(skip this header)

Westport News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

westport-news.com Businesses

« Back to Article

Mayor's race, Astrodome lure balloters to the polls

Allan Turne, Houston Chronicle
Updated 5:12 pm, Tuesday, November 5, 2013

nextprevious

  • Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announces that the  proposition to restore the Astrodome was voted down during an election watch party at Reliant Center Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Houston. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle
    Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announces that the proposition to restore the Astrodome was voted down during an election watch party at Reliant Center Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Houston. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle

 

Larger | Smaller
Email This
Font
Page 1 of 1

After weeks of political exhortations and rhetorical fireworks, area voters are trekking to the polls Tuesday. Mayor Annise Parker's battle for re-election against former Houston City Attorney Ben Hall headlines the ballot, but other issues with far-ranging consequence for the city and state also command the electorate's attention.

High in public interest is a proposed $217 million plan to transform the Astrodome, the world first covered all-purpose stadium, into an event and exhibition space. A landmark once hailed as "the Eighth Wonder of the World," the former home of the Houston Astros has fallen on hard times after the baseball team moved to Minute Maid Park and the Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo decamped for Reliant Stadium.

Also on the ballot is Proposition 6, a plan to earmark $2 billion of the state's rainy day fund for use in developing reservoirs, pipelines and other water resources and a proposed $70 million Harris County bond issue to fund a portion of a joint city-county inmate processing center. Houston voters have until 7 p.m. to cast ballots for city controller and 16 City Council positions, and, out in the suburbs, Katy voters still have time to weigh the merits of a proposed $99 milllion Katy Independent School District bond issue, $69 million of which would go to build an athletic stadium.

Parker spent the day visiting about 10 polling places. "She's very positive she's going to win this without a runoff," her campaign spokeswoman Sue Davis said. "She's feeling good. People have stopped her to say thank you for everything she's done."

Challenger Hall began the day by casting his vote with his wife and son at the Holiday Inn Express poll at 7625 Katy Freeway. Later, said spokeswoman Julia Smekalina, he was joined by U.S. Rep. Al Green and other leaders in Houston's African-American community for a get-out-the-vote radio appearance. Like Parker, Hall spent much of the day visiting polling places throughout the city.

The mayor's race shaped up as a municipal political free-for-all with nine candidates. But only Parker, who spent six years as a councilwoman, six years as controller and four as mayor, and Hall, a Harvard law grad and onetime city attorney, have much chance for victory. Political observers believe Hall's best chance at winning would come if he pushed the election into a runoff.

Rice University political science professor Robert Stein said that the race had galvanized African-American voters, but that the support was split between Hall and Parker.

Keron Seale, 33, a telecommunications worker voting at the Payne Chaple AME Church in Houston's Fifth Ward, said community issues such as increased police patrols and the removal of derelict buildings led him to support Hall.. "As minorities, we need to stick together..." he said "Our opinion matters and we can change things we don't like. Hall seems like he would be a good change, but only time will tell if he's the person he says he is."

Hal Werner, 29, an advertising copy writer, cast his vote for Parker, whom he lauded for her advocacy of parks and bicycle paths. Alexandros Kinalidis, 25, another Parker supporter simply said, "I couldn't find any reason to vote for anyone else."

George Fridrich, 89, a semi-retired lawyer, voted for conservative candidate Eric Dick, offering harsh words for Parker and Hall.

"I don't like her liberal policies and I don't like her decision making," he said of Parker. Hall, he continued, "had too many questions surrounding him...He really didn't prove his qualifications."

Fridrich also voted against the Astrodome deal, saying he initially favored it's rehabilitation but changed his mind when he saw the cost.

Bellaire resident Celene Chasen, a Houston native, said she voted to "save the Dome," even though "I fully expect it do go over budget." Anyway, she added, demolishing the 1965 stadium would cost taxpayers money as well.

Stephanie Cochran, who moved to the city from New York 10 years ago, opposed the measure. "I believe we spend too much that we don't have on things that don't have value to us," she said. "We have to move on."

Proposition 6, which would provide low-interest loans for water projects in drought-afflicted Texas spawned strong feelings among voters.

"I was a bit conflicted on Proposition 6," said Raymond Brown, 76, a retired lawyer. "There's some criticism that the money you raised would end up in the pocket of Rick Perry's friends. But, if it does anything to improve water conservation, it would be a good thing." Brown voted for the measure.

Sam Haren, 30, an Austin-born lawyer whose parents live in Belton, said, "I see the problems they have out there and I feel we need to have more funding (for water development) before it's too late. There are a lot worse things to spend money on."

"Water is the next hot topic on everyone's agenda," said Michele Sabino, 69, a former University of Houston-Downtown administrator. "Water is important for our industries."

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart predicted roughly 100,000 voters may vote Tuesday, despite cloudy skies and a 30 percent chance for rain. Already, early balloting, which ended Friday, topped 109,000, a record for early voting in elections in which no state or federal offices were at stake. Tuesday afternoon, elections spokesman Hector DeLeon said polling was progressing smoothly.

Stanart said voting machines were distributed to 775 polling places in the county. Last-minute training of election judges was completed over the weekend. Stein agreed that voting in the election will be substantial, but said the heaviest turnout may have come during early voting.

Turnout in the 2011 election barely topped 10 percent. The 2013 election, Stein predicted, "may go closer to 20 percent."