Houston Newsmakers: Focus on the biggest issues this upcoming Election Day

Also: Fort Bend County voters asked to vote on a ‘VATRE’

Election day is November 8th. How will you vote? (KPRC-Pixabay)


  • Election Day is coming this Tuesday, and one of the top races locally is the Harris County Judge position. Mark Jones, Ph.D., Political Science Fellow from the Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University and Kevin Stuart, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas explains why that’s the case.
  • Fort Bend County voters will cast their ballot on a “Voter-Approved Tax Rate Election” or VATRE, which allows voters to decide whether they’ll allow a tax rate increase or keep the same rate.

Harris County leadership viewed as the prize!

Harris County’s population is greater than that of 26 states!

Mark Jones, Ph.D. , Political Science Fellow from the Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, says that is one of the reasons the Harris County Judge position is the biggest prize locally in this midterm election. With challenger Alexandra Mealer closing ground and now leading in a couple of polls, Jones says it would be a decisive turn of events.

“Assuming that Mealer wins along with Jack Cagle in Precinct four, Republicans would have the majority on commissioners court,” he said.

Right or wrong, a tremendous edge in advertising money has helped to shape the narrative of high crime and failed policies under Judge Hidalgo. “The ads have really helped Mealer because you have to keep in mind that in Harris County, where a Democrat starts off with a natural 8- 10 point advantage these days, for a Republican to be slightly ahead or even in the race, signifies that a lot has to be going wrong for Democrats.,” Jones added.

Also joining this week on Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall is Kevin Stuart, Ph.D. Assistant Political Science Professor at University of St. Thomas. He predicts a “Red Tsunami” for Republicans on the national level Tuesday and says the many election deniers running for office will soon be changing their tunes.

“It’s going to be very hard to sustain that story come Wednesday when Republicans have won an enormous number of races up and down the ballot,” he said. Because they’re not going to want to call those races into question.”

Also discussed: the negative tone of politics and when civility might return to political discourse, the continued influence of Donald Trump on the GOP base, and much more.

Christie Whitbeck, Ph.D., Fort Bend ISD Superintendent (KPRC)

Fort Bend Voters asked to vote on VATRE!

It’s called a “Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election” or VATRE for short and whether voters approve it or not could mean a 47 million dollar difference for the Fort Bend Independent School System.

Christie Whitbeck, Ph.D. is the Superintendent of Fort Bend ISD and says the voters are basically being asked to keep the tax rate at the $1.21 it was for last year. She says because of increases in property values, a vote to stay at a $1.21 tax rate would actually generate 47 million dollars in additional revenue.

“They’re about asking voters to consider a tax rate adjustment to the maintenance and operations side of the house, which is the part that pays salaries and utilities and materials as opposed to building buildings,” Whitbeck said.

She said the money would be used for several priorities such as added security at elementary schools and salaries for teachers. This is how confusing the ballot issue could be for voters. The ballot asks for a yes or no vote on the following language:

Dr. Whitbeck says the choice is simple, to keep the same tax rate that was in place last year or not. A yes vote would mean more money for Fort Bend ISD and a no vote would mean a lower tax rate for homeowners and 47 million dollars less for the operations side of the district.

See more in a Newsmakers EXTRA with Dr. Whitbeck.

Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall on KPRC2+ Streaming service this week at 10:30 a.m.

· Mark Jones, Ph.D., Political Science Fellow, Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University

· https://www.bakerinstitute.org/expert/mark-p-jones

· Kevin Stuart, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of Master in Public Policy and Administration, University of St. Thomas

· https://www.stthom.edu/Faculty/Faculty-Directory.aqf?Faculty_ID=00131860

· Christie Whitbeck, Ph.D., Superintendent, Fort Bend Independent School District

· https://www.fortbendisd.com/domain/149

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