Four of the five At-Large Houston Council races have gone to runoff elections.
(Above is Councilwoman Letitia Plummer holding her yard sign and a flyer for Houston Prop. A. Approved by voters, Prop. A allows three Council members to add an item to the Houston City Council agenda.)
Each of the four runoffs involves a Republican against a Democrat. All elections are partisan. Republicans don't treat Houston municipal elections as non-partisan. Neither should Democrats.
This doesn't mean Democrats can't work with Republicans. It's that Democrats should insist Republicans they work with will respect election results. The old saying is there is no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole. But we don't need authoritarians in charge of filling the potholes.
Here is the Erik Manning spreadsheet with the primary voting history of '23 Houston municipal candidates.
The Houston Democracy Project seeks to see and explain Houston and Harris County politics through the lens of the expansion and protection of democracy. I work to flatten local politics to only matters impacting the strength of our democracy and freedoms. There is no conflict in candidates and elected officials emphasizing democracy while still focusing on other issues.
Here are some ways the people we elect in Houston and Harris County can fight for democracy:
*Use their resources, influence and time to campaign for Democrats in every election cycle. While the Democratic Party is flawed, the domestic anti-democratic threats are coming from Republicans. We could use a lot more help from elected Democrats in safe seats.
*When accepting law enforcement union endorsements, insist these unions step back from support of candidates and elected officials attacking democracy.
*Speak up when democracy is under assault & help create a climate where people are informed and ready to act.
*Understand that protection of freedom may require career, personal and even physical risks by public officials. If you have chosen this critical time to seek or hold office, then you must meet the challenges of the moment.
Below is a first look at the candidates in the four runoffs. I'll have an endorsement post next week.
Melanie Miles is a Democrat now. Up until 2018, she was a Republican. She previously lost a race for judge running as a Republican. The party shift is fine. Every day is a new day to do right. But Ms. Miles has never made fully clear the reason for her shift. It feels opportunistic. Her many endorsements from law enforcement unions heighten my wariness. Ms. Miles each day has the ability to ask the law enforcement unions to step away from election deniers and make clear she'll stand up for democracy. I hope she avails herself of these opportunities.
Julian Ramirez is a Republican. I had a conversation with him where he told me he'd been a Harris County judicial candidate in 2022 who lost by a small margin. He said he refused to join the Harris County election redo lawsuits because he didn't think they were valid. That's good. But he wouldn't distance himself from Trump. I don't have a problem with bipartisanship. But bipartisanship must be contingent on full commitment to democracy. In a different reality Mr. Ramirez might merit at least a look in a municipal election. But not in this political environment. Mr. Ramirez is endorsed by the Harris County Republican Party.
Nick Hellyar is a Democrat. His campaign often focuses on relationships with Republicans and law enforcement unions with no indication he cares if these folks accept election results or not. It's a reckless and intellectually lazy approach to public safety. There is no public safety without democracy. Mr. Hellyar seems a radical centrist as much an ideologue as any unbending advocate of the political left or right. He charts a path to public office in a time of rising authoritarianism by looking the other way. I'm going to vote for Mr. Hellyar because he is the least worst of the two options. I suppose some circumstance might arise where threats to democracy imperil his self-interest to the point where he might do something about it. (This profile also well-matches Houston Councilwoman Sallie Alcorn. Ms. Alcorn endorsed Mr. Hellyar some months ago.)
Willie Davis is a Republican who may not live in the city. He is endorsed by the Kingwood Tea Party and the Harris County Republican Party.
Richard Cantu is a decent and thoughtful person with an extensive record of public service. He has a lifelong commitment to his community & also concern for the full city. I had a good lengthy conversation with Mr. Cantu about democracy issues in Houston. I believe as an elected official he would take risks for the rights of others.
Twila Carter is a Republican. I've watched her campaign and read her website. She has a longstanding involvement with the Houston Astros Foundation. My mom is a board member with the Cincinnati Reds community foundation and says they do good work in the community. Ms. Carter has talked about poverty in her campaign which is something many other Council candidates have not. I'm open to the prospect Ms. Carter is not some unrelenting right-winger. But again--Every Republican has the option to step back from election deniers and from Donald Trump as he discusses military rule if returned to the White House. Ms. Carter has not done so.
Incumbent Letitia Plummer made an effort to address police reform issues at the time of the murder of George Floyd. She got a lot of blowback from fellow Democrats on Council, and the reality is there is not a sufficient progressive or reform-minded community in Houston willing to take those issues on. Councilwoman Plummer has since taken up the issue of improving conditions in the large number of Houston apartments that are not up to acceptable standards. She merits your vote. She is easily the most vote-worthy of any Houston Council incumbent.
Roy Morales is Councilwoman Plummer's opponent. He's endorsed by the Kingwood Tea Party and by Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey who voted against certifying the 2021 Harris County election results.
The Houston Democracy Project works daily to inspire, organize and strengthen pro-democracy coalitions in Houston and Harris County. The Project will continue through 2024 at the least.
Please share word of the Houston Democracy Project and support the effort with your contribution. If you have a question about the Project or a suggestion, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm Neil Aquino