Making plans for Houston's top job

January 23, 2009 4:59:30 PM PST
The race for Houston mayor may not be something that you are thinking about yet, but some of the potential candidates are already making plans for the November election. [BLOG: Dr. Richard Murray blogs about Ben Hall's residency issue]

Mayor Bill White may still have less than a year left in his term. But others who want the job are already lining up, including two former city attorneys, and as we found out, at least one's planning a major move just for the campaign.

Former city Attorney Ben Hall says private practice has been very good to him. Now he wants to give something back to the community by running for mayor and he's willing to spend a lot of his own money doing so.

"I would commit at least a million dollars initially," he said.

But Hall may have a bigger problem. His current voter registration shows hall living in Piney Point Village outside the city limits.

"We have known we're in Piney Point, but we thought it was inside the city limits and so in order to make sure I'm eligible to run, we put a contract on a Houston home," said Hall.

Hall plans to buy a mansion inside the city limits, though according to city charter, to file for office as mayor, a person must be a qualified voter of the city who has resided in the city for 12 months. Hall says he's legally entitled to run because he already owns other property in Houston city limits.

Councilman Peter Brown just rented office space for his own mayoral bid. He says for now, residency isn't a big issue.

"Ben Hall used to be city attorney. I'm sure he knows the rules and he can figure out what to do," said Brown.

But with city Controller Annise Parker expected to announce her candidacy next month and former city Attorney Gene Locke also in the race, our political expert says it's likely someone will make residency a major issue and that could pose a big political problem for Hall.

"The courts have generally been fairly liberal, but the real political danger is do voters care?" said KTRK political consultant Richard Murray. "And in a high visibility race like mayor of the city, residency issues can hurt you somewhat."

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