Houston Mayoral runoff: Sylvester Turner devours Tony Buzbee to reclaim incumbency

Mayor Sylvester Turner thanks his supporters and talks about his plan for the next four years during his runoff election night watch party on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Houston.

Anthony Obi Ogbo | International Guardian Houston, TX

Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner last night, redeemed his tenure in a voting runoff when he smashed his rival Tony Buzbee to end a contentious electioneering moment. According to results released by the Harris County Clerk’s Office, Mayor Turner cleared the polls with a 56.04% of the votes, leaving his rival gasping with an insufficient 43.96%. 

Mr. Buzbee who equally addressed his supporters has not conceded as of press time.

From the start of the campaign till the Election Day, polls have consistently favored Mayor Turner over a lineup of challengers, but Mr. Buzbee’s overzealous rivalry infiltrated the voting populace with division and resentment.  His campaign had choreographed  a thread of sensational publication teasers, stories, media Ads, and destructive memes, accusing Mayor Turner of  unethically hiring a 31-year-resident in an airport’s Executive Internship Program.  

Mr. Buzzbee aided by a clique of media reporters amplified these claims, calling for a full investigation of Mayor Turner. He also took advantage of a pending issue between the City and Fire Fighters, accusing the incumbent of gross neglect of the police, firefighters, and flood victims. 

Mayor Turner countered with ads showing Mr. Buzzbee’s DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) mug shots and depicting his rival as ethically unfit. Though Mr. Buzzbee’s drunken-driving was dismissed, the Turner Campaign launched corruption allegations, airing television ads accusing the millionaire lawyer of donating to  the district attorney’s campaign in exchange for dismissal of his drunken-driving case.

Even as the Houston firefighter union voted unanimously to endorse Mr.  Buzbee in this runoff, his campaign struggled feverishly to defend a string of clueless actions and proposals. For instance, Mr. Buzbee’s contribution of almost $10 million to his campaign; his association with Donald Trump; and his political romance with Houston’s most outspoken anti-gay activist Dr. Steven Hotze were very extreme values inconsistent with Houston’s diverse populace.

To make matters worse, Mr. Buzbee’s vowed to fire a highly rated Police Chief, Hubert “Art” Acevedo and replace him with someone focused on “increasing more patrols instead of political grandstanding.” This was after Acevedo called out federal lawmakers over lackadaisical gun culture. This was where this contender dug his grave.

As of press time, Houston Mayoral runoff has been fought and won, with Mayor Turner tearing Mr. Buzbee apart to reclaim his tenure. He has been Houston Mayor since 2016 after he defeated King in a runoff election in 2015.  By late Saturday evening, Mayor Turner had already given a victory speech promising to represent every Houstonian as usual, irrespective of any affiliation. Mr. Buzbee who equally addressed his supporters has not conceded as of press time.

Enemies within: Novice African-American Women Judges might be under vindictive surveillance

Judge Smoots-Thomas is in trouble today because she is not  Senator Ted Cruz. Novice African-American Women Judges must reassess their community activities, political conduct, and financial practices to comply with the demands of their new designation.

After a Harris County District Court Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas was indicted and later suspended for allegedly misappropriating $26,000 in campaign contributions, it became obvious that “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under disgusting surveillance. Every move, every breath might be under systemic scrutiny.  “Black Girl Magic Texas,” represented 19 Black women (17 beginners) who ran for a judge in Texas Harris County–and all 19 won. Together, they made history, becoming the largest group of Black female judges to be elected at the same time in Harris County history.


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

The fine art of judging is a complex phenomenon provoked by thoughtful application of law and the test of constitutionality.  


Smoots-Thomas’s indictment was brutal. For instance, earlier this month, she was led into a federal magistrate’s courtroom in Houston wearing handcuffs where she pleaded not guilty to all charges. Her attorney, Kent Schaffer, said the judge’s prosecution was political.  Schaffer, a partner at Schaffer Carter & Associates in Houston, claimed it happened because Smoots-Thomas was an African American and a Democrat.  Smoots-Thomas was first elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012 and 2016.

Schaffer was right. Smoots-Thomas is Black and Blue. It was obvious that a sudden change of the County’s court districts from red to blue would come with dire consequences. This strain actually started years back when the “Black Girls Are Magic” campaign mantra was conceived. But this campaign was only a strategic move to elect African-American women in various sectors of the society where they were under-represented. “Black Girl Magic Texas,” was later accomplished in the Judiciary when 19 Black women who ran for a judge in Texas Harris County won.

