Bill King became the latest Houston mayoral candidate to go on TV Thursday, launching a 30-second ad that targets Mayor Sylvester Turner for accepting campaign contributions from donors who own strip clubs.
The TV ad, King’s second of the campaign, uses the same criticism he made in May, when he first attacked Turner for accepting about $50,000 in donations from those who own or are linked to clubs in the city.
“It’s a disgrace that Houston is the human trafficking capital of the U.S,” the ad’s narrator begins. “It’s shameful — young women forced into the sex trade, some even being branded by their pimps.”
The spot goes on to promise that King “will not rest until we put an end to human trafficking in Houston.”
King’s ad lines up with the main focus of his campaign, which is calling for transparent government and alleging corruption at City Hall, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor.
“The aggressive tone suggests that he’s looking to make a big move really quickly, given where King’s numbers are relative to Buzbee’s,” Rottinghaus said, citing a poll released Wednesday that found King trailing Buzbee, 10 percent to 20 percent, with Turner in the lead at 37 percent among likely voters.
King’s ad is the latest example of the increased push among Houston’s leading mayoral candidates to amplify their messages — positive and negative — through television ads. Tony Buzbee, who has been running regular TV ads for most of the year, launched a new spot Tuesday that includes a montage of TV reports on violent crime, while Turner went up with an ad on Monday touting what he framed as his core accomplishments during his first term in office.
Janice Evans, a spokesperson for King’s campaign, said they had yet to determine how long the ad would run.
Buzbee’s ad features news anchors speaking about “a violent crime spree,” “a woman’s severed head … found in a bag,” and an incident where gang members “took turns hacking (a) victim to death with a machete.”
The video also includes a voice-over of Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi saying the city needs 1,500 to 2,000 more police officers, and ends with a narrator’s message: “We need a safer Houston. We need Tony Buzbee.”
Though striking, the ad fuels Buzbee’s message that voters should look to make a change in November, Rottinghaus said.
The ad comes in the wake of a recent Chronicle story that found Buzbee has exaggerated claims about the state of crime here, including his contention that Houston “is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.” During Turner’s tenure as mayor, aggravated assaults and rapes have increased, while murders, robberies, burglaries, thefts and overall crime has decreased. Crime also has plummeted here in the last 30 years, as it has nationwide.
For the same story, Gamaldi told the Chronicle he would like to see HPD grow by 2,000 officers, as Buzbee has proposed. He questioned, however, whether the department would have enough cars, uniforms and equipment to handle the increased headcount, on top of a 40 percent increase in the department’s budget just to hire the 2,000 officers.
Meanwhile, Turner began running a TV ad Monday touting an increase in police officers during his term, a drop in overall crime rates, an expanded youth summer jobs program, flood mitigation and pension reform. At the end of the ad, a narrator tells voters, “we don’t need more tweets, attacks and noise. We need a proven leader who gets results.”
Davis said the mayor will be on TV through Election Day, but the campaign will decide “as we go along which ads will run when.”
King has noted that the police department now employs fewer personnel overall, due to a drop in civilian employees, despite the increase in police officers.
King also has ramped up criticism of Turner’s record on flood recovery and mitigation, while Turner has pointed to the city’s move to change elevation guidelines in floodplains and restrict development in repeatedly flooded areas.