Sylvester Turner

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Sylvester Turner
Sylvester Turner crop.png
62nd Mayor of Houston
Assumed office
January 2, 2016
Preceded byAnnise Parker
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 139th district
In office
January 10, 1989 – January 1, 2016
Preceded byClint Hackney
Succeeded byJarvis Johnson
Personal details
Born (1954-09-27) September 27, 1954 (age 68)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Cheryl Turner
(m. 1983; div. 1991)
EducationUniversity of Houston (BA)
Harvard University (JD)
Southern Reformed College and Seminary (DD)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

Sylvester Turner (born September 27, 1954) is an American attorney and politician who is serving as the 62nd mayor of Houston, Texas. A member of the Democratic Party, Turner was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1989 until 2016. He attended the University of Houston and Harvard Law School.[2] Turner ran for mayor of Houston in 1991, losing in the runoff election to Bob Lanier. He lost again in 2003, coming in third and thus missing the runoff.[3][4]

Turner won the 2015 election,[5] defeating Bill King in the runoff by 4,082 votes out of 212,696 votes cast in the closest mayoral election in Houston history by percentage.[6]

On December 14, 2019, Turner won his second term as mayor over the more conservative Tony Buzbee, 56-44 percent in a turn out of less than 20 percent of registered voters.

Early life[edit]

Turner was born on September 27, 1954, in Houston, Texas, as the sixth of nine children, and was raised in the Acres Homes community in northwest Houston by his father, a commercial painter, and his mother, a maid at the Rice Hotel.[7] He was senior class president and valedictorian at Klein High School.[8] At the University of Houston he was Speaker of the Student Senate[citation needed] and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in political science.[citation needed] Turner was a finalist in the Ames Moot Court Competition while obtaining a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School.[citation needed] He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[9]

Law practice[edit]

Upon completing law school Turner joined the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski. In 1983, he founded his own firm, Barnes & Turner. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and as a seminar lecturer at the South Texas College of Law and the University of Houston Law School's Continuing Legal Education Programs.[10] Turner was admitted to practice in the State of Texas, federal District Court for the Southern District Court of Texas and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Bar Association, National Bar Association, Houston Lawyers Association, and the Houston Bar Association. Turner served as an immigration lawyer for many years in Houston.

Political career[edit]

In 1984, Turner ran for Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 1 in the Democratic primary, but lost to El Franco Lee. Four years later, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in House District 139 in Harris County and remained in office through 2014. During that time, Turner ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Houston in 1991 and 2003.[11]

During his 1991 campaign for Houston mayor, Wayne Dolcefino of KTRK-TV ran an investigative report questioning Turner's involvement in an elaborate insurance fraud scam. The resulting scandal ultimately cost Turner the election. Turner sued Dolcefino and KTRK and was initially awarded a $5.5 million libel settlement that was reduced to $3.25 million by the presiding judge. KTRK appealed the ruling. The Texas Supreme Court overturned the money award on the basis of heightened legal protections which the First Amendment affords to the media. But the court found that both of these specific broadcasts were both false and defamatory.[12]

Turner with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in January 2017.

Turner served more than 25 years in the Texas House of Representatives, and over the course of his service, he served as a member of the Legislative Budget Board, Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Subcommittee of Articles 1, 4 & 5 (General Government, Judiciary, Public Safety & Criminal Justice) and the House State Affairs Committee. He also chaired the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and the Greater Houston Area Legislative Delegation.[13] Turner has supported policies to attract doctors to underserved areas,[14] proposed a measure increasing state funding for mental health services in Harris County from $32 million to $200 million,[15] and worked to increase funds for legal aid for poor Texans.[16]

In February 2020, Turner endorsed Michael Bloomberg in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[17] However, in March 2020, he switched his endorsement to former vice president Joe Biden.[18]

Ride sharing mobile apps[edit]

In 2016, Turner voiced his support for laws regulating Uber and other ridesharing services to protect public safety.[19]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2015, Turner was named one of the top 10 best members of the Texas House on LGBT issues by Equality Texas with an "A+" rating,[20] after Turner said he had "evolved" on LGBT issues.[21]

Turner, while running against Bill King in the 2015 Houston mayoral runoff election, stated he is "100 percent" committed to reenacting Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) and attacked Bill King for saying he won't revisit the issue of HERO, along with his support from the Campaign for Houston.[22]

Consumer protections[edit]

Turner discussing Houston's path to becoming a smart city at an event by New America in January 2019.