PRIVILEGED: Texas Senator Cruz (left) had a similar issue and was neither arrested nor handcuffed. Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton (middle) conveniently ran for reelection even as he was grounded with a filthy securities fraud indictment. He narrowly won this race. Judge Smoots-Thomas (right) is in trouble today because she is neither Cruz nor Paxton.

Prosecutors claim Judge Smoots-Thomas misused nearly $25,000 (not 25 million) in campaign funds between January 2016 and March 2017. Her seven-count indictment reveals that she spent the money on a home mortgage, private school tuition, jewelry, and travel. Texas law required her to report to the Texas Ethics Commission whenever she used campaign funds for non-political expenditures.

UNDER VINDICTIVE SURVEILLANCE: The chambers of the fraternity of the “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under vindictive surveillance. Our novice Black Judges must therefore watch out for two major evaluation competencies: effective application of judicial practice and exemplary bench demeanor.

But let me be clear, that the aim of this article is not to categorize ethical violations within race and gender. I am simply discussing an uneven justice system; inequity of law prosecution; and unequal treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system, which is one of the most serious problems facing our society. For example, Judge Smoots-Thomas is in trouble today because she is not  Senator Ted Cruz.

Texas Senator Cruz had a similar issue and was neither arrested nor handcuffed. The racially privileged Senator was caught in a deep hole of financial fraud. He ascribed his failure to disclose two bank loans totaling more than $1 million in federal election filings as a clerical oversight. An in-depth investigation of these transactions which involved Goldman Sachs Group — where his wife, Heidi Cruz, was employed at the time—and Citigroup was suppressed. Also other details regarding this scandal were under-reported.

There is also this bizarre case of the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton who conveniently ran for reelection even as he was grounded with a filthy securities fraud indictment. He narrowly won this race. This was in 2018.

The chambers of the fraternity of the “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under vindictive surveillance. Our novice Black Judges must therefore watch out for two major evaluation competencies: effective application of judicial practice and exemplary bench demeanor.  

The fine art of judging is a complex phenomenon provoked by thoughtful application of law and the test of constitutionality.  In fact, the essential qualities of a good judge were explained by Socrates: “Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.” These characteristics, in conjunction with relevant moral necessities, remain the hallmark of effective exercise of the extensive powers of the judiciary.

The Novice African-American Women Judges must not just live up to expectation but also watch out for amoral conduct. This is because the enemies are within the County court districts, tapping phone lines, shuttling courtrooms, listening to every conversation, snooping manila folders–all in search of actionable misconducts and process oversights. While most of these judges are focused on the vision and honor of doing justice and administering the law, they must also make changes in their community activities, political conduct, and financial practices to comply with the demands of their new designation.  

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

African Americans and Clean Climate: Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must step up

We need an organization strong and powerful enough to hold elected leaders accountable for protecting our health and environment, and advancing our interests.

There has been a major divide between the Republican and Democrat lawmakers when it comes to voting on measures to tackle the climate crisis.  It is true that the fossil fuel industry now almost entirely favors Republicans in campaign contributions. However, the truth remains that at this point, the Black community should prioritize health over material electioneering support.


By Carroll G. Robinson

Studies by researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reveal that Black Americans are subjected to higher levels of air pollution than their white counterparts irrespective of social status.  Most such mucky pollution comes from burning fossil fuels. The study published in the American Journal of Public Health explains disparities in distribution of particulate matter emission sources by race and poverty status. It suggests that black Americans were exposed to significantly more of the small pollution particles associated with various long and heart-related disease and untimely death.

To this end, Black Democrats must be environmentalists. Protecting our planet matters to our health, our children, our seniors, our safety and our prosperity. Climate change, environmental injustice, air pollution, water pollution, flooding and contaminated land are all on-going threats to the health, safety, quality of life, prosperity and the future of Black America. So too is transportation, infrastructure and economic inequality, the education and wealth gaps and food deserts.

The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must remain a leader in the fight for environmental justice and to end climate change and environmental health disparities. The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must be not just the leading defenders of our voting rights, but also our health, our children, our elders, our families, our neighborhoods and our planet.

There should be no more crushed concrete plants, landfills or illegal dumping of old tires, garbage and broken furniture in our communities. These are public health, safety, quality of life and environmental justice issues.

Without more explanation about significance of a clean and safe environment, l must conclude; it’s not enough for us to just elect Democrats to public office. We need an organization strong and powerful enough to hold them accountable for protecting our health and environment, and advancing our interests. That organization must be the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

Thank you and God Bless Houston. For constructive dialogue, you may contact me directly >>>

Carroll G. Robinson, Esq.

