Wednesday, November 7,2001 Volume 67, Issue 55


 
 









 

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
term.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar


UH students and District D residents exercise their civic duty in the University Center Cougar Den on Tuesday.


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
reporting.

"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 sounded triumphant.

"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 them forth.

"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 Brown.
 
 
 

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