Julio Jimenez does not have much to get excited about in Pasadena politics. The 24-year-old said young voters like him feel ignored and disconnected. As he has grown up in the working class Houston suburb, he has seen investment in infrastructure pour into the city’s wealthier, whiter south side, miles from his home on the industrial north side. Now, faced with a runoff election between two Anglo mayoral candidates – John Moon Jr. and Jeff Wagner – who do not reflect his background, nor that of the city’s burgeoning Hispanic population, Jimenez said he is just “pissed off.” “I wanted to vote for a Hispanic,” Jimenez said outside Pasadena City Hall, after casting a vote for Moon.
His disillusionment cuts to a core issue of Saturday’s runoff election, which comes as the city appeals a federal voting rights ruling that found the city intentionally discriminated against Hispanic voters with a now-defunct redistricting scheme, pushed by current Mayor Johnny Isbell. That lawsuit reflects the tensions between a white population supporting the old guard in local politics and the new Hispanic-dominant demographic.
In addition to the mayor’s race, voters will decide the District A council seat, where Felipe Villarreal and Daniel Vela are vying to represent part of the city’s north side.
The mayor’s race, however, is taking center stage as it marks a change from Isbell, who has led the city, off and on, for decades and now is term-limited. “I want to give every candidate the benefit of the doubt,” said Cody Ray Wheeler, a councilman who frequently has butted heads with Isbell. “Whoever the next mayor is, I want to work with them.”