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Sheila Jackson Lee files reelection bid for her House seat after losing Houston mayor’s race

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Two days after she lost her bid to become Houston’s next mayor, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has filed for reelection to her seat in Congress.

Jackson Lee, 73, filed paperwork for reelection on Monday. She enters the race for the safe blue House seat she has held for nearly three decades after state Sen. John Whitmire defeated her in a landslide loss to become the mayor of Houston on Saturday, 64%-36%. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the filing.

But her entry into the race won’t be the glide path it’s been in previous elections. The race for her seat was already well underway.

Until Jackson Lee entered the race, Amanda Edwards, a former Houston city councilmember and previous U.S. Senate candidate running on a promise to bring generational change to the district, was the frontrunner for the nomination.

Since announcing her campaign in June, Edwards, 41, has already shown a strong fundraising effort, having pulled in just over $1 million to her campaign coffers — more than Jackson Lee has raised in each of her election cycles except one. She ended the last FEC fundraising quarter with more than $800,000 cash on hand. Edwards will continue her campaign regardless of Jackson Lee filing, she told POLITICO.

“We announced back in June of 2023 my candidacy for Congress and immediately there was widespread excitement and support: grassroots, institutional and fundraising,” Edwards told POLITICO. “People are ready for change.”

That money haul could prove troublesome for Jackson Lee, who had just north of $200,000 cash on hand in her federal campaign coffers in the latest fundraising quarter. And while she recently reported having around the same amount on hand for her mayoral run, federal laws prevent her from porting that money directly into her congressional campaign.

Isaiah Martin, 25, announced he was running for the seat in an online video in September, but the status of his campaign was unclear after the congresswoman’s announcement. Martin had reported almost $300,000 cash on hand in his latest federal campaign finance filing. He faced criticism during his campaign from those on the left for saying that he would support a broad pro-Israel resolution.

Edwards and Martin were strong supporters of Jackson Lee’s mayoral run, and both former interns in her congressional office.

Jackson Lee has represented the district since 1995 and become known for her persistence — both in her dogged legislative efforts and drive to end up on camera — and she has funneled millions of dollars back home and helped spearhead notable lawmaking drives, including the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Having faced no primary opponent in most of her reelection campaigns, she has never met a serious challenge for her deep-blue seat.

Texas’ 18th Congressional District — the former seat of numerous Texas political legends, including famed civil rights activist Barbara Jordan — covers the heart of Houston. It includes the city’s downtown as well as the historic Third Ward, a historically prominent Black neighborhood.