Updated Mar 16, 2023, 8:01am EDT

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is weighing a run for Houston mayor

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas poses for a photo with President Biden at his State of the Union.
Jacquelyn Martin/Pool-USA TODAY NETWORK

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The Scoop

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas is considering a run for mayor of Houston, according to three sources familiar with her plans.

Reached by phone, Jackson Lee declined to comment. But a former district staffer, Trey Daniels, called Semafor to say the congresswoman has been asked to “seriously consider” a run by prominent elected officials, constituents, faith and community leaders.

“Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has never faltered on her commitment to the 18th Congressional district nor to Houstonians,” Daniels said.

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Kadia’s view

Jackson Lee would be entering a crowded race, but has the most name recognition after a 28-year career in Congress. A victory would make her the first Black woman to be mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the country.

There have been murmurs about a Jackson Lee run in Houston political circles, first reported by local political writer Charles Kuffner, since voters began receiving calls from a pollster last month that included her name in a roundup of potential candidates.


It’s another recent instance of a prominent House Democrat looking at a big city mayoral race as a possible career capper. Former Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. successfully ran for Los Angeles mayor last year. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill. unsuccessfully ran for Chicago mayor for a second time this year, failing to make a runoff last month.

Several Democrats have declared they’re running for the post, including State Sen. John Whitmire, who is also the brother-in-law of the former mayor Kathy Whitmire. He has already won the endorsement of Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, whose congressional district abuts Jackson Lee’s. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who rose to local prominence by expanding voting access during the pandemic, has also declared in the race, as has Houston city council member Robert Gallegos, the only Latino on the council.

Jackson Lee’s career hit a stumble in 2019 when she was accused in an anonymous former staffer’s lawsuit of firing her for threatening to expose an aide at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation who she said had sexually assaulted her. She stepped aside from key posts in response, including her role as chairwoman of the CBCF, but the lawsuit was later dismissed by a judge the next year.

She subsequently served as chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in the last Congress, and currently sits on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Budget committees.

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  • Jackson Lee is known for staking out an early seat to the State of the Union each year in order to shake hands with the president and their cabinet. She rebutted critics who saw it as a publicity stunt in a 2017 Texas Tribune profile, saying she uses the time to lobby on behalf of her constituents.