2023 Mayoral Forum Candidate Biographies

Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos, a native Houstonian, was elected to the Houston City Council in 2013 to represent District I. Born in Magnolia Park, he spent over 30 years volunteering and working in the community. He has worked with families, senior citizens, and immigrant communities, advocating for non-discrimination protections and immigrant issues. Gallegos is a strong advocate for green spaces and has committed funds to support neighborhood parks. He has also worked to address nuisances and public safety issues, spearheading a multi-pronged strategy to reduce animal overpopulation. He has been appointed to lead City Council committees, including Quality of Life, Economic & Development, and Regulation and Neighborhood Affairs, focusing on vibrant neighborhoods and positive community development.

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Gilbert Andrew Garcia

Gilbert Garcia

Gilbert Garcia, Managing Partner of Garcia Hamilton & Associates (GHA) in Houston, Texas, manages over $21 billion in high-quality bonds. A native Texan, he earned his B.A. in Economics from Yale University and joined Salomon in 1985 as its first Hispanic Vice President. In 2002, he joined GHA and took over bond management duties with $200 million in assets. GHA is 100% employee-owned and a certified MBE firm. Gilbert has received numerous awards for performance and leadership, including trustee on two public pension funds and Chairman of Houston Metro. He is a sought-after public speaker and chaired numerous galas for non-profits. He is an official CNBC Contributor and frequently quoted on diversity issues in the financial services industry. He served on two SEC FACA committees and led their Diversity & Inclusion effort. Gilbert is married to DeeDee Garcia and has four children.

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Shelia Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is the democratic Chief Deputy Whip for the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the author and lead sponsor of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which established the first new federal holiday in 38 years. And Congresswoman Jackson Lee is the author and fighter for the passage of the Violence Against Women’s Act—signed by the President for the first time in almost a decade.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is an influential and forceful voice in Washington. She is serving her fourteenth term as a United States House of Representatives member. She represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, centered in Houston, the world’s energy capital. Considered by many as the “Voice of Reason”, she is dedicated to upholding the Constitutional rights of all people. She sits on three Congressional Committees — as a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and the crucial Budget Committee. She was appointed the first female Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee for Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, which she now chairs.

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Lee Kaplan Headshot

Lee Kaplan

Lee L. Kaplan is a lifelong Houstonian, small businessman and candidate for Houston Mayor in 2023. Lee was taught by his father that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. He has taken that lesson and applied it to every aspect of his life. As Mayor, he will take that lesson to City Hall to tackle the thorny issues that frustrate all Houstonians; crime, infrastructure, traffic and garbage in order to improve the city for all residents. Lee is a graduate of Bellaire High, Princeton University and the University of Texas Law School. In addition, Lee is an Eagle Scout and has been Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 212 since 2015. He is married to Diana Hudson and they have one son, Will Kaplan. With a background in law, business and working with a diverse range of people, Lee brings integrity, intelligence, and intensity to his campaign to improve the essential services in the City of Houston.

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MJ Khan Headshot

M.J. Khan

M. J. Khan is a distinguished public servant known for his honesty and ethical leadership. He is the first Muslim and Pakistani American to have been elected to the Houston City Council for three consecutive terms from 2004 to 2009. During M.J. Khan’s tenure, he secured grant funds for healthcare clinics, opened a police station, a multi-service center, and a park. He successfully reduced crime rates in Southwest Houston. He also served as the president of the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. M.J. established a scholarship at the University of Houston, led efforts to reduce crimes in convenience stores, opened mosques as shelters during Hurricane Harvey, raised $1.3 million for relief efforts, brought transparency and accountability, and donated lands for the ISGH cemetery and Hamza Masjid. M. J. Khan is now running for mayor of Houston, and if elected, will be the first Muslim and Pakistani American to hold this position in the 4th largest city in America.

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John Whitmire

John Whitmire

Senator John Whitmire, the “Dean of the Texas Senate,” represents the 15th Senatorial District in north Houston and parts of Harris County. With over 38 years of service, Whitmire is the Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, focusing on changes to the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. He is also a member of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, which handles electric grid reliability, broadband access, and consumer rights. Senator Whitmire is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, working to find appropriate funding solutions for various agencies and programs. He is an advocate for quality education, affordable higher education, minority and women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, access to quality affordable healthcare, mental health services, animal welfare, and sound business and economic development policies. Senator Whitmire is proud to serve on the Advisory Council for the Houston Area Women’s Center which focuses on ending domestic and sexual violence for all. He is also honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Vietnamese American Community Center. Whitmire is an attorney of counsel for Locke Lord LLP and is the father of two daughters and two grandsons.

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