Voters to choose between US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire for Houston mayor

HOUSTON– Two of Houston's most powerful and longest-serving political titans will face off Saturday in the mayoral race to see who will lead the nation's fourth-largest city, a young and diverse metro area facing challenges such as crime, crumbling infrastructure and possible budget deficits.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sen. John Whitmire, both Democrats, advanced to Saturday's runoff after storming past a crowded field of nearly two dozen candidates in the Nov. 7 general election.

If elected, 73-year-old Jackson Lee would be Houston's first black female mayor. She has represented Houston in Congress since 1995 and previously served on the Houston City Council.

Whitmire, 74, is one of Texas' most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature, where he helped implement tough-on-crime policies and established himself as a reformer during his five decades.

His campaign focused on reducing crime, improving the streets and reaching across the political spectrum.

“It will be a tough job. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm going to bring people together and we're going to fix our infrastructure,” Whitmire said earlier this week.

Jackson has touted her years of experience bringing federal funding to Houston for flood relief, job training programs and education, while reaching voters.

“I want people to have confidence that once I get going, solutions will come, programs will come, answers will come,” Jackson Lee said this week.

Jackson Lee was heavily spent by Whitmire and her campaign also faced fallout from the October release of an unverified audio recording alleging she cursed her staff profanely.

Booming growth over the past decade has created municipal problems, but it has also made the Houston area a growing stronghold for Texas Democrats.

The new mayor will face new laws from the Republican Party-led state government on control of local elections and the ability to impose local regulations.

Whichever candidate wins will be the oldest major city mayor in the US. Jackson Lee of Whitmire will lead a city that is getting younger, with an average age of about 35 and with 25% of the population under 18, according to census figures.

The new mayor will replace Sylvester Turner, who served eight years and can no longer run for office due to term limits.


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