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LaRue (the younger) running for Houston City Council

The two John LaRues (father and son) at a fundraiser in Corpus Christi for the younger John’s Houston City Council race. The senior LaRue is executive director of the Port of Corpus Christi. Photo by Suzanne Freeman

Political skills honed in Corpus Christi could lead to a city council seat in Houston for John C.B. LaRue, who grew up in the Coastal Bend before becoming a family law attorney in Houston. The son of Port of Corpus Christi executive director John P. LaRue, the younger LaRue is one of five candidates running for the at-large Position 3 on the Houston City Council. His goal for the Nov. 3 election, he told Corpus Christi Business News, is to get into a runoff with the incumbent.

“The incumbent has been a rabble-rouser, not a consensus builder,” LaRue said. “I want to build consensus. I’ll stick to my principles, but in government, you sometimes have to make concessions on some things to get what you need.”

LaRue was recently in Corpus Christi attending a campaign fundraiser. He was joined by his father, who has served as port director since 1994. Both pride themselves on what they call their family tradition of bi-partisanship.

“We’re not hard right or progressive left,” John P. LaRue said. “We are kind of all over the page on issues. None of us agree on everything, but we each have an overall consensus about certain principles.”

He spoke with pride when asked what he thought of his son’s foray into politics.

“It’s something he’s always wanted to do, from the time he was 5,” he said. “He was always very interested in politics and election and government, so it’s not a surprise that he would decide to do this.”

His interest began when the family lived in Philadelphia, where LaRue was born. His father worked for famed Philly mayor Ed Rendell. The connection actually goes back much further, however. His great-great-great-grandfather John Christian Bullitt helped write the City of Brotherly Love’s first city charter. John Christian Bullitt LaRue is his namesake.

The family moved to Corpus Christi when young John was 10. As he grew up in the Coastal Bend, his activism also grew while he volunteered on campaigns for local politicians.

“Corpus Christi helped a lot with educating me on public service and how to do some retail politicking,” he said. “My knowledge of retail politicking has been an important part of learning about what the heck I’m doing now.”

That experience, mixed with his political acumen, will make John C.B. LaRue a good Houston council member, his father said. As John P. began to list the bigger bay city’s need for dog parks and better infrastructure, it began to sound much like an echo of Corpus Christi’s issues.

“If you want to be a world-class city that wants to host events like the Super Bowl, then you don’t want pothole-riddled streets ruining people’s cars,” the young John LaRue added to his father’s litany. “Houston’s streets are not dissimilar to the streets here.”

LaRue’s platform focuses on three issues, including the infrastructure. He’s also concerned with transportation and leadership. A vote by incumbent councilman Michael Kubosh against an equal rights ordinance that has been on the books in most major cities for more than three decades prodded LaRue to enter the race in the first place. Kubosh told constituents he would support the amendment, then backed off when it came time to vote.

“I personally appealed to him to vote for that amendment,” John C.B. LaRue said. “If he had voted ‘yes,’ I would not have been as inclined to run against him.”

For an off-year election, the race has drawn a a significant number of candidates for each council position — mainly because of the mayoral race. The city’s top spot is open for the first time since 2009.

“I think everyone is hoping that momentum for the mayor’s race will trickle down to city council races,” LaRue said.

Excitement for LaRue’s participation in the Houston race has trickled all the way down the Gulf Coast to Corpus Christi, where an impressive list of notables gathered to support the young LaRue’s campaign.

“All politics are local, whether it’s in the fourth-largest city in the country or here in Corpus Christi,” LaRue said. “Everything comes down to retail politics, especially in low turn-out elections where only 10 to 12 percent of voters go to the polls. It’s all about going out and meeting people, kissing babies and petting dogs.”

The trick to making it to the front of a packed field of candidates lies in coalition building, LaRue said. His plan echoes the retiring mayor’s winning combination from 2009.

“She ran with a coalition of moderate Republicans, Republican women and liberal progressives,” he said. “The incumbent is more popular with Libertarian and Tea Party voters. The more business-minded Republicans are not happy with that. I see that as being a winning strategy for me.”

While a mix of conservative and liberal supporters might seem odd, in a non-partisan race in Houston, Texas, it’s not weird at all, LaRue said.

“Politics make strange bedfellows,” he said. “The city council needs to be more responsive. It’s gotten to the point where frustrated voters are turning to reporters’ Facebook feeds to be heard.”

John C.B. LaRue promises to listen and respond to the citizens of Houston if he is elected. If not, LaRue said, he will still have accomplished some good for the city.

“I think someone needs to make [incumbents] sweat a little,” he said.

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