Over the weekend, the winds of change blew through the halls of Houston and HCC municipal governance. In Saturday’s runoff election, turnout was expected to be light and that certainly proved to be true. With a meekly 4 percent of overall voter turnout, some of the most contested races of the year were decided. Given that such a small number of voters lent their voice to the runoff, it’s hard to garner any real indications of how this reflects the city’s political trend map. But one thing is for sure… people who vote in runoff elections are the most determined voters you will find anywhere.
There is no better evidence for this fact than in Houston’s District A. In 2011 Tea Party Challenger Helena Brown, armed with a bevy of anti-government, anti-establishment voters, defeated then- Incumbent Council Member Brenda Stardig by 605 votes. In the year and a half that followed, district residents got to know Council Member Brown as being true to her word. After racking up an extraordinary record rejecting even the most mundane city business, District A citizens (at least those precious few that voted in the December 14th runoff) decided that they have had enough, rejecting Brown’s extremism and reinstating Stardig to her former seat. Interesting what honesty in politics gets you these days.
Though At Large 2 Council Member Andrew Burks is far from a ‘right-wing extremist’, he is known for some measures of extremism just the same. In his first term, he had several instances of berating constituent speakers that disagreed with him, and perceived hostility toward some of his elected colleagues. These very public shows of difficulty certainly didn’t do him any favors during the 2013 election, but finally on Saturday, they may have proven to be his downfall, as Burks was defeated by challenger David W. Robinson. Once again, extremism lost out.
Perhaps the most fiery race of this years election season was in District I. Prior to the November elections, four candidates fought hard to encourage turnout in the low-performing district, and each candidate ended up with close to equal shares of the votes. So much so in fact that only 25 votes separated second-place finisher Robert Gallegos from 3rd place Ben Mendez. But a second-place finish turned out to be the right prescription, as Robert Gallegos defeated Graci Garces in the runoff election, and will now represent the citizens of District I.
There were some less exciting race results as well. In District D, frontrunner Dwight Boykins went on to handily defeat Georgia Provost. Adriana Tamez, who was the top vote-getter in the General Election, went on to oust incumbent Herlinda Garcia for HCC District 3. Zeph Capo won the HCC seat for District 1 by defeating incumbent Yolanda Navarro- Flores, and Robert Glaser retained his top position and went to win against Phil Kunetka in HCC District 5. Even with the defeat of 2 incumbents, these races at least gave an indication of what may occur from the General Election totals.
But to have a runoff election that results all 4 incumbents beaten? To say the least, it’s an anomaly. Or perhaps (particularly in the case of City Council), the anomaly was actually 2011, and 2013 was simply a course correction back to less of the extreme. Texpatriate, Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs have much more.
Only time will tell. But for now… so long Helena Brown.