HOUSTON – As the race for Houston mayor heats up, and the campaign field becomes increasingly crowded, many candidates are faced with choosing key policy points to center their campaigns around. Recent surveying of Houston residents suggests that a few particular issues, specifically crime, infrastructure, housing and the economy, are at the forefront of the city’s mind as the local election draws closer.
The annual Houston Area Survey conducted by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research revealed that Houstonians identified “crime and safety”, “the economy”, and “the cost of housing” to be the biggest problems facing the city at present. The survey, administered in January and February, consisted of a representative sample of around 2,000 Harris County residents over the age of 18. When asked what they consider to be “the biggest problem facing people in the Houston area today”, the leading answer was “crime & safety”, recorded by approximately 28% of respondents, followed by “economy”, the choice of approximately 26% of respondents. “Housing costs” was also a popular response, coming in from 20% of all respondents.
Republican-aligned Ragnar Research’s Mayoral Election Poll produced similar results from the city’s voting population. In a survey conducted in February of 500 “likely municipal voters” concerning Houston’s upcoming mayoral election, when asked what they consider the “most important issue” in the race, 29% of those surveyed responded “crime”, 15% responded “infrastructure/roads/highways”, and 10% responded “homelessness/housing”.
Many of the mayoral hopefuls have already honed in on crime as a primary focus on the campaign trail.
It is unclear how effective Houston-area issue polls actually are at forecasting mayoral election results. Additionally, the Ragnar Research Poll reflected that 46% of voters surveyed reported they were “undecided” on a mayoral candidate at the time. However, issue polls have historically been reflected in candidate’s campaign priorities.
Issue polls in the 2019 Houston Election
Prior to the last mayoral election in 2019, the Kinder Institute’s annual Houston Area Survey revealed “traffic” to be the top response for the biggest problem facing Houstonians, reported by 36% of respondents. “Crime” and “economy” followed at 15% and 11%, respectively. Another mayoral survey in October of 2019, conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, also asked likely voters what they considered the biggest problem facing Houston at present. “Flooding” led the polls with 41.3% of responses, followed by “crime” from 22% of respondents.
That year, Sylvester Turner secured his second term as mayor in a runoff election with 56% of votes against candidate Tony Buzbee, who earned 44% of votes. According to archives of Turner’s 2019 campaign website, the current mayor’s campaign identified flood recovery, easing traffic congestion through infrastructure updates and affordable communities as primary focuses. Buzbee’s campaign website honed in on decreasing government corruption, raising firefighters’ pay, combating rising crime and improving infrastructure.
This year’s current mayoral election field
The candidates who have announced their run for mayor in 2023 thus far are as follows:
Chanel Mbala, IT professional
Derrick Broze, investigative journalist
Gilbert Garcia, bond investor and former METRO chairman
John Whitmire, State Senator representing Texas’ 15th Senatorial District
Julian Martinez, entrepreneur
MJ Khan, former City Council member
Naoufal Houjami, entrepreneur
Robert Gallegos, City Council member representing Houston’s District 1
Robin Williams, police officer and former U.S. Marine
Sheila Jackson Lee, US House Representative from Texas’ 18th Congressional District
Campaign information and policy stances on issues facing Houstonians can be found on each candidate’s website.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
In addition to the office of the mayor, candidates for the positions of City Controller, Council Member for Districts A-K, and Council Member At-Large 1-5 will be elected this year.