Real estate-backed John Whitmire wins election to Houston mayor

Defeated U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in runoff Saturday

Wins Houston’s Mayoral Election
Texas state Sen. John Whitmire (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Texas state Sen. John Whitmire is the next mayor of Houston, according to early election results. 

Whitmire beat U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson in a runoff election, held Saturday after neither candidate took 50 percent in the November general election.

Whitmire and Jackson Lee, both Democrats and career politicians, were entangled in a tight battle. Whitmire secured 43 percent of the votes against Jackson Lee’s 36 percent in the general election. 

Whitmire was backed by Houston’s professional real estate organizations. He secured a sizable proportion of undecided voters, with Republicans coalescing around the veteran senator. 

The longest-serving member of the Texas Senate, Whitmire began his career in the Texas House of Representatives in 1973. He was elected to serve District 15, which serves parts of North Houston, as a state senator in 1983. 

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Whitmire was the darling of Houston’s real estate scene, nabbing endorsements from major organizations including the Texas Association of Realtors, the Houston Association of Realtors and Houston Building Owners and Managers Association. 

His largest donations came from the real estate world. Republican donor Richard Weekley, co-founder of David Weekley Homes, contributed $100,000 to Whitmire’s mayoral campaign, campaign finance records show. Ira Mitzner, CEO of RIDA Development, contributed $50,000 to Whitmire. And Brizo Construction president Cody Lee donated $25,000. 

In the final stretch of the campaign, Whitmire outraised and outspent Jackson Lee. Whitmire raked in $576,000 in contributions between Oct. 29 and Nov. 29,  compared to Jackson Lee’s $498,000. He spent $530,000 during the same period, over 50 percent more than Jackson Lee’s $342,000 spend. 

His total campaign spending surpassed the $9 million mark, with more than $2.7 million spent advertising. Whitmire had the advantage of a $10 million “war chest” amassed from previous political campaigns. 

Jackson Lee found success in the city’s progressive silos. She reported donations from real estate professionals including $5,000 each from Lovett Commercial CEO Frank Liu and JMC Realty owner Roxann Chargois. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail for the 14-term congresswoman, offering a rousing endorsement back in October, one of the more high-profile endorsements this election cycle.

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