The December 14th Joint Runoff Election is less than a week away and once all the votes are tallied, we will know which individuals were chosen by the voters in the City of Houston to represent them at Houston City Hall.
On the ballot, the race for Houston’s Mayor will be decided, along with the 11 City Council seats that are being contested and Houston Community College Trustee seats and Houston Independent School District seats.
As the Houston Forward Times previously reported, the District B race was left off the Dec. 14 ballot because of a lawsuit that was filed by the third-place finisher, which has caused that race to be decided in a special election in the near future.
Of course, Early Voting for the runoff election has already begun. Each candidate is doing everything they can to get their base voters back out to the polls. An interesting and potentially historic dynamic could come from these elections, is that for the first time ever, the City of Houston can have seven African Americans serving on Houston City Council at the same time. Those African American candidates are in some tough battles, but each race is uniquely different and are definitely too close to call at this point.
Martha Castex-Tatum already won re-election to her District K seat, but the other races that feature African American candidates are as followed:
In the District D race, which is being vacated by Council Member Dwight Boykins who decided to run for Houston Mayor, Houston Community College Trustee Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and legendary Houston hip-hop legend Brad ‘Scarface’ Jordan are squaring off against one another. In the District F race, former Alief ISD Trustee Tiffany Thomas faces Van Huynh and in the District J race, Edward Pollard faces Sandra Rodriguez. In the At-large Position 1 race, incumbent Mike Knox faces off with Raj Salhotra. In the At-Large Position 2 race, incumbent David Robinson faces Willie R. Davis. City Council Member Michael Kubosh is going up against Janaeya Carmouche. In the At-Large Position 4 race being vacated by Council Member Amanda Edwards, who decided to throw her name in the hat for U.S. Senate, former U.S. Congressional candidate Letitia Plummer faces Anthony Dolcefino. In the At-Large Position 5 race to fill the seat of term-limited Council Member Jack Christie, Sallie Alcorn faces Eric Dick.
Being an African American should not be the driving factor as to whether a person is qualified to be elected to office, it oftentimes is amongst many voters, particularly African American voters, which is why many in the Black community are crying foul over what they consider to be a deceptive mailer that was only sent to Black voters in select districts.
On one side of the mailer, which states it is from an entity called Harris County Black Democratic News, they include pictures of “Current Elected Officials” such as: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Tax Assessor Ann Bennett, Congressman Al Green, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Sen. Borris Miles, Rep. Harold Dutton, Rep. Alma Allen, Rep. Shawn Thierry, Rep. Jarvis Johnson, Rep. Garnet Coleman, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Commissioner Rodney Ellis. The entity also includes a huge picture of former President Barack Obama, with a quote that is being attributed to him, stating:
“I think it is very important for all the candidates who are running at every level to pay some attention to where voters actually are and how they can actually think about their lives.”
Doesn’t sound like an issue right? Wrong.
On the flip side of the mailer, Harris County Black Democratic News proudly declares they were making an “Endorsement Announcement” where they include their endorsements for many of the contested races on the Dec. 14 ballot.
They choose several candidates, mostly Black, as their endorsed candidates, but several elected officials took offense to their names and images being used on a political mailer, which gives the allusion that they are endorsing those candidates as well.
Sen. Borris Miles was one of the first to release a statement condemning the mailer.
“I am outraged that anyone would try to trick and mislead the citizens of Houston,” Sen. Miles said in a statement. “Let me be clear, I am not nor have I ever endorsed Eric Dick or Willie Davis. I have never been a part of Harris County Black Democratic News and took no part to be included in their mail piece.”
Many in the black community have stated they feel the mailer was deliberately created to confuse and possibly deceive Black voters and was used as a partisan tool to get traditional Democratic voters to support candidates who are traditionally aligned with and supported by the Republican Party.