Hon. Robinson is the former Chairman, City of Houston Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee; Former Vice Chairman, Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council (H-GAC TPC) and Associate Professor of Public Administration, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University.

Houston Judge Surrenders for 7-Count Wire Fraud Indictment

Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas surrendered to federal authorities. She’ll make an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray.

Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, is currently the presiding judge for the 164th District Court for the State of Texas and has jurisdiction over Texas civil cases located within Harris County.

A Houston jurist, 164th District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, was indicted for wire fraud, according to a Friday news release by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

The judge’s Oct. 24 seven-count indictment was unsealed Friday when Smoots-Thomas surrendered to federal authorities. She’ll make an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray, the news release said.

The indictment alleged that the judge embezzled campaign contributions through people and political election committees, promising to use the funds on her reelection campaigns in 2012 and 2016. In reality, she paid for noncampaign expenses such as her mortgage payments, private school tuition, travel, luxury items and cash withdraws, alleged the news release. She concealed her wrongful spending through her campaign treasurer and false Texas Ethics Commission filings, it said.

Wire fraud charges can be punished with up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 maximum fine.

Smoots-Thomas earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law Houston in 2001, and was licensed to practice in 2002, said her State Bar of Texas profile. She does not have any public disciplinary history as an attorney. The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct also does not list any public discipline for her.

She worked at Brown McCarroll in Houston right out of law school and stayed until 2007, when she opened a solo practice, according to her profile on her campaign website. Her private practice centered around insurance law, commercial litigation, construction litigation and real estate.

Under her former name, Smoots-Hogan, the judge was elected to the 164th Civil District Court in 2008. She was reelected in 2012 and 2016.

In her personal life, Smoots-Thomas is raising two boys, the campaign website said.

According to the judge’s Twitter profile, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and needed surgery and chemotherapy. She tweeted in September that she’s progressing well through treatment and “starting to see the light at the end.”

When judges are facing criminal charges, it’s fairly routine for the judicial conduct commission to suspend them from the bench as their cases wind through the criminal justice system, said Austin solo practitioner Lillian Hardwick, who practices judicial ethics law.

If the allegations in the government indictments are proven in court, and Smoots-Thomas is convicted, then it’s the type of crime that could boot her from the bench for good, Hardwick said. She could either resign instead of facing discipline, and promise never to run for election again, or the Texas Supreme Court could remove her, Hardwick explained.

“The judge has to comply with the law, and that has been interpreted as in dispensing the law and in personal behavior,” Hardwick said. “If you look at the constitutional provisions, about willful or persistent conduct that’s inconsistent with the proper performance of judicial duties, nobody would argue this behavior, if proven, is consistent with judicial duty.”

Houston Mayor Race – Turner takes an intimidating lead, set to retain office

Mayoral race collation announcement suspended as incumbent Sylvester Turner takes a commanding lead

Mayor Turner mounts the stage of the third-floor ballroom at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston to avow his confidence as the crowd yells, “Four more years!”

International Guardian Houston, TX – As the results from Tuesday’s election gradually trickled in, Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner took a commanding lead over his two closest rivals, Anthony Buzbee and Bill King.

With 23 percent of the votes in, as of press time, Mayor Turner led with 47 percent, compared to Tony Buzbee with 29 percent and Bill King with 13 percent. If Mayor Turner doesn’t reach a 50 percent benchmark, he would face the second winner in a runoff election.

But statistical analysis so far shows a minute chance of any runoff. “Mayor Turner needs just three percent to retain his tenure, and his victory is a matter of Time”, a senior aide in his campaign office told International Guardian.

Earlier in the evening, Mayor Turner mounted the stage of the third-floor ballroom at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston to avow his confidence as the crowd yelled, “Four more years!”  According to mayor Turner, “The numbers are very, very, very encouraging, in fact, I would say they are super encouraging…We’re almost there. We know it’s going to be a long evening … but today was an incredible day of voting.”

Mayor Turner was surrounded by local and statewide officials, including Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green.

His closest rival, Buzbee also made an appearance at a different location telling his supporters,  “We’re gonna make the runoff…we are going to win.”

Turner has been Houston Mayor since 2016 after he defeated King in a runoff election in 2015. Along with the mayoral race, several city council, Houston Community College trustee and Houston Independent School District trustee seats were on the ballot.

