The city of Houston has elected two African American mayors in its 186-year history.
The first, Mayor Lee P. Brown, was elected mayor of Houston in 1997. Mayor Brown served the maximum of three terms at the time, from 1998 to 2004.
The second, Mayor Sylvester Turner, currently sits in the city’s highest seat after being elected in 2015. He took office in 2016 and during that 2015 election, voters also approved the Proposition 2 charter amendment, which changed Houston’s term limits from three 2-year terms to two 4-year terms. Mayor Turner went on to win re-election for his second 4-year term in 2019.
As Mayor Turner nears the end of his second term next year, voters in the city of Houston will go to the polls to decide who they want to represent them as their new mayor in 2023.
The question is: Will the City of Houston elect its third African American Mayor in 2023?
So far, there have been four individuals who have thrown their name in the ring and have announced their intentions to become the next mayor of the city of Houston. Three of those four individuals are African American.
Let’s learn a little more about each African American candidate who has announced their candidacy, in chronological order.
Chris Hollins announced that he is running for Houston mayor on February 7th.
Most Houstonians might recognize Hollins because of his role as the former Harris County District Clerk, where he became recognized nationally during the 2020 elections for implementing several initiatives that increased voter turnout in record numbers and helped expand voting opportunities for voters in the Greater Houston area during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Hollins instituted drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting, online mail ballot tracking, and tripled the number of early voting centers, while dealing with the legal challenges brought forth by opponents of his efforts. His initiatives are what led to the heavily criticized voting rights bill, SB 1, that was passed this past legislative session here in Texas. Hollins was the youngest person and first African American to ever hold the position of Harris County District Clerk.
Hollins graduated from Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas, and went on to attend Morehouse College where he graduated magna cum laude with his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 2007. Following graduation, he went on to complete a joint program with Yale Law School and Harvard Business School, earning both his Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration degrees.
Hollins has an impressive resume. He is currently in private law practice as the Principal Attorney at Hollins Law Group PLLC., but he has worked for many distinguished professional service firms, such as Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company. In 2009, Hollins was chosen to serve as one of approximately 100 White House interns for President Barack Obama. As a White House intern, he worked in the Office of Presidential Personnel which oversees the selection process for presidential appointments. Hollins has served as the Vice Chair of the Texas Democratic Party and after his tenure as Harris County District Clerk, he was appointed to sit on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.
He has never been elected to public office as a candidate.
Next on the list is former Marine veteran and current law enforcement official Robin Williams.
Williams announced her candidacy on February 13th and touts her military career as her greatest asset.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Williams decided to enlist in the military immediately after graduating high school. She served on Active Duty from 2011 to 2015 and continued to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 2015 to 2018, eventually receiving an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps. While enlisted, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. After her military career, Williams began working for the American Red Cross as an assistant manager in the international social services department and was also over the veteran program at the Michael E. Debakey AV Medical Center. Williams eventually began a career in law enforcement here in Texas. While working for the police department, she earned her master’s degree in criminal management and justice administration.
Last on the list of African American candidates that have formally announced is Amanda Edwards.
Edwards announced on March 23rd that she is running for Houston mayor in 2023.
Edwards is a former At-Large Position 4 Houston City Councilmember, who decided to leave office after one term to run for the U.S. Senate against Senator John Cornyn in 2020.
Edwards attended Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. She worked for U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee before earning her law degree from Harvard. She served as a judicial clerk for U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in New Orleans, before returning to Houston in 2008. Before becoming a Houston City councilmember, Edwards worked as an attorney for Vinson & Elkins and Bracewell, with a focus on municipal finance law, which she dealt with on council. During her single, 4-year term on Houston City Council, Edwards served as vice chair of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee and focused on other matters.
In an arena where name identification and recognition is important, coupled with experience and the ability to fundraise, she will definitely be a factor come November 2023.
The other widely known candidate who announced his intention to run for mayor in 2023 back in November, is current Texas Senator John Whitmire, who is touted as the longest-serving member of the Texas Senate. Senator Whitmire has served as Texas Senator for Texas Senate District 15 since 1983, after having served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives for 10 years.
Senator Whitmire is originally from Hillsboro, Texas, and ended up moving to Houston and graduating from Waltrip High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston and went on to attend the Bates College of Law, which earned him a law degree. Senator Whitmire currently serves as attorney of counsel to the law firm Locke Lord LLP.
Whitmire is also a major player due to his $11 million war chest and his experience and name identification and recognition.
Becoming mayor of Houston is not easy, especially if you are African American.
Mayor Brown was elected to his first term in 1997 by garnering 52% of the vote in a runoff election against Robert Mosbacher, Jr., and went on to overwhelmingly win his second term in 1999 by 67% of the vote. The year 2001 was different, in that Mayor Brown barely survived a runoff against Orlando Sanchez, where Mayor Brown won by an approximate 3% margin.
Fast forward to Mayor Turner, and you will find a man who ran three times for the highest seat in the city of Houston, with the third time being a charm in 2015.
Mayor Turner had previously run for the opportunity to become Houston’s first African American mayor in 1991 but lost to Bob Lanier. He ran again in 2003 and lost to Bill White. In 2015, he successfully defeated Bill King in a runoff. The margin of victory by Mayor Turner (slightly less than 2%) was the closest mayoral election in the history of the city by percentage.
In 2019, as aforementioned, Mayor Turner won his second term after defeating Tony Buzbee by 56% in a runoff election.
There are sure to be more candidates who will announce before the filing deadline, so stay tuned. In the meantime, the Forward Times has at least given you a head start on learning something about these first four candidates, who have chosen to vie for the highest seat in the city and replace term-limited Mayor Sylvester Turner.