Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner claims easy reelection win in runoff

Turner was up against high-profile attorney Tony Buzbee in an overtime round that was much quieter than the initial race.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses supporters at his election night party at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on Nov. 5, 2019.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has easily won reelection against challenger Tony Buzbee in a runoff that proved less dramatic than the first round and affirmed the city's status as a Democratic stronghold, despite an 11th-hour intervention tied to President Donald Trump.

Turner defeated Buzbee, a high-profile lawyer, 57% to 43%, on Saturday, according to unofficial returns. Turner will now serve a second four-year term leading Texas' largest city — and the fourth most populous in the country.

By 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Turner had given a victory speech, while Buzbee was not conceding but admitting the odds were long, according the Houston Chronicle. By Sunday morning, Buzbee had posted an Instagram photo of himself seated on what appeared to be a private plane, saying he needed "a bit of R&R."

The race was nonpartisan, though Turner, a former longtime Democratic state representative, harnessed the support of his party to beat back the boisterous Buzbee, who presented himself as an independent reformer. He refused campaign donations while self-funding his bid to the tune of over $10 million.

Turner almost won reelection outright in the initial Nov. 5 election, getting 47% of the vote to Buzbee's 28% in a crowded field. The two had brawled throughout the fall, with Buzbee slamming Turner as a corrupt career politician and Turner hammering Buzbee over his past support for President Donald Trump.

The presidential factor flared up again in the hours before polls opened Saturday as voters reported receiving texts with messages from Trump urging them to vote for Buzbee and "drain the swamp at Houston City Hall." The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., also did a last-minute robocall for Buzbee, according to audio obtained by The Texas Tribune.

While Buzbee had promised a "full-on slugfest" the day after the November election, the runoff turned out to be more calm aside from the final 24 hours. Buzbee toned down his attacks on Turner while seeking to put more of an emphasis on policy. Turner mostly ignored Buzbee, and the two never met for a debate.

The outcome Saturday night was not entirely unexpected. A KHOU/Houston Public Media poll released Wednesday showed Turner routing Buzbee 56% to 34%.

Turner was first elected in 2015 in a much tighter runoff, defeating businessman Bill King by 2 percentage points.

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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