In 1999, Turner voted to restructure the electric utility industry in Texas to allow customers competition and consumer choice.[23] During his time in the legislature, he has also worked to continue to protect Texans, voting for bills preventing gas companies from cutting off service during freezing temperatures,[24] limiting the amount utility companies could raise rates in order to fund certain projects, such as building electric poles and wires, without first getting approval from state regulators,[25] and authoring legislation that required the Public Utility Commission to conduct cost-benefit analyses of any proposals from utility companies that would add more than $100 million to annual consumer electricity costs.[26] During the 84th session, Turner authored legislation that would prohibit electricity companies from charging customers "minimum usage fees" when they used too little electricity.[27] Turner also voted to allow the Public Utility Commission to issue emergency cease-and-desist orders, without first going to a court, to companies whose actions threaten the state's electricity supply.[28] During the 83rd session, he joined a campaign to encourage low-income Texans to enroll in "LITE-UP Texas", a program "authorized by the Texas Legislature through which participants could reduce the monthly cost of electric service by 82%."[29] In the 84th session, he authored a bill to extend this discount program for another two years, until the end of 2017.[30] He also co-authored a bill to help ensure persons living in multi-family residences are alerted when their electricity bill has not been paid.[31]

Public education[edit]

In 2004, he voted against a measure that would have scaled "back benefits for future public school employees and discourag[ed] early retirement."[32] He was also critical of investment managers for the Teachers Retirement Fund for taking over $8.2 million in bonuses while the state was slashing funding for education and the system's investments continued to struggle.[33] In 2011, Turner voted against a measure that would have implemented a 6 percent cut to education funding for all schools in Texas, a move that equated to a $4 billion education funding cut.[34] As a member of the legislature, Turner voted against a measure that would allow school districts to lower their salaries, implement furlough days,[35] and increase student-teacher classroom ratios.[36] He also opposed a corporate tax break that many legislators, in the Texas House of Representatives, believed would hurt public school funding.[37]


Texas has banned sanctuary cities,[38] but Mayor Turner said that Houston will not assist ICE agents with immigration raids.[39]

Hurricane Harvey[edit]

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Turner has received criticism for his decision not to suggest any form of evacuation. He has responded to the criticism by pointing out the logistics of evacuating "6.5 million" people and the deaths and traffic that occurred during the 2005 Hurricane Rita evacuation. Critics have replied stating that 6.5 million people did not have to be evacuated but instead tens of thousands could have been evacuated who were in flood zones or individuals who were most at risk during emergencies could have been evacuated.[40][41][42][43]

Health care[edit]

A supporter of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), Turner voted against joining the Interstate Health Care Compact, an alternative to traditional ACA participation,[44] and introduced legislation that would expand Medicaid in Texas pursuant to the ACA.[45] Turner warned fellow legislators about the potential backlash from constituents if the state chose not to expand Medicaid, which promised a significant return on the state's investment.[46] One of his major accomplishments in the House was legislation that expanded access to the children's health insurance program, which was passed in 2007.[10] Turner also passed legislation in 2015 that will free up funding for medical trauma care centers, which have not received the full amount of funds designated to be spent specifically on trauma centers. The legislation will bring $25 million to the Greater Houston area over the next two years, including $11 million to Ben Taub and $10 million to the Memorial Hermann.[47] During the 84th Legislature, Turner introduced legislation that would provide care under Medicaid for people with severe and persistent mental illness and who are transitioning from an institution to the community, and who are at risk of institutionalization or re-institutionalization.

