Here’s the full Chron story from the weekend about Ben Hall’s announcement that yes, he really is running for Mayor this year.
“Hall is a formidable challenger but is a long shot to unseat the mayor,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said in an email.
Rottinghaus noted Hall’s funding capability, his vision and his qualifications but suggested that “with Parker’s nationalizing profile and perceptions of her doing a good job, it is a more uphill fight.”
Rottinghaus added that Parker’s most formidable challenge may not be Hall, per se, but a crowded primary field that could squeeze her out of a runoff.
“In a runoff, a well-funded candidate like Hall that can put the right coalition together could have a chance,” he said. “This may be the model – almost successful for Gene Locke – that Hall is looking to create.”
Jared Woodfill, Harris County Republican Party chairman, said he could see a squeeze play of sorts developing, with challenges coming from Hall and, potentially, at least two Republicans.
“Annise Parker could be the odd person out,” Woodfill said. “She doesn’t have the constituencies that the other three would have, plus I don’t think she has lived up to her campaign promises. She promised to stay out of party politics, but she was an outspoken supporter of Obama.”
Woodfill and others recall just such a scenario in 1990 when mayoral candidates Lanier and state Rep. Sylvester Turner, an African-American Democrat, squeezed out five-term incumbent Kathy Whitmire, who finished a distant third.
Former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt said he and Woodfill discussed the possibility of him running for mayor but said his interest was predicated on the possibility that Parker may leave office early to take a position in the Obama administration, thus necessitating a special election.
“In a special election, I could see what the party chairman is pitching, because that’s a low-turnout scenario that would be favorable to Republicans,” he said.
Bettencourt also suggested that Hall’s candidacy was based, at least initially, on the possibility that the mayor would leave office early.
“The glacier’s moving,” he said. “The question is, where is it going to stop?”
I have no idea what that glacier is supposed to signify. The flow of candidates moving towards running? The flow of Mayor Parker moving towards a job in the Obama administration that’s she has already denied and which never made any sense anyway? I generally agree with the basic thesis that a special election will have lower turnout, but a special Mayoral election ought to have enough attention and money in it to be a fairly reasonable facsimile of a normal election.
Not that it really matters, because we’re not going to find out. I’ve already said what there is to say about the squeeze-play hypothesis, but I suspect I’ll have to say it again (and again) between now and November, so here are the bullet points: Kathy Whitmire was a six-term Mayor coming off a bruising political defeat at the hands of her eventual opponent (and election winner) Bob Lanier. She wasn’t squeezed in that race, she was crushed, barely topping 20% of the vote. Lanier isn’t so much a Republican as a creature of the downtown establishment, and he’s certainly not a Republican in the way we think of them today. Sylvester Turner was a young up-and-comer, which Ben Hall is not. Besides all that, sure, there’s plenty of parallels if a serious Republican gets into the race. Knock yourselves out finding them. I just don’t think they’ll matter all that much in the end.