HOUSTON – Flamboyant trial attorney Tony Buzbee said he wants to be Houston’s mayor.
The self-made millionaire has been a big-time political donor for years. Now, he said he’s willing to spend up to $5 million of his own money to claim the mayor’s office.
Buzbee said he doesn’t need the job and insists that the city needs him.
“I would say our current leadership on the council and the mayorship is below average for an above average city and we can do better,” Buzbee said.
He vows he won’t accept campaign donations, and would even ban political donors from doing business with the city, stopping what he calls the “pay for play” system now in place at City Hall.
He also promised he’ll donate the mayor’s salary to someone chosen at random each year.
"I’m going to pick somebody who votes every year and I’m going to give them the entire salary: $235,000," he said.
Buzbee made millions as a personal injury attorney. He successfully represented former Gov. Rick Perry in 2014 when he was charged with abuse of power.
Since then, Buzbee has stayed in the news.
He irked the River Oaks Homeowners Association last year by parking a WWII vintage Sherman tank in front of his mansion.
Last December, he filed charges against a house guest, a young woman, who he accused of vandalizing expensive artwork worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including two Andy Warhol paintings.
As a Texas A&M regent, he caused controversy by calling for the firing of former coach Kevin Sumlin. He also successfully had a drunk driving charge dismissed by outgoing Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, sparking some criticism by other attorneys.
“People have to make their own judgments about me,” he said.
The man Buzbee wants to replace, Mayor Sylvester Turner, had little to say about Buzbee’s challenge.
“I don’t even know who he is. Next question,” Turner said Wednesday.
Buzbee said the comment came as a surprise because he helped get Turner elected.
“You know, he stood right over there on my step and I raised money for him here,” Buzbee said. “One thing I’m clear on: He’s going to know who I am very soon.”
That’s not an idle threat, according to Rice University political analyst Mark Jones.
“Sylvester Turner should be a little nervous,” Jones said.
He said Buzbee’s name, identity and wealth make him a serious political contender.
“If Tony Buzbee is all-in for being mayor, Sylvester Turner has a race on his hands," Jones said.
Potholes, police, backlogged building permits and flooding are issues Buzbee said need attention.
He also said he thinks the city’s mayoral races are too boring. He’s promising to liven up the next one.