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After loss in mayor’s race, Jackson Lee faces decision

Deadline looms to run for reelection in House, where there will be competition

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, lost the runoff in the Houston mayor's race on Saturday.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, lost the runoff in the Houston mayor's race on Saturday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Following her loss in Saturday’s Houston mayoral runoff, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee must decide by Monday evening whether she will seek a 16th term in the House. 

Jackson Lee, who is 73, lost her bid Saturday to lead the nation’s fourth-largest city, taking 35 percent of the vote to state Sen. John Whitmire’s 65 percent, according to unofficial results posted by Harris County. The Associated Press called the election for Whitmire, who is also a Democrat, less than a half hour after the polls closed.

Jackson Lee told supporters Saturday that her work is not done. Asked by KPRC-TV whether she plans to run for reelection, Jackson Lee demurred.

“I have continued to serve all my life,’’ she said. “I have much more to give and I am very glad that there are constituents and people who want me to give some more.” 

The deadline for filing for the 2024 primary election is 6 p.m. Monday. 

Democrat Amanda Edwards, an attorney and former at-large member of the Houston City Council, announced in June that she was running for the 18th District seat currently held by Jackson Lee. Edwards had raised more than $1 million and had $829,000 in her campaign account on Sept. 30, while Jackson Lee had $213,000, according to disclosures to the Federal Election Commission.

The incumbent’s decision won’t change Edwards’ plans, Edwards campaign chair Kathryn McNiel said Sunday.

“We’re not going anywhere,’’ McNiel said. “It’s our intention to bring Amanda to Washington D.C.”

The 18th District includes much of Houston and is heavily Democratic. Jackson Lee was first elected in 1994 and won reelection in 2022 with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Jackson Lee’s mayoral campaign received a number of high-profile endorsements, including from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.; Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; former President Bill Clinton; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas.

Nevertheless, the mayoral battle was an uphill fight. An 18-candidate field in the November general election kept Whitmire from getting over the 50 percent threshold needed for a win outright. But he comfortably led the field, taking 43 percent of the vote, while Jackson Lee’s 35 percent put her in the runoff. No other candidates got more than 8 percent.

But her campaign struggled, especially after an expletive-laced audio tape of Jackson Lee berating a staff member was leaked to several news organizations. She voiced regret for the incident, telling reporters that she’s “not perfect.”

Criticism of her workplace environment was not new. In 2017, she told the Texas Tribune that such complaints were fueled by “sexism and even racism.”

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