Turner is a regular attendee of various public health programs, including contributions to Covid-19 safety and community-based health care.[48][49][50]


Sylvester Turner has long been an advocate for abortion rights. He voted against a measure requiring doctors to perform a sonogram on women seeking an abortion at least 24 hours before the procedures.[51] He has also fought to protect funding for family planning programs and Planned Parenthood.[52] Turner also voted against a Senate version of a measure that banned abortions after 20 weeks and tightened standards on abortion clinics,[53] and also authored an amendment to the bill that would have required the state to pay the costs abortion clinics would incur on the measure to retrofit facilities so they could be certified as surgical centers.[54] In 2013, the El Paso Times described Turner as a "lion of pro-abortion rights."[55]

Criminal justice[edit]

On gun control, Turner opposed measures to limit lawsuits against gun or ammunition manufacturers,[56] allowing concealed handguns on higher education campuses, and rescinding the authority of local governments to ban concealed weapons on public property.[57] He also opposed measures that would reduce the number of training hours required to receive a concealed handgun license.[58] Turner supported a bill that prohibited the use of state funds for the enforcement of federal firearms regulations.[59] He also advocated abandoning the "pick-a-pal system", where judges appoint commissioners who then can pick whoever they want to serve on grand juries.[60]


As mayor of Houston, Turner has made it a goal of his administration to end chronic homelessness in the city.[61]

Personal life[edit]

Turner is a member of the Church Without Walls.[62] He was married to Cheryl Turner from 1983 to 1991, and they have one daughter, Ashley Paige Turner.