The County Clerk’s Office had issued a release indicating a delay in counting process. The Office promised to announce the results as soon as they are available.

Unprecedented delays at County Clerk’s Office punctuate round-the-clock Houston’s election coverage

First boxes of election day results arriving downtown. County Clerk’s office says due to the delays in process, they would not be able to accommodate any media requests for early morning newscasts, including access to the election office.

International Guardian – Houston, TX. A minute-by-minute election coverage of a nerve-wracking 2019 Houston’s citywide election coverage has been interrupted by unprecedented delays at County Clerk’s Office. As of 11:56 p.m. an official report provided results from 176 voting centers while the Central Counting Board worked diligently processing figures in what the County office described as “a secure and efficient manner.”

At 2:30 a.m. however, the county issued a statement:

“Due to the delay in election results, our office will not be able to accommodate any media requests for early morning newscasts, including access to the election office.  The final unofficial results will be emailed as soon as they are available, but the next media availability will not be until 2 p.m. at the Harris County Clerk’s Office at 201 Caroline, 4th floor conference room.”

The delays are anticipated, International Guardian gathered. It may be recalled that late in October, the Secretary of State issued an election advisory requiring Harris County Clerk’s office and law enforcement to drive mobile ballot box cards from each of the 757 Election Day polling sites to the downtown central counting station.

The previous plan, considered more effective, required bringing the cards to ten drop-off sites spread around the county to transmit electronically.

Meanwhile, incumbent, Sylvester Turner currently leads mayoral race over his closest contenders, Anthony Buzbee and Bill King. With 23 percent of the votes in, as of press time, Mayor Turner led with 47 percent, compared to Tony Buzbee with 29 percent and Bill King with 13 percent. If Mayor Sylvester Turner doesn’t reach the 50 percent mark needed to win in Tuesday’s election, a runoff election would be held.

The Policy of Dishonesty–Between the War Situation Room and a shameful Photo Op

President Trump created his own Situation Room moment. He set up his table, gathered and positioned some available officials, ushered in the photographer and pretended to be watching the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

From fabricated or deceptive claims about trade and the economy to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, the United States’ President Trump has made ‘dishonesty’ the core focus of his policy-making scheme. Apparently, the only time he doesn’t lie is when he is asleep. 


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

Apparently, the only time President Trump doesn’t lie is when he is asleep. 


Two days ago, the White House released what would have been a War Situation Room showing President Trump and his team supposedly directing and monitoring the killing of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.  But this bizarre gathering was actually a sham to replicate a historic 2011 moment when President Barack Obama watched from the Situation Room as commandos went after Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda.

The difference in the photos reveals the difference between a real war situation room and a discreditable photo-shoot situation

Obama’s ‘Bin Laden Situation Room photo was impromptu, capturing a tensed moment as  this President flanked by his national security team, received live updates from Operation Neptune Spear, which led to the killing of bin Laden. But last week, eight years later, President Trump created his own Situation Room moment. He set up his table, gathered and positioned some available officials, ushered in the photographer and pretended to be watching the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

President Trump’s photo in the real sense reveals the dishonest face of this administration. It may be recalled that early in September, President Trump displayed his fabricated version of Hurricane Dorian forecast map to show the powerful storm was on track to hit Alabama. Of course, he had to lie. He had falsely stated in a tweet earlier that Alabama was among the several states expected to face impacts from this storm.

President Trump on holds a chart showing the original projected track of Hurricane Dorian that appears to have been extended with a black line to include parts of the Florida Panhandle and Alabama.

In an administration pervaded with mediocrity and policy-making inaccuracies, the White House is experiencing an alarming decrease in trust and reputation.    Just last month, the Washington Post reported that President Trump has made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days by significantly uttering exaggerated figures, making unwarranted claims and irritating the social media with horribly outright falsehoods.

So it is not a coincidence that the photos reveal the difference between a real war situation room and a discreditable photo-shoot situation. 

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

November 5 Houston’s Mayoral race is no joke: you must vote the incumbent or perish

Politics is all about interests grounded on a philosophy of “who gets what?” Voters make their choices based on their individual and communal policy-making expectations and necessities. Thus, the choice of keeping the incumbent must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

In just is few days, voters in Houston would go to the polls to make their choices over a roster of candidates running for various city office positions. Among those contests, the mayoral race is considerably critical—coming when the disastrous team in the White House has flung democracy in the United States into a chaotic experience. They have created bogus laws and executive orders to destroy families, law enforcement, commerce, and strangulate the very fundamental rights America was built on.    


