Houstonians Vote For Change
by: Laurie Johnson, December 12, 2011 8:12:00 pm
With just four races on the ballot and only two of them open to all Houston voters, it may not be surprising that turnout was so low.
But the few voters who did show up did something that doesn't often happen in Houston politics. They ousted two incumbents — Jolanda Jones and Brenda Stardig — in favor of newcomers Jack Christie and Helena Brown.
Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein has been watching city hall for many years.
"Brenda Stardig did a lot of very successful and important things in the district, particularly demolition of abandoned apartments. But that simply did not weigh as much — her vote was very negatively related to support for the drainage fee and support for the mayor. Jolanda I think was simply a more vocal and actually more reliable supporter of the mayor than she may have seemed to (be), but again Jack Christie and others made it very clear that she was a candidate with great controversy."
Stein says the results don't necessarily suggest voters are dissatisfied with all of city council. But he says voters are sending a message to Mayor Annise Parker about her administration and policies.
"I think it's a case of where the administration has not been able to get its message out. The mayor tries, but they're simply not very effective at it and I think this is what shows up — voters are dissatisfied with some incumbents."
And Stein says with so many new people on council, the mayor will have to work harder to build coalitions.
"I look to see some type of leadership emerge. It may have to come from the council, because it's not obvious that the mayor and her staff have been able to put together consistent winning coalitions on a range of issues, that for all intents and purposes everyone on council supports."
The new councilmembers, including those who won seats in the November election, will be sworn in on January 3.
Jolanda Jones and elected newcomer Jack Christie Brenda Stardig and elected newcomer Helena Brown