HOUSTON (FOX 26) - On the eve of a mayoral run-off, which could be the closest in recent Houston history, the future leadership of America's soon-to-be 3rd largest city will fall to either an unapologetic moderate or a politician whose spent his life in the progressive trenches.
In a city which traditionally skews Democrat, longtime front runner Sylvester Turner will need to transform his quarter century of union support and coalition building, into lots of folks who will take the final steps into voting booths.
For him, solid Saturday turnout may prove critical in order to overcome what many perceive as a likely deficit in the conservative friendly early vote.
"Everyone, when it comes to their vote, is on the same equal footing. The only way you become unequal is when you allow others to vote and you stay at home," said Turner as he made a campaign stop at south side retirement community.
Analysts say Turner's opponent Bill King has ridden momentum from his runner-up finish in November and crept within striking distance. But the former Kemah Mayor will need more than suburban Republicans to prevail. He will need his pledge of heading off pension-based financial disaster to have resonated with at least part of a diverse, liberal leaning population.
"If you do not want a city government like we've had over the last six years, than you need to go vote tomorrow. If you like the city government we've had, than don't worry about it, but I don't think we can stand four more years of what we've had the last six years," said King at his headquarters where volunteers were reaching out to voters by phone.
Jon Taylor, political scientist at St. Thomas University, says history offers a reason this race is much closer than many expected.
"It's the electorate itself. During a mayor’s race, Houston voters tend to be whiter and older than the city itself and that tends to break for King in this respect," said Taylor.
But in past city elections, roughly one out of every three votes was cast by an African-American and today President Barack Obama extended his full endorsement to Sylvester Turner.
The President offered the following statement:
"I am proud to endorse Sylvester Turner in his bid to become Houston's next mayor. Sylvester rose from humble beginnings to become a champion in the Texas legislature for quality education, universal access to health care and affordable electricity rates for seniors. His story is the American story, and he's determined to keep the promise of his city and country alive for the next generation.
Sylvester believes that every Houstonian deserves safer neighborhoods, stronger schools and better infrastructure, no matter what you look like or what part of town you live in. I agree. That's why I am asking you to vote for Sylvester Turner for Mayor in the runoff election on December 12."
King supporters believe the late hour of the Obama endorsement was a tactic to prevent the King campaign from further "energizing" conservative voters by widely publicizing the President's support.