Editorial note: This is the twenty-third in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.
Additional note: Noah M. Horwitz has recused himself from all coverage of the At-large Position #5 election. He took no part in the implementation of this interview.
James Horwitz, Candidate for the Houston City Council at-large Position #5
Texpatriate: What is your name?
JH: James S. Horwitz
T: What is your current occupation?
JH: I have been an attorney for the past thirty-six years.
T: Have you run for or held public office before?
T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
JH: Democratic Party
T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
JH: Jack Christie has absolutely failed this distinguished office he holds, as well as the City of Houston in general. Christie is a life-long politician who always been in the race just for his small, limited interests. He did not even live in the City of Houston until he first ran for a position on Houston City Council.
Most importantly, Jack Christie took the bizarre and ridiculous position of railing on against modern medicine, most notably pills and vaccines. In a January meeting of the City Council, Christie opposed a $3.1 Million federal subsidy earmarked for childhood immunizations for the impoverished. When asked to comment on the measure, Christie made a series of odd statements, including that “nobody dies from the flu” and that vaccines create synthetic immunity. Recently, in an August meeting at City Hall, Christie once more declared his opposition to modern medicine, showing a strange trend.
T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
JH: I never thought I would run for this post, as recently as one month ago. In fact, I filed to run on the penultimate day of filing. This was because Jack Christie was unopposed at the time. I felt it to be the right thing to do to offer Houstonians a choice in this election. Considering how tumultuous Jack Christie’s tenure on the City Council has been, I figured that it would be very wrong to allow him to ascend to re-election by acclamation.
T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
JH: If I am honored by the people and get the opportunity to represent Houston on the City Council, I would strive to bring some common-sense to City Hall. For example, last year, a group of City Councilmembers, including Jack Christie, sought to eliminate the sacred, age-old tradition of having open meetings during sessions of the City Council. This is an affront to the constituents of Houston, and is systemic of many members of a City Council who have lost touch with common sense.
However, I am not really the one who seeks to “get something” out of serving in public office. Rather, I will listen to my constituents and hear their concerns. For example, recently, I took my son up to Boston as he continues his collegiate education. While on the plane, I struck up a conversation with the flight attendant—who is based in Houston. She told me that FAA regulations required her to occupy the gateway between the terminal and the plane for hours at a time, sometimes in the grueling heat. Just listening to this Houstonian has brought this issue —adding fans and air conditioning to airport gateways— to my attention, and it is one I will fight for. I am sure there are countless other issues like it.
T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
JH: While, technically, all proposed ordinances are set by the Mayor-controlled agenda, there are a plethora of issues I would bring to the attention of the City Council. Perhaps one of the most important to me would be the passage of a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people in this City. In order to do this, we would have to amend the City Charter, which I fully support, and would also fight for domestic partnership benefits to the partners of Municipal Employees.
T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
JH: Given that I got a somewhat late start to my campaign, I have not been able to receive endorsements from many groups. One such group I have been supported by, however, is Democracy for Houston. I believe that other progressive organizations would be invaluable supporters of mine, as well as LGBT interest organizations. In a recent panel of the League of Women Voters, I was the only candidate for this seat who definitely supported same-sex marriage and a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance.
T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
JH: No matter who you are, it is never too late or too early to make a difference.