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

Buzbee says he wants to end corruption, restore effective government and deliver results for all Houstonians, but it would take an ethical leader to restore ethical leadership.


But the Houston city government led by Mayor Sylvester Turner stood its grounds to protect the city against such challenges. He liberated the city from two major catastrophes; Hurricane Harvey and the Political Storm Donald Trump. Besides his leadership performance during this historic Harvey catastrophe, Mayor Turner also resisted Trump’s cold-blooded immigration policies; and rallied his law enforcement to focus on saving lives rather than a collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to tear up families. According to Mayor Turner,

“My job starts with the never-ending effort to provide a safe, secure and prosperous environment for every resident of Houston in their places of work, their places of worship, their school, their homes and elsewhere. The city does not try to do ICE’s job, nor does it try to impede ICE. And we will continue to be a city that builds relationships, not walls.”

There are other policy issues at stake in this election, but let us remember that no strategy actions would persevere without a peaceful and secured city.

While this may sound satirical, there are essentially two major candidates in this race–Mayor Turner and others. Turner’s argument rests on his first-term stewardship, touting a successful handle of the budget, a deadly Hurricane Harvey, pension system reforms and the economy. His closest rival, Tony Buzbee, objected. Buzbee is a decorated Marine, a successful lawyer and business owner running on governance ethics. He says he wants to end corruption, restore effective government and deliver results for all Houstonians.

Cover of International Guardian’s election edition.   Houston’s Mayoral race is, therefore, a fraternal call to vote the incumbent or perish. Just like America and Trump, if Houston scorns the current opportunity to keep its current leadership, this city might end up in self-destructive misery.  

But it would take an ethical leader to restore ethical leadership. For example, to date, Mr. Buzbee has not properly come clean on how and why a young Dallas-based female court reporter descended on his home and vandalized his valuable collections.  29-year-old Lindy Lou Layman was accused of smashing and destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures in Buzbee’s mansion. Layman according to Harris County court documents, poured liquid onto paintings, tore paintings off the wall and threw sculptures across the room, resulting in about $300,000 damage.

Challengers from left: Tony Buzbee, Bill King , Dwight Boykins, and Sue Lovell. In any election process involving an incumbent, the choice of a candidate must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

In furtherance of his questionable moral worthiness, Mr. Buzbee has shuttled in-between parties courting the most questionable moments and supporting underhanded politicians. For instance, in 2002, he unsuccessfully ran for the Texas state House as a Democrat. But in2012, he supported squarely, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. That was not all.  In 2016, Buzbee hosted a fundraiser at his River Oaks mansion for then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, and subsequently gave $500,000 to Trump’s Inauguration Committee.

There might be nothing wrong with supporting candidates, but Mr. Buzbee’s double-dealing attitude with both the Republicans and Democrats possibly reveals con and disloyalty, and questions his moral decency in politics and leadership.

Please note that there might be nothing wrong with supporting candidates, but Mr. Buzbee’s double-dealing attitude with both the Republicans and Democrats possibly reveals con and disloyalty, and questions his moral decency in politics and leadership.

Another issue with Mr. Buzbee’s candidacy is his contribution of almost $10 million to his campaign. The message might be simple – that Bagby Street might be up to be mortgaged to a millionaire affiliated to Donald Trump. And you may not be surprised too if Hilton Americas becomes a Trump Tower.   

Other candidates in this race are rightly exercising their constitutional rights to vote and to be voted for. Yet their chances remain infinitesimal based on the latest poll by the University of Houston published on the eve of early voting. The poll shows that Mayor Turner could win without a runoff, as he keeps a wide lead over his opponents, with 43.5 percent support among likely voters.  Mr. Buzbee followed by 23.4 percent. Bill King and Councilman Dwight Boykins trail with 7.8 and 6.8 percent respectively. The rest of the candidates, including Sue Lovell, poled below 2%.

Replacing Mayor Turner must not just be based on his first-term superintendency, but also the caliber of his challengers.  Because the incumbent is not working does not mean that we should replace him with a numbskull unfamiliar with the people of Houston, their resources, and the city’s political terrain.

Mayor Turner is the incumbent. Replacing him must not just be based on his first-term superintendency, but also the caliber of his challengers.  Because the incumbent is not working does not mean that we should replace him with a numbskull unfamiliar with the people of Houston, their resources, and the city’s political terrain.

