One of these runoffs is not like the others.
On paper, the Houston City Council incumbent most at risk heading into Saturday’s runoff elections is first-termer Andrew Burks, in At-Large Position 2.
Challenger David Robinson had spent more than $201,000 as of last week, to Burks’ roughly $76,000. Robinson, who also earned more votes than Burks on Nov. 5, was the only challenger to out raise a council incumbent. Robinson also had about $73,500 on hand entering the campaign’s final week, more than three times what Burks had.
Burks, a preacher and small businessman, was a long shot in a 10-candidate field two years ago, having unsuccessfully sought public office numerous times. Political analysts, however, said he nonetheless will enjoy the advantage of incumbency against Robinson, an architect, Super Neighborhood Alliance past president and former member of the city Planning Commission. Robinson was among those who sought the At-Large 2 seat two years ago.
Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Burks may also be helped by a runoff in heavily black District D, which will drive turnout in areas likely to support him, whereas there are no district runoffs in Robinson’s best areas to drive turnout for him. Overall turnout is expected to be dismal.
“At-large races are tough because it’s citywide and it’s very difficult to reach voters,” Jones said.
Robinson’s cash edge will help him only if he spends it efficiently, said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus.
“In a low-turnout election, more money is likely to trump ideology or the incumbency affect,” Rottinghaus said. “If they can adequately use those resources to get turnout in their direction, then it could be a very close race.”
As was the case with the November election and as is now the case with the runoff, Robinson has easily led in fundraising, with his finance reports looking like an incumbent’s. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything – Burks won on a shoestring two years ago, with Kristi Thibaut raking in the establishment cash in the runoff as Robinson has been doing all year. It’s a matter of who turns out.
One more thing:
Burks claimed Robinson has tried to fool black voters into thinking he is related to one of several past black council members named Robinson.
“By not showing up or putting his picture out in that community, he’s trying to get votes I normally would have because I am seen in the community,” Burks said.
Robinson rejected the charge, saying he has worked to raise his profile citywide, not obscure it.
Yeah, Dave Wilson will continue to be a pollutant in our elections for years to come. Some people may be confused by David Robinson‘s name, but unlike Wilson, Robinson is not running a stealth campaign. That means he’s doing things like showing up to candidate forums and having an actual photo of himself on his Facebook page. I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of Dave Wilson before this November. If CM Burks is concerned that people may not have an accurate impression of David Robinson, there is nothing stopping him from working to correct that impression.