Navigating The Crowded Field Of City Candidates
by: Laurie Johnson, November 1, 2011 9:11:00 pm
In addition to ten state constitutional amendments and the mayor's race, there are 16 City of Houston council seats on the ballot, along with newly drawn districts. Most of them are currently held by incumbents, but five seats are open races with all new candidates.
Pierpont Communications Political Analyst Nancy Sims says Houston voters shouldn't expect to go into the ballot booth and recognize the names.
"We've added two council seats, due to the census data that came through in 2010. And so we have two new seats that previously have never elected anyone and they're carved out of previously existing districts. And in fact, voters throughout the city may find themselves in a different council district than they had previously been in, due to redistricting."
Even if you're still in the same council district, many of the races are hotly contested. If you live in District B, for example, there are eight candidates vying for the seat left open by term-limited Councilmember Jarvis Johnson. At-Large Position 2, which everyone votes for, has ten candidates.
Sims says she thinks several races will result in run-off elections, including At-Large 5 Councilmember Jolanda Jones.
"She's been through several investigations. She's a very outspoken member of council and I think also in her last election she just barely eked out a win. So I think people saw her as vulnerable and they have taken her on. You've got Laurie Robinson who's a very strong contender and Jack Christie, also a strong contender."
Early voting numbers indicate this election isn't getting much attention from Houstonians.
Linda Cone is president of the League of Women Voters Houston area chapter. She says Houston is electing an entire city council and voters need to take the election seriously.
"We believe that in a democracy nothing beats a good swift kick to the ballot box. If you want to see something changed, if you want to reinforce something that you like, the ballot box is the way to do that. We who are privileged to live in a thriving democracy have to take care of the nuts and bolts of government."
The League of Women Voters provides a nonpartisan voters guide, which includes information about the candidates and the ten constitutional amendments.
"Those ten constitutional amendments on the ballot are a beast to go through. Don't walk into the voting booth thinking that you're going to be able to read the ballot language and be able to make a decision."
The only uncontested races in Houston are for City Controller and Council District E, with incumbents Ron Green and Mike Sullivan running for reelection in their respective races.