Mr. King actually  admitted when in an interview with ABC13, that  “I think that people probably don’t know the more human side of me because, uh, they see me as a sort of analytical person,” King says, proclaiming himself as somewhat of a nerd.”  So if the people do not know him, why is he in the race?

Politics is all about interests grounded on a philosophy of “who gets what?” It means that voters make their choices based on their individual and communal policy-making expectations and necessities. In just is few days (November 5), voters in Houston would go to the polls to make these choices. But as usual, the discussion question would be whether voters would go to the polls with emotional conscience regarding their interests or whether they would ignore those values to seek candidates peddling frivolous but deceptive campaign rhetoric.  

In typical electioneering process where the incumbent is seeking reelection, a contender must substantially establish four core causes;  

  • A blueprint to transform campaign promises into action.  To date, days before the election, these contenders have not offered any significant proposal besides the rendition of uncorroborated website campaign narratives.  
  • Contenders must show solid proof of policy-making competence. Buzbee and King had pledged to clean up the city office from corruption. But a proposal to fight corruption with amoral characters would bastardize any transformation process. It takes moral people to shape moral society.
  • Contenders must show a connection with the people. Houston, the most diverse nation in the country deserves a leader that is familiar with the multi-cultural face of the city. Mr. Buzbee does not know Houston beyond River Oaks’ vicinity where he resides. Another major contender, Mr. King actually  admitted when in an interview with ABC13, that  “I think that people probably don’t know the more human side of me because, uh, they see me as a sort of analytical person,” King says, proclaiming himself as somewhat of a nerd.” So if the people do not know him, why is he in the race?
  • Last, this position is for a city’s top leadership, not a store manager. Any contender ready for this position must have been tested in managing a high-figure budget; must possess unmatched knowledge of the legislation process, as well as running voluminous city’s day-to-day activities.  

Therefore, based on the aforementioned circumstances, Houston has a choice to make between an incumbent and some incompetent contenders yet to defend their campaign claims. In any election process involving an incumbent, the choice of keeping him must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

Also, I must remind voters that Houston is a family. November 5 Houston’s Mayoral race is, therefore, a fraternal call to vote the incumbent or perish. Just like America and Trump, if Houston scorns the current opportunity to keep its current leadership, this city might end up in self-destructive misery.   

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

Former Rep. John Conyers — the longest serving black congressman — passes away at 90

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) speaks alongside Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) during a news conference to discuss the End Racial Profiling Act on April 22, 2015.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a civil rights icon who during five decades in Congress co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus and pushed to establish a national holiday to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Sunday of natural causes at the age of 90.

His death comes after a long and illustrious career that spanned more than 50 years and 27 terms in office, but ended in 2018 with a sudden resignation amidst claims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse of employees and misuse of taxpayer funds to cover-up those claims.

Conyers’ tenure was a remarkable 53-year-run during which the lawmaker, the son of a well-known labor lawyer in Detroit, compiled a near-record legacy of civil rights activism, longevity and advocacy for the poor and underprivileged.

He died with the sixth-longest tenure in congressional history.

“For a long time he was black America’s congressman,” said Sam Riddle, a longtime family friend and consultant to the Conyers family, who confirmed the death Sunday. “On the streets of Detroit, he’ll be mourned.”

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan,is seen on Capitol Hill on July 25, 2007.
.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan,is seen on Capitol Hill on July 25, 2007. (Photo: STEFAN ZAKLIN, EPA)

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement said he “was deeply saddened” by Conyers’ death.

“One of my most special memories was spending time with him at Gordon Park on 12th Street and Clairmount on the 50th anniversary of the violence of 1967 as he recounted the story of his courageous efforts to calm the angry crowds,” Duggan said.  “He has fought for a better Detroit for more than half a century.

“From co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus to leading the fight in Congress to enshrine Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday, John Conyers’ impact on our city and nation will never be forgotten,” Duggan said.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Conyers a “lifelong Detroiter who was deeply committed to the city and to those he represented.”

“His impact on our state, whether by spearheading reforms in criminal justice and voting rights in Congress or through his lifetime of civil rights activism, will not be forgotten,” Whitmer said in a statement. 

Conyers was born in Detroit and graduated from Northwestern High School. After a tour of duty with the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Conyers returned home to earn bachelor’s and law degrees from Wayne State University.

His law practice and work in the auto plants in Detroit led him to the office of former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, where he worked as a legislative assistant for three years. But by 1964, at the age of 35, Conyers went after a seat of his own in Congress, winning the first of 27 general elections and serving portions of Detroit and some surrounding Wayne County suburbs for the next five decades.

