HOUSTON — Houston’s incumbent mayor won a second term on Saturday night, holding off a millionaire trial lawyer whose previous support of President Donald Trump had become one of the main campaign issues.
Mayor Sylvester Turner defeated Tony Buzbee during Saturday’s runoff election. Unofficial results released by the Harris County Clerk’s Office on Sunday morning show Turner capturing just over 56% of the vote. More than 200,000 votes were cast.
In seeking a second term, Turner touted guiding Houston through the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and reducing the city’s huge pension debt as some of his accomplishments.
It was the second mayoral runoff won by Turner, who was a longtime Texas Democratic legislator before taking the reins of Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city and one of the most racially and ethnically diverse in the country.
In 2015, Turner narrowly beat his runoff opponent by about 2 percentage points.
Turner and Buzbee ended up in the runoff as neither candidate got more than 50% of the vote during the Nov. 5 election, which featured 12 mayoral candidates.
Saturday’s runoff ended what had been a mostly bitter mayoral race.
While city elections are nonpartisan, Buzbee drew most of his support from Republicans while Turner’s backing came mostly from Democrats.
Turner had highlighted Buzbee hosting a fundraiser for Trump in 2016 and donating $500,000 to his presidential inauguration committee. Trump remains deeply unpopular in the mostly Democratic city.
“It’s getting increasingly hard for a Republican candidate, particularly one that was linked very closely with President Trump … to break through” in Houston, said Renee Cross, the senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.
Buzbee, a former Marine who made his fortune taking down big corporations in court, rejected partisan labels and denounced comparisons to Trump as “silly foolishness.” As a trial lawyer, Buzbee lavishly donated to both Republicans and Democrats.
He ran on a campaign of rooting out cronyism at City Hall and poured millions of his own fortune into the race. Buzbee portrayed Turner as a career politician who is beholden to special interest groups.
While the race leading up to the Nov. 5 vote was full of bluster between Turner and Buzbee, the campaigning during the runoff was more subdued.
“I expected it to be a little bit more lively. I think the candidates brought out everything they had on each other prior to Nov. 5,” Cross said.
Hip hop fans may have recognized one candidate in a runoff for a City Council seat, but being a part of a pioneering rap group wasn’t enough to get Brad Jordan elected. Jordan, better known as Scarface of The Geto Boys, lost in the runoff to Carolyn Evans-Shabazz.
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