Why I am backing Sylvester Turner

Since Texpatriate went dormant, I’ve realized a few things. One of them is that I no longer have to keep my cards close to the vest, so to speak, with respect to municipal elections until October. With that in mind, I want to explain some of my picks to lead Houston sooner rather than later (in this case, much sooner). By far the easiest pick, and one I basically determined a year ago, is State Representative Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, for mayor. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he is the right person for the job. Briefly, I would like to explain why.

A little over a year ago, I had the privilege of sitting down with the frontrunners for mayor in lengthy interviews regarding city issues. What I noticed is that Turner and former Congressman Chris Bell, D-Houston, his main competitor, have totally different visions as mayor, despite not really diverging from one another too much in their political positions. Bell is obsessed with policy, whereas Turner is obsessed with the process. One might not think that a benefit for Turner, but his track record in the state legislature speaks for itself.

Turner has a wealth of experience that none of his opponents can even approach. With more than 25 years in the legislature, he has repeatedly proven himself to be a master of the rules and procedures that govern the State House. As the Vice-Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he wields a disproportionate amount of power for a member of the minority party, but he puts it to good use. Last session, he was particularly instrumental in killing a bad water bill and bringing about a much better, bipartisan alternative.

If elected, Turner would bring all that knowledge and experience to the 3rd floor of city hall, where he would no doubt be able to form an inclusive and more effective coalition to lead the city.

Perhaps most important, Turner would be the perfect successor for Mayor Annise Parker, who I think has been an overall positive mayor but has certainly had some hiccups along the way. The other candidates tend to characterize her as either infallible or the cause of everything wrong in the city, both of which are pretty silly overgeneralizing assertions.

Specifically, Turner would not only double down on Parker’s positive steps in the right direction on things such as LGBT rights, he would address the issues Parker did not, such as our crumbling roads or the impasse on the firefighters’ pensions. On the latter front, Turner has already been instrumental in brokering a good first step in that long process.

Accordingly, Turner is already being supported by not only some of Parker’s historical base, including parts of the LGBT community and inner-loop business Democrats, but by historical enemies as well. The Firefighter’s Union, obviously no friend of Parker’s, has already endorsed him, as have both the Police Officer’s Union and HOPE, the municipal employee’s union. Expect a plethora of other organizations to soon follow.

Furthermore, I’m not especially impressed with Turner’s competition. Given the growing polarization of politics and the toxicity of some state Republican principles, I do think it is important to have a Democrat as mayor. I also think that Turner, a native Houstonian, has a better connection to this city than some who, for example, was previously the mayor of another town. Turner is also brilliant; aside from his legislative accomplishments, he’s a gifted attorney who graduated from Harvard Law School.

Now, I wasn’t alive (even by Dan Patrick’s definition) in 1991, so I don’t have a personal recollection of the shenanigans that surrounded that election. Sadly, much of the electorate does. Channel 13 libeled Turner in such a slimy way back then, and it would cause me to lose all my respect for any of the other mayoral candidates if they brought up those discredited lies at some point throughout the campaign.

One of the biggest things I have learned about politics in the last year is that, in the absence of other skills and capabilities, being a policy wonk will not get you very far. That and a dollar will get you a coke. A successful mayor needs to also be an expert at the procedures and processes of government. The big stuff will follow, as I’m sure it will with Turner.

Accordingly, I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly endorse Sylvester Turner for mayor!

5 thoughts on “Why I am backing Sylvester Turner

  1. I’ll just note this from today’s Houston Chronicle:

    “A thumb down taxpayers’ collective throat for this week’s back-scratching between “unannounced” mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner and the police and fire unions. Those groups endorsed the state rep without waiting to screen other candidates, including former HPD officer Adrian Garcia, another “unannounced” competitor. So what the heck is going on? The endorsements came two weeks after Turner introduced flaccid legislation that kicks Houston’s pension problems down the road, taking the heat off the firefighters and eliminating the possibility of true reform. The bad news for Turner is that more than 75 percent of firefighters and cops can’t vote – they live outside the Houston city limits.”


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  3. In response to the comment above, it should be noted that only HFD’s union skipped vetting the other candidates. The city police union, the HPOU (?), spoke with all announced candidates before loudly supporting Turner. The chron editorial board conveniently forgot their own stories regarding Turner’s announcement, the Youtube video of his lengthy announcement has been up for over a month too, and therefore any conclusions they draw are questionable at best.

    In defense of HFD’s union, a group that has repeatedly and routinely supported GOP backed candidates for years now in mayoral races, Turner has been a proven friend to them in the legislature and beyond, the man the only one able to broker the ice breaker budget deal the Chron found so horrible. When half the candidates are blaming their pension board for all city financial ills, it makes no sense to waste time on their nonsense when drawing up a list of who to support. From public statements alone, it seems unlikely that most of the candidates have even looked at a city budget in years, those that have such as Costello or King all too willing to cherry pick data rather than provide an honest look at the city’s spending.

    In my limited and all too brief conversations with Turner over the years, he has shown he is intelligent (though I would stop far short of labeling him as “brilliant” as would he, I suspect) and a good judge of character, able to work towards a compromise when others dug in to maintain a strict stance. Out of touch men like King can rant in the chronicle about the need to restore miles of teak handrails in cities up north or rant like possessed lunatics as Costello will if you let him on city pensions, but Turner usually sees opportunities when confronting an opponent on a matter, making progress by coalition instead of trying bully tactics.

    And as someone who remembers all too well the mayoral race of 1991, I don’t forget the role of a yellow journalist who has recently turned to assisting other politicians such as Kim Ogg with his own brand of smears, lies and innuendos; a mercenary for hire of the lowest sort.

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  5. Wonder why the author was not as concerned when Annise Parker brought up some slimy things from the past concerning Ben Hall.

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