Saturday’s election could drastically change the face of government in Fort Bend County, with minorities representing more than 60 percent of the candidates in local races.
That is important as Fort Bend is now considered the most diverse county in all of Texas.
According to the latest census estimates, the county is 35 percent white, 24 percent Hispanic, 20 percent African-American and 21 percent Asian American and others. It has 780,000 people, with more than 1 million projected by 2022.
However, the county’s government has not recently shown the same diversity. Of four county commissioners serving in 2018, one was African-American, and the other three were white. On the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees, four of the five sitting members are white, with one African-American presence.
But some recent election results could be signaling a shift, which could continue this week. One upcoming race in particular could continue that trend.
Until newly elected KP George took office Jan. 1, there had been no minorities to hold the position of Fort Bend County Judge. Going back a few more years, when Anthony Snipes was selected by council along partisan lines to be Missouri City’s City Manager in 2015, he became the first African-American selected to run the “Show Me City” in Fort Bend County. The city elected its first African-American mayor last November.
Along with these past races, the potential shakeup on FBISD’s board of trustees is what has really caught my eye here. Two of the three positions up for grabs are held by whites, but the candidate pool running against them could make for a very different look come early May.
Three candidates have filed to run against incumbent Jim Rice for Position 3, with Afshi Charania (Pakistani), Sam Popuri, and Ashish Agrawal (Indian) all representing ethnic minorities.
Incumbent Dave Rosenthal in Position 7 is running against Tina Michie (Korean) and African-American candidates Ferrell Bonner, Monica Riley and Rudy Sutherland, Jr., along with Nadine Skinner and Holland Poulsen.
In the vacant Position 5 (which George held prior to becoming county judge), five candidates have filed, with Lily Lam (Vietnamese/Asian descent), Allison Drew and Pam Sutherland (African-American) joining Jason Dobrolecki and Christian Sommer.
That’s 10 of 16 – almost two thirds of the candidate pool – representing ethnic minorities. That’s reflective of not only recent election trends but also of the county as a whole.
The potential faces of government are changing with the county itself, with new, diverse faces rising up to challenge the status quo. Which takes me to my next point.
New blood or old reliable?
Having pointed out the historic nature of George’s victory and potential changes on FBISD’s board, it also bears mentioning that those same races and others could be an extension of recent trends on another front – old guard vs. new blood.
George defeated incumbent Robert “Bob” Hebert, who had held position for 16 years – a prominent changing-of-the-guard moment at the county’s highest governmental spot. Over in Stafford, Leonard Scarcella has been Stafford’s leader for nearly five decades and has built up a good reputation for his track record in the city. However, his challenger, A.J. Honore, believes times are changing, and that Stafford’s policies and management need to change with it after 50 years of doing things Scarcella’s way. In the previously mentioned Missouri City mayoral race, Yolanda Ford defeated Allen Owen, who had been the mayor since 1994.
With regard to the Fort Bend ISD board candidates, both Rosenthal (six years) and Rice (eight years) are veterans of the district, so in theory they know its ins and outs. However, their challengers have ideas of their own, and it will be interesting to see which lens Fort Bend voters view the situation through – whether they view consistency as key or think the time has come to shake things up.
Sugar Land’s city council is another example of a changing of the guard – or the potential for it – on May 4, with Positions 1-4 all up for grabs. Regardless of who emerges victorious, Districts 2 (currently held by Bridget Yeung) and 3 (Amy Mitchell) will sport fresh faces next term, with Yeung and Mitchell’s terms expiring.
However, Districts 1 and 4 again juxtapose the old and the new.
In District 1, incumbent Steve Porter is seeking re-election for his fourth and final term, and Mohammad Aijaz has filed to run against him. For District 4, Carol McCutcheon announced Jan. 14 she will be seeking re-election for her second term, with William Ferguson running against her.
The races mentioned here are just a snapshot of the already-changing face of county government in recent years as well as the potential for it to soon look more different than ever.
Fort Bend County appears to be in an unfamiliar, yet exciting, position for its future. That future will be shaped, at least in part, by the upcoming elections.