A Radio Stop On Houston's Campaign Trail: Ben Hall For Mayor

2013 mayoral candidate Ben Hall [courtesy of Hall's campaign]
There are nine people running for Houston mayor this year — but only one of them is considered a viable challenger to Mayor Annise Parker. Ben Hall is an attorney — an ordained minister and — as he puts it — applying for the job of mayor of Houston.

At a candidates forum in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, Ben Hall is eager to introduce himself. 

"And now ... and now we have Benjamin Hall."

"Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Ben Hall."

At a trim 6'3", Hall towers over the other candidates as he pitches his ideas to the audience.

But his challenge is to do more than simply cut an impressive figure. He has to convince voters that he's a better choice than the woman who has been running the city already for four years.

"I'm not running against anyone for the office of mayor. I'm running for the position. And by doing so, what we're simply saying to the voter is that you have a choice."

If Hall sounds a bit rehearsed, it may be because he's been through nearly a dozen of these forums in the past two weeks.

After this forum ended, we sat at a nearby table for an interview. One on one, he's more jocular and relaxed, though still on message.

"So I'm stepping forward to tell the voters here are different ways forward. You can choose to stay on this path, or you can choose an alternative."

Hall says there's no allure for him in the title of mayor or the power that comes with the job. He says he's running because he's worried about the financial future of Houston.

"We have chronic difficulties that are under the water, as it were in the Titanic. You everybody wasn't looking underneath the water, they were looking at the wonderful dining rooms and ballrooms and so on. But under the water were jagged edges of icebergs and we have some chronic economic icebergs."

Hall mentions the city's $3 billion in unfunded pension obligations, and a potential budget shortfall next year of more than $80 million. He says Mayor Parker's policies do nothing to address these issues. 

He also mentions his late taxes.

"I fired both the bookkeeper and the accounting firm. But I have to take the blame. And the blame is I hired incompetent folks, but I don't take the blame that I didn't want to pay my taxes."

Hall says his late tax payments are just a distraction dusted up by Parker's campaign to draw attention away from the fact that she's already had 16 years in elected office with, as he puts it, no legacy to show for it.

He says his run for mayor is about wanting to lead a beautiful city to a brighter future.

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...