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The Man Who Brought Drive-thru Voting to Texas Wants to Be Houston’s Next Mayor

Chris Hollins, the former Harris County elections chief who pushed measures aimed at expanding ballot access during the November 2020 election, announced Monday that he’s running for Houston mayor in 2023.

“The challenges that we’re facing as Houstonians are becoming more and more complex,” Hollins, 35, said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. “And to overcome those challenges, that job demands innovation, that job demands effective leadership. And so we need a mayor who has a vision for Houston, but who also has the skills and attributes necessary to achieve that vision.”

Hollins, a Texas Democratic Party official who temporarily served as Harris County clerk in 2020, rose to prominence two years ago by championing efforts intended to make it easier for people to vote during the pandemic, including 24-hour drive-thru voting and a bid to send applications for mail-in ballots to more than 2 million registered voters in Harris County.

Those efforts drew a legal battle and a decisive rebuke from state Republican lawmakers, who passed a sweeping voting restrictions bill last year that outlawed the measures Hollins put in place.

Now, Hollins is looking to use his brief seven-month tenure as county clerk to catapult him into the mayor’s office — where he would oversee a $5.1 billion budget and 23,000 municipal employees. He’s running to replace Mayor Sylvester Turner, who will step down next year after serving two four-year terms; the city has term limits that prevent him from running again.

Hollins is the second major candidate to announce for mayor, following state Sen. John Whitmire, a longtime Houston Democrat with deep ties to the city’s police and fire unions and an $11 million war chest.

Top of mind for Hollins is public safety. Like many other major U.S. cities, Houston has seen a substantial increase in the number of homicides during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s 469 killings represented one of the highest homicide rates in decades, according to the Houston Chronicle. And in one week last month, one Houston-area law enforcement officer was fatally shot, another was killed by a driver and another three were wounded in a shootout.

Last week, Turner announced a $44 million plan to combat the rise in violent crime.

Hollins, who grew up in southwest Houston and whose father was a Houston police officer, said he wants to see “a few hundred [more officers] at minimum” added to Houston Police Department’s authorized strength of 5,429 sworn officers, as well as investments in “crime-fighting technology.” But boosting safety extends beyond policing, Hollins said.

“Our community at large cannot thrive unless we’re safe and, just as important, we feel safe in our city,” Hollins said. “So whether that means addressing issues of crime, flooding, housing or the pandemic, Houstonians have to be able to trust that our mayor is committed to protecting residents and to fostering a safe community.”

This story originally appeared in the Texas Tribune. To read this article in its original format, click here.


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