When Tony Buzbee entered the Houston mayoral race, I told you that I wanted to interview him and that I hoped his campaign wasn’t a lark. So I was able to meet with him this week and no, his campaign isn’t a lark or a vanity effort.
It was a beautiful, sunny day (remember those?) so we sat outside and talked about the city, about his passion for it, how he plans to win and what his core issues are. Before getting to all of that, I’ll give you my first impression of what he wants to bring to Houston and that is hope. Now, remember, that isn’t his message, that is my impression but I don’t think he would argue with me. Aside from the straight up political stuff, he talks about volunteerism, solving homelessness, making the city a no kill city for stray animals and his passion for philanthropy. He wants Houstonians to once again have pride in their city.
On the straight up political side, his top three issues are:
- Campaign Finance Reform
As you know, I’m not a fan of Houston’s Police Chief, so I asked him what he would do with Art Acevedo. He told me that Acevedo’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t have enough officers, saying that New York City has over twice as many officers per thousand residents as Houston. And given the lower population density, officers in Houston have far more area to cover.
Buzbee recognizes that drainage is a regional issue and that the city should be the leader in bringing the various stakeholders to the table and creating a regional solution to the problem. He also noted that while Houston has a “dedicated” drainage tax (rain tax), very little of the proceeds of that tax is spent on drainage projects. If elected, he would make certain that any money collected under the drainage tax would be used for drainage projects and not for employee salaries in public works and parks.
Campaign Finance Reform
I could just as easily have called this section Corruption Elimination. As you probably know, Buzbee has vowed to not accept any campaign contributions from anyone. Period. Obviously not every candidate has the resources to make that type of pledge, so what is he really trying to point out? He’s trying to call attention to the mass corruption in city and county politics where engineering firms and construction contractors contribute large sums of money to political candidates in return for huge government contracts. This is from Buzbee’s Facebook page:
And this is from Buzbee’s Twitter feed:
In this tweet, he agrees with County Judge Lina Hidalgo about the issue:
It will be interesting to see if Hidalgo keeps her promise to do this. Beto won’t be on the ballot in 2022 to put her in office again. But it’s a good thought and I hope she does keep this promise. I have no doubt that Buzbee will keep his promise in not accepting campaign donations and in trying to get the law changed to prevent candidates from accepting funds from anyone that does business with the city. That’ll be a tall order though.
Is Buzbee a Democrat or Republican?
I asked him this question because of this tweet:
And because of his campaign contributions last year to the Harris County Democratic Party, four Democratic judicial candidates and a Democratic PAC totaling $220,000.
Add that to the fact that he was Chair of the Galveston County Democratic Party in the early 2000’s, he ran as a Democrat for state representative against now Sen. Larry Taylor in 2002 and flirted with running as a Democrat against former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2006. In between those bookends, he served as Rick Perry’s attorney and as a debate coach for both Perry and Dewhurst.
Marc Campos, a Democratic consultant and one of Bill King’s strategists asked this yesterday:
I heard yesterday that Tony Buzbee, who wants to be H-Town Mayor, was a huge Dem donor to judicial races this past November. How come he’s hiring GOP consultants? Oh, well.
Indeed, Buzbee is using Axiom Strategies, who handled the Ted Cruz and Kathaleen Wall campaigns last year, in addition to many other Republican candidates. Click here to view Buzbee’s latest campaign finance report if that stuff interests you.
So, is he a Democrat or a Republican? Since I didn’t get an answer, I’ll let you decide. I bet all of those Republicans that got booted out of office last year are thinking, hmm, that’s a lot of money to help Democratic candidates in Harris County.
Buzbee is a disruptive candidate
The City of Houston has not been served well by candidates that are go along to get along. I think that is the reason that so many people are excited by his candidacy. If there is one thing that he will not be it is a business as usual Mayor. He will not be pitting the police against the firefighters in a vain attempt to hold power. He will hold people accountable for performance unlike the current corrupt office holder. Houston’s City Hall could use a good dose of disruption, if not bulldozing.
He has ideas that are simple but will make life better for all Houstonians. Putting a strong volunteer organization together will do wonders for the city, both in finances and in pride. He mentioned the millions of dollars that the city spends lighting City Hall for the holidays and maintains that he can get companies to do that for free. I think he’s right. Pay millions for music at the airports? Ridiculous. Invite local musicians to volunteer to do that. I know he’s right on that one.
Know the candidates
I’ve encouraged you to sign up for Bill King’s email list to keep informed about the election. You should do the same for Tony Buzbee. Click here to go to his website and sign up for his list. Here are a couple of opportunities to meet him next week:
- Monday, February 4th – Cadillac Bar & Grill 6:30 – 8:00 pm (click for details)
- Tuesday, February 5th – Greater Houston Pachyderm 11:30 am – 1:00 pm (click for details)
As of today, I think that Buzbee is the only formally announced candidate. If others mount campaigns, I’ll let you know. Hopefully I can give you information you need to add a few more data points to help you in your decision when you go to the polls.
