Whitmire Wins Big
"Red, white and blue-Kathy we versity of Houston,
love you!" stated the banners at the Murray said that Hofheinz again
victory celebration for Mayor Kathy counted on tapping the black vote in
Whitmire, one of the most successful Houston politicians in recent history, garnered 63 percent of the vote
to defeat a field of six candidates. The
victory earned her a record-tying
fifth consecutive term as the city's
mayor. Fred Hofheinz, Whitmire's
'89, but that Whitmire claimed most
of the ethnic and part of the white
Whitmire, the first woman elected
to citywide office in Houston, took
the reigns of government during the
Hofheinz solicited and won the
support of the Houston Police Officers Association, a victory that contributed to his downfall. Police officers placed bumper stickers on
police substations, their cars and patrol cars.
While the patrol cars were very
most vocal opponent, placed second the chaos of recession. During the '89
in the race, earning 32 percent of the campaign, she claimed credit for
vote. bringing prosperity back to Houston,
On election night, it was a some- and asked to be retained based upon
what red-faced and weary Hofheinz her record of excellence.
height of economic prosperity, and visible, how effective were the signs,
managed to retain her post despite when the officers were issuing tickets
who admitted defeat to a crowd of
about 200 supporters at the Houstonian Hotel. Across town at the Astro Village Hotel, Whitmire ended
However, Hofheinz insisted that
Whitmire had "stayed too long and
gotten herself dirty." He said the
mayor had become a part of the
the campaign on a conciliatory note, "good-old-boy" network. It was as-
telling a crowd of more than 900,
"There was a lot of mudslinging that
came our way in this campaign, but
I'm ready to put that behind us and
work on uniting the community."
Some political analysts believe
sertions like these that had helped
Hofheinz win his first seat in the
In the 70s, Hofheinz owned several energy-related businesses and
sought election to the mayor's post
Hofheinz took a negative approach based upon his expertise. As mayor,
early in the campaign, a tactic that
alienated him and led to his defeat.
Early on, the former mayor's campaign featured television ads depicting a Whitmire look-a-like searching
for missing funds, which were purportedly lost by her administration.
Hofheinz, an outsider to the "good-
old-boy" network, managed Houston with the same efficiency as previous mayors.
By comparison, both the Whitmire
and Hofheinz administrations suffered from corruption in the lower
Other ads alleged that increased and upper ranks of administration,
but both accomplished much.
Hofheinz raised sewer and water
rates to create the Enterprise account,
a fund used to upgrade the two services. He deemed the account necessary because the city had ignored
refitting those facilities.
However, Whitmire's campaign
jumped on this information to produce television ads that flashed
crime and drug abuse in Houston
were the result of Whitmire's failure
to recruit and pay top dollar to police
cadets and officers. Overall,
Hofheinz's strategy was to discredit
the mayor's ability to manage the
While it is not known for certain if
negativism led to Hofheinz's downfall, what can be surmised is that he
did not carry a true cross section of "Sewer rates up 390 percent." This
Houston's voting community.
It was the black vote that won
Hofheinz the mayor's seat in the mid
70s, and Whitmire the office in 1981,
according to Richard Murray, a political science professor at the Uni-
was the only negative attack to surface from the Whitmire campaign
and was the first TV ad for either
But it was not Hofheinz's past that
affected the election, so much as his
to citizens? How many votes can a
man win, if his strongest supporters
are feared rather than revered?
Regardless of political alliances,
did Houston really choose the better
of the two candidates? Whatever the
future brings, speculation should be
put on hold, as the current mayor
prepares to lead the City of Houston
into the 1990s. As Hofheinz stated,
"I don't view tonight as the end of
anything, but as the beginning."
REFLECTIONS-Mayor Whitmire reflects a
moment before answering a reporter's question
prior to a mayoral debate. Whitmire won election
to a fifth term as mayor of the City of Houston.
Photo by Art Hale.