Sheila Jackson Lee
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Texas's 18th district
January 3, 1995
|Member of the Houston City Council|
from the at-large district
January 2, 1990 - January 3, 1995
January 12, 1950
Queens, New York City, U.S.
|Education||Yale University (BA)|
University of Virginia (JD)
Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is an American politician. She is currently the U.S. Representative for Texas's 18th congressional district, currently serving in her 13th term in the House, having served since 1995. The district includes most of central Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party.
|Congresswoman Jackson Lee "Kneeling in Defense of 1st Amendment", speech in the House of Representatives, September 25, 2017|
Jackson Lee was born Sheila Jackson in Queens, New York. Her parents were both immigrants from Jamaica. She graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens. She earned a BA in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Jackson Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990. Jackson Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, was appointed by then Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire. In 1989, Jackson Lee won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994. While on the city council, she helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children. She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.
In 1994, Jackson Lee challenged four-term incumbent U.S. Congressman Craig Washington in the Democratic primary. Washington had come under fire for opposing several projects that would have benefited the Houston area. Jackson Lee defeated Washington in a rout, taking 63% to Washington's 37%. The victory was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. In the general election, she defeated Republican nominee Jerry Burley 73%-24%.
During this time period, Jackson Lee was never challenged in the Democratic primary. She won re-election during this time with at least 76% of the vote.
For the first time in her congressional career, Jackson Lee was challenged in the Democratic primary; her opponents were Houston City Councilmember Jarvis Johnson and Sean Roberts. She defeated them 67%-28%-5%.
It was reported that in October 2010 Jackson Lee was "asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether tea party groups are intimidating black and Hispanic voters in her district." She requested that Attorney General Eric Holder send poll monitors to make sure that a local group wasn't stopping people from voting.
She won the general election with 70 percent of the vote, the lowest winning percent of her career.
In 2012, Jackson Lee was not challenged in the Democratic primary and won the general election with 75 percent of the ballots cast.
In 2014, Jackson Lee defeated Republican Sean Seibert by a margin of 71.78% to 24.76%. Jackson Lee received 76,097 votes, Seibert received 26,049 votes, and Green Party candidate Remington Alessi and independent Vince Duncan received the remainder.
Four Republicans competed in the March 1 primary election for the right to challenge Jackson Lee in the November 8 general election. Lori Bartley, with 5,679 votes (33.7 percent), led the field and faced a runoff on April 24 with the second-placed contender, Reggie Gonzales, who drew 5,578 votes (33.1 percent). Two other contenders, Sharon Joy Fisher with 4,405 votes (26.1 percent) and Ave Reynero Pate (7.13%), held the remainder of the ballots cast. Bartley then won the nomination over Gonzalez, 58 to 42 percent.
In the general election, Jackson Lee defeated Bartley by a margin of 73.5% to 23.64%. Jackson Lee received 150,157 votes, Bartley received 48,306 votes and Green Party candidate Tom Kleven received 5,845 votes.
In the 2018 Republican primary, only 2016 candidate Ave Reynero Pate filed. In Democratic primary Jackson Lee defeated Richard Johnson 85.3% to 14.7%.
Prior to the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a CBC whip. She is known to be gaffe-prone and has a reputation for treating staffers poorly.
Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan. On April 28, 2006, Jackson Lee, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan's government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
Jackson Lee has urged better relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which she describes as a friendly nation. She said the U.S. should reconsider its ban on selling F-16 fighter jets and spare parts to that country. The U.S. State Department bans such sales due to "lack of support" for counter-terrorist operations and Venezuela's relations with Iran and Cuba.
In July 2010 Jackson Lee said: "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side." It was noted that Vietnam had not been split for four decades, and that the current government of Vietnam does not consider South Vietnam to have ever been a sovereign state.
Jackson Lee is active on immigration issues. She has proposed increasing border security and increasing opportunities for legalization among those living in the United States. She has opposed a guest worker program, saying that the idea of guest: "connotate[s] 'invite, come,' and, at the same time, it misleads because you ask people to come for a temporary job of three to six years and they have to leave if they don't have another job and I would think that they would not."