He may not have had many bills that carried his name — only 26 of the 712 bills he introduced became law, according to the Library of Congress — but he fought for issues of civil rights and social justice, including seeking reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves, modifying the mandatory sentences for those convicted of non-violent drug crimes, defending assaults on the Voting Rights Act, reforming laws that put juvenile offenders in prison for life and calling for investigations into police brutality of African-American men.

And he was the key sponsor of the bill, introduced each session for 20 years, that designated the third Monday of January as a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Conyers introduced the bill four days after King was assassinated in 1968, but it wasn’t signed into law until 1989.

Monica and John Conyers pose for a photograph outside of Aretha Franklin's funeral at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday, August 31, 2018.
Monica and John Conyers pose for a photograph outside of Aretha Franklin’s funeral at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday, August 31, 2018. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

In the thick of the civil rights battles, Conyers walked alongside King and other leaders of the movement in Selma, Ala., to bring equal voting rights to blacks. 

In 2015, during his 50th year in Congress, Conyers told the Washington Post that King was one of the most important historical figures in history.

“I felt the civil rights movement was a powerful chapter in American history, King to me is the outstanding international leader of the 20th century without every holding office,” he said. “He advanced us forward even though there was a terrible loss of life and violence and injustice. But Martin Luther King Jr. moved us in a way that changed history.”

He moved among those involved in the disturbance in Detroit in August 1967, urging calm. And he burnished his civil rights record even more by hiring icon Rosa Parks after she moved from Alabama to Detroit. The secretary and receptionist job in Conyers’ Detroit office was a job she held until her retirement in 1988.

Tributes pour in

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who won election to Conyers’ seat after his resignation, on Twitter called Conyers “our Congressman forever.”

“He never once wavered in fighting for jobs, justice and peace,” Tlaib tweeted. “We always knew where he stood on issues of equality and civil rights in the fight for the people. Thank you Congressman Conyers for fighting for us for over 50 years.”

U.S. Rep. Brenda, D-Southfield, also took to Twitter to mourn Conyers’ passing:

“John Conyers spent a lifetime in public service dedicated to civil rights and justice for people of color in America. His legacy will continue to impact generations to come.”

Republican Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph also praised Conyers, calling him “a legend on the House Judiciary Committee” who witnessed and helped write history.  

“His positive work on Civil Rights legislation began to move the country in the right direction and made our nation a better place today,” Upton tweeted.

U.S. Senate Gary Peters, D-Michigan, said that while serving in Congress with Conyers, he saw firsthand his dedication and passion.

“From being in Selma, Alabama, on Freedom Day during the Civil Rights Movement — to co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus, chairing the House Judiciary Committee and becoming Dean of the House of Representatives — Congressman Conyers dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights,” Peters said.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, noted that Conyers, “believed in justice and equality for all.”

“John Conyers spent his life championing those causes,” Dingell said in a statement. “The fights John Conyers fought will be remembered for generations.”

Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee noted that Conyers rose to become the longest serving African American in Congress and  dean of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Throughout his life, John Conyers helped to advance many important causes, including expanding voting rights and equal rights for all Americans,” Kildee said.

Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said Conyers was indispensable to the city on Sept 11, 2001, helping to prevent backlash against our Muslim community.

“RIP,” Moss tweeted. “He was of Detroit and for Detroit.”

Career ends amidst a sex scandal

In the end, Conyers would fall to the #MeToo movement. It was a scandal that was a swift and crushing fall from grace. 

Facing a rising chorus of voices demanding he step down because of the sexual harassment claims, Conyers, D-Detroit, refused to do so for several months in 2017.

Conyers resigned in early December 2017 after an article on BuzzFeed.com detailed a secret settlement of more than $27,000 with a former staffer who accused him of making sexual advances toward her and paying her out of funds from his taxpayer-supported office. 

Within days, several other women had come forward with accusations against Conyers, who, despite his express denials that he harassed anyone, saw House leaders and members of his own party abandon him, with three of the four Democrats in the Michigan delegation calling for him to resign.

In addition to Marion Brown, the staffer who received the settlement, six other women claimed they either experienced or saw him touching and rubbing women in his office, making sexual advances toward them or making inappropriate remarks. One of them filed a lawsuit against him early this year and then withdrew it, saying she didn’t want to hurt Conyers’ reputation.

