Houston Council District E is a Unique Race on the Ballot

(L to R): Lonnie Allsbrooks, Elizabeth Perez, Dave Martin
Houston Council District E wasn't supposed to come up for grabs for another two years.  But sitting Councilmember Mike Sullivan is running for Harris County Tax Assessor — and turned in his resignation early so the city wouldn't have to pay for a special election.

Three people are vying to take the seat for District E. Lonnie Allsbrooks pulls up to the diner where we're meeting in a red PT Cruiser emblazoned with campaign ads on the windows. Allsbrooks has spent most of his career in the hospitality industry as a bar and restaurant owner.

"I'm running now because District E is the area that I have a passion about. I grew up in District E. I grew up in an area that's not being recognized in District E, which is the east side of town and the North Shore. And I want to make sure that those people that live in the Pasadena part of District E, the southeast Houston, the east side, are being represented."

Allsbrooks currently lives in Kingwood. District E encompasses Kingwood and Clear Lake, with a skinny strip of southeast Houston in between. It includes the Johnson Space Center, Ellington Field and part of the Houston Ship Channel.

Dave Martin is another Kingwood-based candidate. He's the favorite in the race, with the endorsement of current Councilmember Mike Sullivan.

Martin has been on the Humble ISD school board since 2004 and an appointee to the Harris County Sports Authority, a position he recently resigned from as he's seeking city office.

"I think I can bring a lot of great ideas to the city. I want to work with Mayor Parker. Mayor Parker has been very kind to me with regards to reappointing me to the Sports Authority. I'm very appreciative of that. I want to work with her to get a lot of things accomplished within the district."

Martin's opponents have tried to label him as a career politician, a title which makes him visibly bristle.

"A career politician makes money, I have never taken a penny working on the school board. We don't get paid. So if that's my career, I haven't done a very good job of it."

Several miles from Martin's offices, Elizabeth Perez is an accountant who works from her home in the Hobby Airport area. Perez is driving me down Shaver street just off of I-45, showing me one of the more neglected parts of the district.

"Okay, right here you start seeing all these patches and you can see where the streets has been repaved a few times to address flooding issues and it's not being addressed by the city."

Perez says problem areas like this one are what prompted her to run for city council. She feels like Clear Lake and Kingwood get most of the attention.

"Because it's an older part of the district, it's oftentimes neglected. So they kind of feel, sadly to say, kind of like the elderly grandparent who has been forgotten because they're now elderly and everyone's busy doing their own thing. What I'm thinking is that if we were to address all of this infrastructure like... this is ridiculous. My seat is vibrating."

Perez thinks with some capital improvements, her part of town is ripe for economic investment. But most of the voters in District E live in Kingwood, where her opponents live.

Though Dave Martin is considered the frontrunner heading into the election, all three candidates are planning on the possibility of a run-off race.

In the meantime, they'll face each other tonight at a candidates' forum at UH-Clear Lake, hosted by current Councilmember Mike Sullivan.

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...