In an October 2016 interview on MSNBC, Jackson mistakenly denounced popflock.com resource in place of WikiLeaks. The story was concerned with the Hillary Clinton email controversy, with Jackson's exact quotation being "You know that I'm going to first of all denounce the use of this intrusion by popflock.com resource through the Russian intrusion," "This is what it's about. Espionage just like what was said over these last couple of days. We need to be concerned about the intrusion of Russia and Putin in these elections."
Jackson Lee said in January 2011 that repealing the health care law would be in violation of the Constitution. She argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that repealing it would violate both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.
At a Homeland Security Committee hearing on radical Muslims in the US, held in March 2011, Jackson Lee said that Peter King's hearings were helping al-Qaeda and "going the same route as Arizona." She complained that the hearings were scaring Muslim Americans and called them "an outrage."
On September 27, 2013, Jackson Lee introduced the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act (H.R. 3202; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Department of Homeland Security to assess the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. The bill would require an independent assessment of how well the TWIC program improves security and reduces risks at the facilities and vessels it is responsible for.
Jackson supports LGBT rights. In 2009, she voted in favor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that expanded the federal hate crime law to cover crimes biased by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2010, she voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act.
Jackson supports the Equality Act, a bill that would expand the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She voted in favor of the bill in 2019. Jackson criticized Republican Representatives who opposed the legislation on religious grounds.
Jackson Lee complained in 2003 that storm names were too white. "All racial groups should be represented," she said, and asked officials to "try to be inclusive of African-American names."
On Thursday, July 9, 2015, Jackson Lee and others who were engaged in a debate over the Confederate battle flag produced an erroneous reproduction of what they thought was the original flag. The original battle flag contained 13 stars representing each state of the Confederacy as of 1861. The flag that Jackson Lee presented to members of Congress contained 17 stars.
On December 24, 2017, United Airlines allegedly gave a passenger's first class seat away to Jackson Lee. United Airlines claimed that the 63-year-old passenger had canceled her flight, which the passenger denied and alleged that the airline threatened to kick her off the flight for her complaint and for trying to take a picture of Jackson Lee. Subsequently, Jackson Lee released the following statement:
"Since this was not any fault of mine, the way the individual continued to act appeared to be, upon reflection, because I was an African American woman, seemingly an easy target along with the African American flight attendant who was very, very nice...This saddens me, especially at this time of year given all of the things we have to work on to help people. But in the spirit of this season and out of the sincerity of my heart, if it is perceived that I had anything to do with this, I am kind enough to simply say sorry."
|115th Congress (2017-19)|
Jackson Lee is or has been a member of a number of caucuses, including:
The Houston Press reported in 1998 that five of Lee's staffers quit that spring: "According to Lee's former Capitol office executive assistant and events scheduler Rhiannon Burruss, the congresswoman's abrasive ways not only drove off staff members but irritated Continental Airlines staffers to the point where one suggested she fly on a competitor instead."
In 2011 she was reported to have one of the highest staff turnovers in Congress and to be one of the worst bosses. The Huffington Post and Houston Chronicle reported that she had gone through 11 chiefs of staff in 11 years. The Huffington Post stated that "Jackson Lee regularly appears on Washingtonian magazine's list of the "Best and Worst of Congress" as the "meanest" member of House of Representatives." That reputation as the worst boss on Capitol Hill continued; in 2012 Washingtonian again listed her as the meanest member of the House, a report in 2013 concluded that "the veteran Texas Democrat had the highest turnover rate for all of Congress over the past decade." She again topped the 2017 edition of the biennial Washingtonian survey and 2018 turnover statistics.
The New York Times reported in January 2019 that Jackson Lee planned to resign her position as the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The move came in the wake of a lawsuit filed by a former staffer earlier in January that claimed the staffer was fired in retaliation for her planned legal action related to an alleged rape by a supervisor in 2015. The resignation came the day after the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence announced it would not support making Jackson Lee the lead sponsor of a law to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act. She also stepped down from her chairmanship of the House Judiciary subcommittee.
Jackson Lee moved to Houston after her husband, Elwyn Lee, took a job at the University of Houston. Her husband now holds a dual position of Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs of the University of Houston System and the University of Houston, respectively. They have two children.