Another woman, Washington lawyer Melanie Sloan, also told the Free Press that Conyers had verbally mistreated her, forced her to babysit his children and, on one occasion, showed up at a meeting with her at his office in his underwear —though she didn’t consider it sexual harassment. 

From accusation to resignation, Conyers’ colleagues went from being warily supportive, urging caution while an investigation by the House Ethics Committee was completed to issuing outright calls for his resignation, even from at least one fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus,which he helped to create in 1971.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is the third-ranking Democrat in the House and had been a colleague of Conyers’ on the Congressional Black Caucus since 1993, called for him to resign  shortly after similar calls by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. 

Conyers’ lawyer, Arnold Reed, of Southfield, had reiterated on several occasions that the congressman was not ready to resign and wanted to see the ethics investigation completed.

But with allegations swirling not only over the harassment claims but his use of taxpayer funds to pay at least one settlement, he abruptly stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, a position he had held for more than two decades.

Then  — with media reports that some members of the caucus were privately urging him to resign — he suddenly quit Washington, missing several votes, including one mandating sexual harassment training for members, as he headed back to Detroit and his family.

Conyers record in Congess

During his time in office, which he won with huge margins ever two years like clockwork, Conyers was considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, with a 100% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign.

The conservative Freedom Works gave him a 15% rating, while the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity give him ratings of 8% and 6% respectively.

Conyers, however, had already come under scrutiny twice from the House Ethics Committee in Congress for possible transgressions in his office.

In 2017, the committee confirmed it was continuing to look at whether he had wrongly paid his former chief of staff more than $50,000 for time she didn’t work. Conyers said he was only paying her for accrued leave time and severance as part of a separation agreement reached after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property unrelated to her job.

In 2003, the Free Press reported on complaints from six unnamed Conyers aides who said they were forced to work on various campaigns, including a failed legislative campaign for Conyers’ wife, Monica, on government time. A follow-up Ethics Committee report, however, focused on allegations that the congressman used staff to babysit his sons, help his wife with her law studies and chauffeur him to private events.

Conyers’ office denied the accusations and eventually reached a deal to ensure staff knew where their responsibilities began and ended.

In 2014, Conyers nearly didn’t get the chance to run for reelection because of irregularities in the petitions he filed to run for office. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett said he had used ineligible people to gather signatures, but a federal court disagreed and the Legislature passed a law that people who collected signatures didn’t need to be registered voters.

Mayor Turner bashes Challenger Buzbee over ties to anti-gay activist

Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee (foreground) attempted the politically all-but-impossible, and that is lobbying for support from the LGBTQ community while also courting Houston’s most outspoken anti-gay activist Dr. Steven Hotze (background), founder of the Conservative Republicans of Harris County.

Houston’s FOX 26 has reported that Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee attempted the politically all-but-impossible, and that is lobbying for support from the LGBTQ community while also courting Houston’s most outspoken anti-gay activist Dr. Steven Hotze, founder of the Conservative Republicans of Harris County.

“Dr. Hotze became convinced that he was committed to causes that we believed in, that men shouldn’t be in women’s restrooms, that he was committed to life, that he was committed to marriage between one man and one woman,” said Jared Woodfill, Hotze spokesman and President of CRHC.

FOX 26 has learned the Conservative Republicans’ endorsement of Buzbee first hit the rocks after Hotze viewed the video of the candidate pledging to revive the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

“We are going to do it. It’s going to have to be done smartly,” said Buzbee in phone video captured as Buzbee spoke to Houston’s LGBTQ Political Caucus.

The breakup hit critical mass on Monday when Buzbee was asked if he supported Hotze’s views.

“No and I don’t really know Mr. Hotze. I’ve met him at church once,” said Buzbee at Houston Public Media/KHOU debate.

Mayor Turner… “It just puts a huge chasm into the credibility and the integrity of Mr. Buzbee”

It was a dubious statement Buzbee has been forced to walk back, later conceding he met the conservative power broker Hotze on multiple occasions.

Mayor Sylvester Turner has been quick to respond, first to FOX 26’s Jonathan Martin.

“Buzbee is catching heat because he won’t denounce the racist and homophobic views of Steve Hotze,” said Turner.

And Turner’s denunciation continued Wednesday at City Council.

“It just puts a huge chasm into the credibility and the integrity of Mr. Buzbee,” said Turner.

Meantime, Buzbee says his honesty and character remain in-tact.

“As far as this partisan politics and these lightning rods here and there and trying tie me to this person or that person,” I am my own man,” said Buzbee

Culled from FOX 26 (By Greg Groogan )

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