tomorrow at this time, Congresswoman Jackson Lee's thoughts on the campaign and what she brings to the district.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...