Tight election causes
runoff for mayoral office
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown will face outgoing
City Councilman Orlando Sanchez in a future runoff election to determine
whether he will serve a third
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar
UH students and District
D residents exercise their civic duty in the University Center Cougar Den
At press time, with 94 percent of precincts
reporting, Brown, a Democrat, had garnered 113,390 votes (or 43 percent
of the vote), while Sanchez had
earned 110,031 votes (or 41 percent).
The third major candidate in the race,
Democratic outgoing City Councilman Chris Bell, had earned 43,334 votes
(16 percent), drawing enough support
from Brown's moderate-to-liberal constituency
to deny the incumbent a majority, forcing the run-off.
The other most-watched votes were three
propositions to change the city charter, two dealing with the Metropolitan
Transit Authority's light rail line and
one dealing with the possibility of granting
health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers.
Proposition 1, which calls for voter approval
of any future extension of the 7.5-mile downtown-to-Reliant Park line,
passed 74 to 26 percent. Proposition
3, which would have called for a referendum
deciding whether or not to tear up the existing construction of the line,
was disapproved 54 to 46 percent.
Proposition 2, which calls for a ban on
the city offering same-sex benefits, seemed to have passed 68 to 32 percent,
with 75 percent of precincts
"This is not a job for a professional critic,"
Brown told his cheering supporters during the 10 p.m. local newscasts.
"It is not a job for someone without real
solutions. But it is a job for someone with a steady hand, someone who's
been on the firing line. It is not a job for
on-the-job training," he said in his typically
low-key speaking style.
"Rather, it's a time for tried and proven
experience," said Brown, whose campaign was based largely on his 40-plus
career in law enforcement and other
public safety roles. Before first running
for mayor in 1996, Brown had served as the Houston police chief, New York
City police commissioner, and
federal drug czar.
"I started out walking a beat. I've been
in those dark, lonely alleys at nighttime. I've been shot at. I've seen
it all," he said. "But no danger, no challenge,
no fear has ever, ever stopped me. And
during these difficult times, it won't stop America, and you can believe
it won't stop Houston, Texas."
Brown, who had expected early on to sail
into his third term, faced an unexpected challenge after being accused
by some of fiscal mismanagement and
administrative blunders, particularly
regarding the city's emergency services.
But many felt that he benefited politically
in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, making frequent appearances
in an authoritative mode.
In his own "pre-victory" celebration, Sanchez
"Help is on the way," he shouted to his
supporters. "Tonight, Houstonians voted for a change. A majority of Houstonians
went to the polls today and
decided it was time for a change in Houston,
Texas. A majority of voters decided it was time for a new beginning."
Sanchez, a strongly conservative Republican,
was extremely critical of Brown on the issues of public safety and fiscal
management. One of his
campaign promises is to roll back tax
rates. Brown has said that he will not raise taxes.
"What we will be talking about during the
coming days is the impending financial crises facing the city of Houston,"
he said, accusing Brown of
squandering a revenue surplus.
If elected, Sanchez, a Cuban native who
as a young child, emigrated with his family to the United States, would
be the first Hispanic mayor of
largely-Hispanic Houston. Brown is the
city's first black chief executive.
In his concession speech, Bell said, "I
stand here with incredibly mixed feelings -- extremely proud of the race
we've run, the ideas we've brought forth,
and as importantly, the way we've brought
"But I cannot help but also be disappointed
that we will not be going on to the next round; disappointed that we will
not have an opportunity to actually
put our ideas to the test."
Both the at-large City Council races being
vacated by Sanchez and Bell will go to runoffs. In Sanchez's Position 3
seat, dermatologist Shelley Sekula
Rodriguez led the seven-person field,
but she will face a runoff opponent who was undetermined at press time.
Bell's Position 4 seat will be fought over
between real estate agent Michael Berry
and management consultant Claudia Williamson.
The incumbents in the three other at-large
council positions were all reelected. They are Annise Parker (Position
1), Gordan Quan (Position 2), and
Carroll Robinson (Position 5).
In the race for the council seat of District
D, which encompasses the University of Houston and environs, community
activist and radio announcer Ada
Edwards and real estate developer Gerald
Womack will meet in a runoff. At press time, Edwards had received 13,105
votes (40 percent), while
Womack had received 10,659 votes (32 percent).
The date for the runoff will be set by