By Charlotte Aguilar
Bellaire voters showed their dissatisfaction with the status quo Tuesday (Nov. 5) by giving a political outlier his biggest vote ever in his six runs for mayor, soundly ousting one incumbent City Council member, and forcing a runoff in two other council races — with candidates not aligned with the current council and city manager coming out on top.
Mayor Andrew Friedberg was re-elected to his third term with 73 percent, 2,409 votes. But opponent Robert Riquelmy — who had lagged behind Friedberg, 89-11 percent twice in 2015 and 2017 — drew 27 percent this go-round, 898 votes. Previously, Riquelmy’s best performance had been 16 percent of the vote in his first try in 2007, running against incumbent Cindy Siegel. He ran against Siegel again in 2009 and Phil Nauert in 2011, posting 86-14 percent totals each time.
Friedberg took note of the results Wednesday: “I’m deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to continue my service as mayor for a third term,” he said. “The voters have affirmed the diversity of opinion throughout our community, and also a shared desire that we work together toward our common goals in moving Bellaire forward, and I remain committed to doing so.”
In the only other two-person race, Catherine Lewis defeated incumbent Trisha Pollard 58-42 percent, 1,881-1,360 votes. The Ph.D. and geologist hammered on her concerns with budgeting and taxes, planning and development, and communications as her key issues, and cited her experience as a geologist in being able to help move Bellaire forward with flood mitigation.
“I want to thank the voters who voted for a Better Plan for Bellaire,” she said Wednesday morning, alluding to her campaign theme. “I have lots of work ahead of me, and I’m ready to serve my neighbors throughout Bellaire. I will listen to you.”
Two longtime residents who are attorneys and first-time candidates — Nathan Wesely and Winfred Frazier — landed in the runoff for Position 4, which term limits has opened. Wesely attracted 44 percent of the vote (1,411) with Frazier drawing 36 percent (1,158). The third candidate, Kevin Newman, notched 20 percent (637.)
Wesely’s issues are government efficiency and zoning protection. “I am grateful for all those who helped on the campaign and voted for me,” he said Wednesday. “I will spend the next month getting the message out on fiscal responsibility and listening to Bellaire residents.”
Frazier has aligned himself with the city’s current direction — something he re-iterated Wednesday, when he said “anger and misinformation” motivated voters:
“I am very thankful to many citizens who voted for me after looking at my years of total service to make Bellaire a better place to live. Last night’s election results prove one thing — anger is a big motivator. The anger and divisiveness that we see at the national level has permeated our society and filtered down to the local level where it most certainly does not belong. I do not want to live in a town where elections are won by anger and misinformation, and people govern by fear.
“With the exception of the mayor who thankfully will get to keep his job, the council candidates who received the most votes in the general election capitalized on that anger and it worked. But there is another chance to show that this is not who we are as a community. Two council seats will go to a runoff and two candidates, Winfred Frazier and David Montague, who have a positive message and want to see collaboration instead of divisiveness, have an opportunity to win.
“The message I shall deliver between now and the runoff election is reach people with this message: If you are generally happy with the direction of Bellaire, if you want to continue to see progress on drainage, commercial development, maintaining premier public safety services and the small-town feel that we all know and love you must vote for Winfred (Win) Frazier, City Council Position 4.
In Position 6, accountant and small business owner Jim Hotze outpolled first-term incumbent David Montague, a retired petroleum engineer, 47-41 percent (1,495 to 1,311 votes) to enter a runoff, with Keith Bowers trailing at 11 percent.
Hotze campaigned on bringing Bellaire’s “out-of-control” spending under control while maintaining first-rate city services. Today, he reflected on his own success, as well as the other outcomes.
”I am humbled by the results,” Hotze said. “I believe that the voters cast their ballot for candidates that are committed to control spending, limit tax increases, and reducing bond borrowing. I plan to walk every street of Bellaire in the next 38 days and ask for my fellow citizen’s vote.
“A political novices like Catherine Lewis being victorious over TrishA Pollard, an experienced, well-known
and well-funded incumbent council person really sends a message that many of the voters want a change.
The margin of her victory is significant.”
Montague did not immediately respond to Essentials’ request for comments.
The runoff is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14.