In November 2022, Turner disclosed that during the summer he had been diagnosed with bone cancer, for which he had surgery and received six weeks of radiation treatment.[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "실베스터 터너 휴스턴시장에 명예 신학박사 학위 수여". May 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "Rep. Sylvester Turner". Texas House of Representatives. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Our Campaigns – Houston Mayor Race – Nov 04, 2003". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  4. ^ Groogan, Greg (1 March 2014). "Sylvester Turner eyes Houston Mayor job". Fox Houston. Archived from the original on 29 December 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  5. ^ Cooper, Nakia. "Sylvester Turner announces candidacy for mayor". Archived from the original on 2015-10-19. Retrieved 2015-07-03.
  6. ^ Click2Houston Retrieved 12 December 2015. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "About – Sylvester Turner". Sylvester Turner for Mayor. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  8. ^ "The Honorable Sylvester". The History Makers.
  9. ^ Meeks, Flori (2 August 2006). "Black fraternity has outreach, education as top priorities". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b "The Honorable Sylvester Turner". The History Makers.
  11. ^ "Houston Mayor". OurCampaigns.
  12. ^ "Sylvester TURNER, Petitioner, v. KTRK TELEVISION, INC. and Wayne Dolcefino, Respondents". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  13. ^ "Texas House of Representatives". Texas House of Representatives.
  14. ^ "Governor signs historic physician loan repayment bill". Your Houston News.
  15. ^ Pinkerton, James (31 January 2013). "As mental illness permeates streets, police, jail struggle". Houston Chronicle.
  16. ^ "Texas Legislature Responds to Need for Increased Legal Aid Funding; Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Will Manage Additional $3 Million Appropriated by Legislature". Business Wire.
  17. ^ Samuels, Alex (13 February 2020). "Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Mike Bloomberg's apology for "stop and frisk" was key to endorsement". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner now endorses Joe Biden". FOX 26 Houston. 6 March 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Uber threatens exit over fingerprint rules, Mayor says no compromise on public safety". Culturemap. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  20. ^ "84th Texas House Scorecard". Equality Texas. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  21. ^ "Former Anti-Gay Representative Supports full LGBT equality". Texas Observer. 13 July 2015.
  22. ^ "100 Percent Committed to a City Without Discrimination". Sylvester Turner. Archived from the original on 24 August 2017. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Texas House Journal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 6, 2009.
  24. ^ "Texas House Journal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 6, 2009.
  25. ^ Galbraith, Kate. "Bill helps utilities increase rates". Downtown El Paso.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Pickrell, Emily (20 March 2013). "Bill would force agency to consider consumer power costs".
  27. ^ Malewitz, Jim (2 April 2015). "Legislation Would Ban Fees for Conserving Electricity".
  28. ^ "House gives utility commission emergency powers". Statesman. Archived from the original on 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  29. ^ Turner, Sylvester. "Rep. Sylvester Turner urge low-income Texans to enroll in state electricity discount program". Texas House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  30. ^ Osborne, James. "Electricity assistance for low-income Texans close to reprieve". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  31. ^ George, Cindy (11 January 2014). "New laws provide more protections for Texas tenants". Houston Chronicle.
  32. ^ "House Journal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 6, 2009.
  33. ^ Hoppe, Christy; Timms, Ed. "Texas teacher pension fund gave more in bonuses than all other state agencies combined, analysis shows". The Dalls Morning News. Archived from the original on 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  34. ^ "SB 1811 – Reduces Funding for State Agencies – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  35. ^ "SB 8 – Management and Operation of Public Schools – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  36. ^ Smith, Morgan (16 June 2011). "House Approves Key Education Bills". The Texas Tribune.
  37. ^ Ficak, Peggy (8 May 2013). "House bill grants businesses $667M in tax relief".
  38. ^ Shoichet, Catherine E. (May 9, 2019). "Florida is about to ban sanctuary cities. At least 11 other states have, too". CNN.
  39. ^ "U.S. Cities Prepare For Planned ICE Raids". NPR. July 13, 2019.
  40. ^ "Texas Governor, Mayor Split Over Whether Houston Needed Evacuations". The Wall Street Journal. August 27, 2017.
  41. ^ "Why was Houston not evacuated before Hurricane Harvey?". BBC News. August 29, 2017.
  42. ^ "Houston mayor defends decision not to issue evacuation order". ABC News. August 27, 2017.
  43. ^ "Questions swirl around Houston mayor's evacuation decision". AP NEWS. August 30, 2017.
  44. ^ "HB 5 – Interstate Health Care Compact – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  45. ^ Aaronson, Becca (16 April 2013). "House Panel Debates Medicaid Expansion Proposal". The Texas Tribune.
  46. ^ "Hearing highlights Medicaid expansion rift". The Statesman. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  47. ^ "The Honorable Sylvester Turner". The History Makers. Archived from the original on 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
  48. ^ Rozen, Sierra (2021-12-13). "Texas Children's Hospital to partner with city of Houston for COVID-19 vaccine event". impact. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  49. ^ Management, Karya Property (2021-05-18). "Houston Officially Welcomes the Karya Kares Clinic". GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  50. ^ Management, Karya Property. "Karya Kares Donates Millions in Rental Assistance and PPE Funds to those Affected by COVID-19". Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  51. ^ "HB 15 – Requires an Ultrasound Prior to an Abortion – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  52. ^ "SB 7 – Health Care – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  53. ^ Grissom, Brandi (24 June 2013). "Abortion, Protests, Transportation as Session Nears End". The Texas Tribune.
  54. ^ Tuma, Mary. "Anti-Abortion Bill Officially Advanced by House". San Antonio Current.
  55. ^ Schladen, Marty. "Texas state rep Bryan Hughes focused on abortion message". El Paso Times.[permanent dead link]
  56. ^ "The Galveston Daily News from Galveston, Texas • Page 5". The Galveston Daily News.
  57. ^ "Texas House Journal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 6, 2009.
  58. ^ "HB 928 – Prohibits State Funds from Being Used for the Enforcement of Federal Firearm Regulations – Key Vote". Vote Smart.
  59. ^ "Vote Smart". SB 864 – Reduces Required Hours for Concealed Handgun License Training – Key Vote.
  60. ^ Barajas, Michael. "Watch Rep. Sylvester Turner's Cri de Coeur for Grand Jury Reform". Houston Press.
  61. ^ Kimmelman, Michael; Tompkins, Lucy; Lee, Christopher (14 June 2022). "How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  62. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-08-31. Retrieved 2017-08-31.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  63. ^ Chron, Dan Carson (2022-11-02). "Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reveals he was treated for bone cancer". Chron. Retrieved 2022-11-03.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Houston