Monday, December 17, 2012

2013 Houston Mayor's Race

Update:  The posting originally stated that Wayne Dolcefino was handling communications for Dr. Hall.  The posting has been updated to state that Dolcefino is handling investigations and opposition research.

The City of Houston mayoral election is not until November 5, 2013, but former City Attorney Ben Hall has declared his intention to challenge Mayor Annise Parker when she seeks a third and final two-year term.  Hall was initially a candidate for mayor in 2009, but withdrew his candidacy early on in February of that year and threw his support behind former City Attorney Gene Locke.  Parker defeated Locke in a December 2009 runoff 52.8% to 47.2%.  Parker was reelected to her second term in 2011 besting a field of six candidates with 50.8% of the vote.

Dr. Hall has a BA in Religious Studies from the University of South Carolina; a M.Div and a Ph.D from Duke University; and a J.D. from Harvard University.  He is a successful and wealthy plaintiff’s attorney and an ordained minister in the congregation of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  A deeply religious man, Hall has strong ties with many of Houston’s religious leaders as well as deep roots in Houston’s African-American community.

Candidates for Houston municipal offices may not begin soliciting or receiving contributions until February 1, 2013.  As of June 30, 2012, the last available campaign finance report, Parker showed cash on hand of approximately $1.3 million.  I believe the Mayor will end the year with approximately $1 million in her campaign account, and she should easily raise another $1 million in February alone when the restricted period for contributions ends.  Hall indicates that he will spend $3 million of his own money on the race plus aggressively fund raise.

Since the advent of term limits in Houston, no mayor has been defeated and each has served the maximum six years allowed -- Bob Lanier (1992 - 97); Lee Brown (1998 - 2003); and Bill White (2004 - 09).  The last mayor to be defeated in Houston was Kathy Whitmire in 1991, when she finished third to Bob Lanier and Sylvester Turner and failed to make the runoff:  Lanier 43.66%; Turner 35.97%; and Whitmire 20.11%.

It promises to be a tough race, although I give the initial edge to Parker as the contest commences.  Parker, who is fiercely competitive, has said that when you run against an incumbent “it is personal.”  Hall has hired Wayne Dolcefino to handle investigations and opposition research.  Dolcefino recently ended a 26-year career at KTRK-TV, where according to the Houston Chronicle, he was “arguably the most controversial and most accomplished investigative reporter in the recent annals of Houston television.”  Ironically, Dolcefino aired the controversial story in 1991 that blew up Turner’s mayoral campaign and sealed the election for Lanier.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, another expensive race looms for Houston’s political swimmers.