IssuesLocal NewsHouston Mayoral Race Shake Up: Lovell Enters as Boykins Stumbles

The entrance of Sue Lovell into the Houston mayoral race is the latest sign that incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner faces a competitive election.
July 8, 2019
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Ending weeks of speculation, former Houston city council member Sue Lovell announced last week that she is officially running for mayor.  Lovell’s entry promises to further shake up incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner’s quest for a second term in the 2019 elections.

Lovell joins an increasingly crowded field, but is considered one of the top-tier candidates along with city council member Dwight Boykins, attorney Tony Buzbee, and businessman Bill King.

Well-known to Houstonians, Lovell is the former president of the influential Houston GLBT Political Caucus and a former at-large council member. First elected in 2005, she served three terms, was elected Vice Mayor Pro Tem, and has chaired several city committees, including those for Transportation, Aviation & Infrastructure, and Regulatory Affairs. 

Due to term limitations, Lovell stepped down from the council in 2012.

Lovell is a former business owner and says she likes Houston’s “reputation as a pro-growth, low-regulation business town” but adds that historic preservation should go “hand-in-hand with economic development.” As a member of the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, she resisted efforts to micro-manage property owners.

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Sue Lovell’s official campaign announcement emphasizes public safety and city services.

“Now, more than ever, our citizens trust that public safety will be a priority, that the services they pay for will be delivered efficiently and on time, and that there will be an investment in the city’s infrastructure and their quality of life. I will honor that trust and deliver on those commitments.” 

During her tenure on the Houston city council, Lovell advocated for LGBT-focused policies and later supported the controversial 2015 Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That ordinance was overwhelmingly defeated by Houston voters out of concerns that it would have allowed men in women’s bathrooms and unduly burdened private employers.

Lovell also publicly promoted Proposition B, the voter-approved pay parity measure for firefighters that Mayor Turner opposed and that the city has continued to fight.

An appeals court recently ordered the city and firefighters back into mediation.

Ongoing conflict over Proposition B led the Houston Professional Firefighters Association to switch its endorsement from Turner to council member Dwight Boykins this year, but Boykins’ campaign has been struggling to regain traction after he allegedly made inappropriate remarks at a Youth Advocacy Summit in June.

According to witnesses and phone video posted online, Boykins discomforted a 13-year-old girl and others when he brought the girl on stage, put his arm around her, and speculated about how a man might talk to her. Attendees also say Boykins made other “weird” comments and told girls in the audience that they should “keep their legs closed,” so that they would not be considered “tainted” later.

Following an outcry from teens and parents, Boykins issued an apology, saying he meant to inspire and “I deeply regret the extent to which [my words] caused anyone hurt or discomfort.”

On Lovell’s announcement, candidate Tony Buzbee released a statement welcoming her to the race. “Sue Lovell has been another ally to the firefighters in their very public debate with Mayor Turner, showing that even people from his own party don’t trust him.” 

Bill King also responded to Lovell’s candidacy: “Never has an incumbent Houston mayor faced this many challengers. It is a clear sign people are fed up with Sylvester Turner and his failed attempts to lead Houston.”

The day after Lovell’s announcement, Houston’s Urban Reform reported that Mayor Turner’s campaign purchased 170 new memberships in the Houston GLBT Caucus, leading to accusations that Turner is angling to buy an endorsement from the powerful group. 

While local government elections in Texas are technically non-partisan, Turner, Boykins, and Lovell typically align with the Democratic Party. Bill King ran for Houston mayor in 2015 and enjoyed the support of both parties, including many Republicans and right-leaning groups. He narrowly lost to Turner by 4,082 votes, but has continued to advocate for ending “pay to play” politics at city hall.

Tony Buzbee is politically independent and has generously supported candidates from both major political parties, including Donald Trump in 2016.  Last month, former Texas Governor Rick Perry reiterated his support for Buzbee and in a widely circulated letter accused King of running a “racket” himself and hiring Mayor Turner as an advisor in order to benefit King’s firm.

Potential candidates have until August 26 to file. 

In addition to the mayoral race, all 16 city council seats and the city controller will be on the Houston ballot. If no candidate garners at least 50 percent of the vote in the November 5 general election, a runoff election will take place on December 14.

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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Cypress, Texas. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.