The person responsible for the mailer, is an African American named Phillip Paul Bryant. On Monday, December 2nd, Bryant took to Facebook to explain his actions and share his thoughts on people calling his actions deceptive and unethical. Bryant stated:
“I personally think its funny that political insiders and a group of white people are upset that nine elected black democrat precinct chairs created a black publication called “Harris County Black Democratic News”! Some people get scared when black people organized, but we did, and “we” decided who “we” thought would best serve our community! We have the power and resources to pick our own leaders and we will. Secondly, only a racist, thinks that when they see something nice a white person must be behind it, a rich white man must have paid for it, that blacks can’t fund things themselves, don’t believe the lies!! When I started Phil Paul BBQ, the new & used bookstore, Houston Church News, the tax office, the pre-owned car dealership, Churcho, and Phil Paul Charities there was no rich white person giving me money, it was just me, and now there are nine of us. Thirdly, since when does a news organization have to get permission to use a public photo from elected officials or anyone when they are releasing information about? Personally we wanted to promote our beautiful Black Elected Officials, at the same time show readers how good it would look to have more black elected officials. In the case of At Large 5 City of Houston, both candidates are White, both have been endorsed by Republican groups, and the 9 Black Democratic Precinct Chairs decided to endorse Eric Dick, verses the racist Sallie Alcorn. Going forward, we will require our elected officials to focus more on fixing their communities, verses getting their buddies elected!”
Local Democrat Nata Koerber responded to Bryant’s comments on Facebook, stating:
“You DON’T have the right to use an elected officals’ image in an endorsement piece. But thank you for announcing yourself as a ruthless opportunist. NOT A TRUE DEMOCRAT…..The mail piece makes it crystal clear these REPUBLICAN candidates KNOW they cannot win votes or these endorsements on their own merit. SO they used the elected officials images to give them the credibility they lack. Typical Republicans. They can’t get it on their own so they lie, cheat or steal.”
Another person, Durrel K. Douglas, chimed in and gave a different take on the situation, stating he did not see any difference between what Bryant did and what many of these organizations do when it comes to soliciting an endorsement. Douglas stated:
“How is this any different than when candidates buy “memberships” en mass 30 days before the org vote—essentially buying the endorsement. I’m not saying it’s “right,” just pointing out what appears obvious to me. Even if it’s as some in this post claim, this org and it’s processes are no different than a lot of political organizations. Probably going to get fined for not putting a disclaimer though. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m pointing to the fact that this is similar to what so many other orgs do, just without the pomp and circumstance of a big meeting and props. People are in an uproar because it appears someone outside of “the clique” is playing the game that’s been played for years in Houston—sending mailers to those who are likely to fill out their mail-in ballot. When I first started peeling back the layers of the whole Russia investigation, my first thought was “People aren’t dumb enough to fall for the okey doke… they’ll do their research, and good will prevail.” I was wrong. So many of us are waiting on a slate card, or a group, to tell us who to vote for… and we’re likely to believe whatever we’re told without doing due-diligence. We’ve reached a tipping point. If our democracy has been watered down to an annual popularity contest based on name recognition and proximity to members of “the clique,” our system is broken. It would mean that our electoral process can be easily bought with last-minute “memberships,” or donations from electeds. If you go and look back through the donations and expenses of your favorite group, you’d be shocked to find 4 figure donations from a few candidates—and that’s not what it used to be. If you look through the books of your favorite local non profit, it’s likely the same way…and perhaps that’s how we’ve reached a point where Trump is in office. A few people are pulling the puppet strings of our democracy. So many Americans have been so far removed from the process that it doesn’t take much to tip the scale. I don’t wish for a Houston politics scene where people can’t send mailers with existing elected officials on it…Instead my wish is for a Houston political scene savvy enough to read between the lines. I’ll say this: I have NEVER made a choice on a ballot based on a slate/mailer. Ever.”
It will be interesting to see if this political mailer will be effective or not, but it does say a lot if some people believe that this type of marketing to the Black community is acceptable behavior. More importantly, it says even more if the Black community allows this type of activity to sway their decisions when it comes to who they vote for.
It is important that every voter in the City of Houston be aware of who is on their ballot and not be manipulated and deliberately deceived. It is important that every candidate for elected office put forth their best effort to connect with eligible voters and it is important for voters to do their research and not just vote for someone because a group put their picture on a flyer and told you vote for them.
The Houston Forward Times will be sure to share the results of this historic Dec. 14 Joint Runoff Election and we strongly encourage you to make your vote count and be a part of that history.