Longtime Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) announced during a streaming church service that she would run for mayor of Houston later this year, leaving the House after more than 28 years if she wins the race.
“Sheila Jackson Lee wants to come home to be your mayor for the city of Houston,” Jackson Lee said during the live-streamed event at City Cathedral Church on Sunday. “I will not be able to do it without each and every one of you.”
“I hope I’ve been a humble servant for you for 28 years,” the congresswoman added.
The race for Houston mayor is already crowded, but Jackson Lee has twin advantages of name recognition and a long service record.
"For some time, there has been much positive feedback in Houston about the prospects of Congresswoman Jackson Lee running for Mayor of Houston," a statement by her office read. "Supporters of Sheila are pleased with the favorable responses of a broad representation of Houston's diverse communities. To that end, we express the Congresswoman's excitement about making a future formal announcement. Stay tuned, Houston will hear from Sheila!!"
Jackson Lee has long championed bills about race, including a reparations study and the Leading Against White Supremacy Act, which she introduced recently and which would criminalize some forms of so-called hate speech and punish social media users who are deemed to have posted hate speech.
At the age of 73, Jackson Lee is looking to retire from public service in the next few years, and some of her supporters had previously floated the idea of a term as mayor to "cap" her public career.
The Texas Tribune reported after the announcement that the candidates include early frontrunner state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), former Harris County clerk Chris Hollins, Houston City Council member Robert Gallegos, former chairman of the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority Gilbert Garcia, and former City Council member Amanda Edwards.
Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said that Jackson Lee will be one of the top two candidates in the race and may end up in a runoff, but her election to mayor is not a given.
"She has high negatives among a significant share of the population, which means they're going to vote for anyone other than Sheila Jackson Lee," Jones said.
"Her entering the race put her likely in the top two, which are those who will go to the runoff; I suspect some of them are going to reconsider their position over the next few months," Jones predicted.
He said that Whitmire will be her biggest opponent in the heavily Democrat area.
"Whitmire has done an excellent job of stabilizing the center right and center of the political spectrum," Jones said.
Jackson Lee's interpersonal conflicts and the perception that she is not "especially nice at some times" are the main drawbacks Jones sees in her candidacy, he said.