Dec. 10 (UPI) -- John Whitmire, who has spent five decades representing Houston in the Texas Legislature, posted a resounding win over U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in the city's mayoral runoff election, results showed Sunday.
The final results showed Whitmire garnering 65.3% of the vote to Jackson Lee's 34.7%, according to the Harris County Clerk's tabulation.
After joking that he has been told to smile more, Whitmire told supporters at his victory rally that "tonight I'm smiling. And I'm smiling for the city of Houston. I want you to smile because tonight is something to smile about."
Whitmire, 74, ran on a platform of improving police recruiting and retention and driving down police response times in response to public concerns about crime, while also advocating for adding hundreds of Texas state troopers to fortify police presence in the city of 2.3 million, the fourth-largest in the United States.
"Great cities solve their problems. They bring people together. Our campaign united this city," he declared.
"Our work is not completed. This was a journey," Jackson Lee said in her concession speech. "I am a public servant, and being a public servant, you never stop working. I hope you will continue to allow me to continue to work and serve you as I have done in the past, because that is what I will do."
As early voting started last month, a poll showed Whitmire holding a 42%-35% lead over Jackson Lee, with roughly two-thirds of White voters favoring him and roughly two-thirds of Black voters supporting Jackson Lee.
Observers in the first round of voting in September, however, noted that Black turnout was down about 20% compared to the 2015 mayoral election won by former mayor Sylvester Turner, spelling potential trouble for Jackson Lee.
"For whatever reason, Black voters are not as enamored with Sheila Jackson Lee as they were with Sylvester Turner," University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus told Houston Public Media on Nov. 27.
"You would need to see tremendous turnout in the African American community in order for Sheila Jackson Lee to overcome the support that John Whitmire gets among older Anglos, who are much more likely to vote in municipal elections." he said.