Wow, this was a bit longer than I planned. But honestly, Tony Buzbee is an interesting candidate. Check him out.
eric dick says
Tony Buzbee will be the best mayor Houston has had in my life time.
Mr. Buzbee seems to embrace the political reality that a hardcore Republican cannot win Houston’s mayoral race due to longstanding demographics we are all aware of. Look at how Mr. King bent over backwards to tell everyone he was such a political moderate when he ran, even naming his book along those lines. With all due respect to Mr. King, Mr. Buzbee comes across as a much more energetic and enthusiastic candidate who could actually win the election, Mr. King’s longstanding attempts to capture the GOP vote placing him in the also ran spot no matter how you work the numbers.
I’d just like to know more specifics about how Mr. Buzbee plans to address his core campaign planks because mass hiring of police officers seems unlikely at best, not just because city finances are under the gun from Prop B, but in general. His other stances are less interesting since Prop A passing should cover how drainage taxes/fees are spent and campaign finance is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Other than times when a sweep pushes out incumbents on a wholesale level, campaigns like this one require a lot of money to mount a successful challenge and I’m not ready to sign off on only allowing multi-millionaires to hold office. Part of what sunk Mr. King’s campaign several years ago was his lack of specifics and his stance that he was going to use debt to buy our way out of trouble with pensions and infrastructure. He plans to formally announce running again but has yet to address the same old questions, at least Mr. Buzbee seems willing to upset a few carts in his approach to the race. Please keep us informed as new developments take place.
Tom in Lazybrook says
Buzbee has a problem. You have to get Dem support to win citywide in Houston. His “holla, big dolla” persona isnt going to mesh well with most Dems, even those like me that didnt vote for Turner last time and arent particularly happy with him.
If you dont have any African American support…which he wont. And you dont have much support from higher educated Anglo Dems, which he wont (Bill King actually did well there – but parking a tank in front of your house and holding fundraisers for Trump is likely to be fatal for hopes for support from that group and his ads are not going to move the needle with those voters). Then who do you add to the Trump GOP base to win? Hispanic voters? Union voters? Im doubtful there too. Is he even trying to eat into the massive lead any Democrat starts with? Bill King did, although I think it will be harder for him this time around. If you cant win significant numbers of Clinton voters, you are toast in City elections. I just dont see it.
He will be asked, “if you could do a revote of the 2016 election for President, who would vote for?” Turner isnt going to let him sit on the fence and play both sides. He plays hardball and will have plenty of money.
I dont think the firefighter issue is going to be a thing in 2019. Many of them dont live in Houston, and many of those that voted Yes on B are committed Democrats.
Maybe Buzbees campaign can be best seen as a GOP organizational exercise designed to help Kubosh and Knox win reelection by not depressing the city GOP vote to nothing.
Just curious, what do y’all think is Buzbee’s path to victory? Who is he going peel off from the Dem coalition?
howie katz says
Tom, you’re spot on! With the Houston demographics being what they are, we are cursed with Slyvestor or some other Dem as mayor.
Albert Keller says
Tony Buzbee cares about all houstonians it’s a non-partisan race don’t try to label a guy that wants to just solve problems really and then you give freaking Mark Campos the biggest “sell yourself xyz”in the world . oy vey. Does Tony get to counter everything you say that is plus Mark Campos most lazy unproductive slug in the community.
I’ve known you a long time and when have you ever quoted or cared about Mark Campos?
So David, you let Mark Campos comment on loyalty with no rebuttal and he is the biggest Democratic w**** for the last 20 years and lazy as a dead cat, but your objective right? What’s your point? Oy vey..here we go again
Bought and paid for by Bill King who doesn’t listen
Let not forget the “friend” he took home last year that destroyed his Art. Kinda Makes me question his judgment. Just saying.
In this case, this really is a non-partisan race. I’m looking at which Houstonian really has a love for this city and is looking to move it forward. For some reason, I just don’t view the former Mayor of Kemah as being in tune with Houston’s issues, such as flooding. I think Buzbee is an interesting candidate as well. Look forward to hearing more from him Definitely think he has the best resources and ideas to run against Sylvester.
Alex Jones says
Bill King is trying to run as the reform candidate, but he made millions off donating large campaign contributions to office holders in exchange for state and local government contracts all across the Texas. The very sane act he’s railing against now! To top it off, the law firm he was managing partner of has been under investigation for bribery and hold the title of being the most “politically active” business in Texas. Bill King is the poster child of the corruption he’s seeking to clean-up in Houston and now he’s saying he wants to “clean-up city hall”. No thanks Bill King. Houstonians cant trust you. Time for you to just go away.
Loretta Davis says
Of course Buzbee wants campaign finance reform. He is a millionaire and wants to buy the election with his own money. Non-partisan LOL. Just an opportunist. Galveston County Democrats had to ask him to resign as Party Chair. Harris County’s problem now.