BY Patrick Svitek
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is poised to easily win reelection against challenger Tony Buzbee in a runoff that proved less dramatic than the first round and was set to affirm the city’s status as a Democratic stronghold.
With over 70% of voting centers reporting Saturday night in Harris County, Turner led Buzbee, a high-profile lawyer, 57% to 43%, across the city, according to unofficial returns. Turner is now on the verge of securing a second four-year term leading Texas’ largest city — and the fourth most populous in the country.
By 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Turner had given a victory speech, while Buzbee was not conceding but admitting the odds were long, according the Houston Chronicle.
The race was nonpartisan, though Turner, a former longtime Democratic state representative, harnessed the support of his party to beat back the boisterous Buzbee, who presented himself as an independent reformer. He refused campaign donations while self-funding his bid to the tune of over $10 million.
Turner almost won reelection outright in the initial Nov. 5 election, getting 47% of the vote to Buzbee’s 28%. The two had brawled throughout the fall, with Buzbee slamming Turner as a corrupt career politician and Turner hammering Buzbee over his past support for President Donald Trump.
The presidential factor flared up again in the final hours before polls opened Saturday as voters reported receiving texts with a message from Trump urging them to vote for Buzbee. While the texts were signed by “Tony Buzbee for Mayor,” Buzbee denied that his campaign sent them out, only saying the president “has a sent a text to support me.” The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
While Buzbee had promised a “full-on slugfest” the day after the November election, the runoff turned out to be more calm. Buzbee toned down his attacks on Turner while seeking to put more of an emphasis on policy. Turner mostly ignored Buzbee, and the two never met for a debate.
The outcome Saturday night was not entirely unexpected. A KHOU/Houston Public Media poll released Wednesday found Turner routing Buzbee 56% to 34%.
Turner was first elected in 2015 in a much tighter runoff, defeating businessman Bill King by 2 percentage points.
Disclosure: Tony Buzbee has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.