The United States Congressional District 18 race just got a bit more exciting after Jarvis Johnson, the District B Houston City Councilmember, officially filed on Monday at Harris County Democratic Party Headquarters. Not to be outdone, Attorney Sean A. Roberts also decided to jump into the race against incumbent Democrat U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
The term-limited Johnson took the oath of office earlier that day for his third and final term as a city council member. He is jumping into a race with nothing to lose since he does not have to step down from his position in order to challenge Jackson Lee in the March primary.
Johnson said "We're going to have a frank discussion on who's capable of bringing and creating good-paying jobs for the people of the district." He went on to cite "dismal unemployment and school dropout rates" as some issues he believes Jackson Lee has failed to address as a member of Congress since 1994.
Johnson is counting on winning and claimed that "95 percent of B is in 18" to Martha Griffin. Although that statistic may be debatable, it is no secret that the One-Eight is predominately African-American at 40 percent and is one of the bluest districts in the good old red state of Texas.
While Johnson may attempt to tap into the "change" and "outsider" meme in this race, it will fall on deaf ears if Sean Roberts is capable of becoming a viable option.
The issue at hand with Johnson is that he cannot attack Jackson Lee on unemployment and school dropout rates at the same time he claims that the majority of his district is in the 18th Congressional District. Where has Johnson been the last five years as the council member of District B? Everyone knows that as the local elected official, he has the most at stake to lose if he does not provide for his constituents.
Roberts has everything to gain if voters accept unemployment and dropout rates as reasons to oust Jackson Lee. It may seem like a practical strategy for Johnson but upon reflection one can easily see how it can backfire.
The actual fight will be between Roberts and Johnson, as they fight for the scraps in a district that is loyal to Jackson Lee. The last time she was challenged at the primary level, she won overwhelming with close to 95 percent of the vote. Even though that may have been eight years ago, she has won eight general elections while averaging about 80 percent of the vote.
Critics may claim that Jackson Lee's behavior may be her Achilles heel in this race. Some constituents have still not forgiven her for siding with Hilary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary.
Others cannot believe that she attempted to honor Michael Jackson in Congress after he died.
Of course, how can we forget the incident that captivated the national media for ten seconds ... you know, the one where she answered a cell-phone call while listening to a constituent ask a health care related question at a town hall meeting.
Apparently, those individuals have never heard of multi-tasking and that some people have enough brain power to perform these types of acts.
Jackson Lee may have done a good job at alienating folks in the last two years but that will not matter in the March primary where Democrats will vote. Most of her opposition, although small but vociferous, already lean right ... these conservative voters will not be able to impact the race.
Time also does not help Johnson and Roberts. The election is in less than eight weeks. There is just not enough time to build the name recognition and deliver an effective message in such a short time span.
This should be the least of the challengers' concerns because everyone knows that money will be the real factor. It does not help them when Jackson Lee can fall back and ask Clinton or Obama to start making phone calls. Jackson Lee's popularity and strong foundation will prove too hard to overcome for Johnson and Roberts.
The word on the street is that Roberts is running in order to increase visibility for his law firm and Johnson is just warming up for campaigning for post-council offices. Whatever their true intentions may be, it will be interesting to see if Roberts or Johnson are able to really challenge Jackson Lee this March.
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