Alumni Emmett, Parker and Gray to hold virtual discussion on upcoming elections

With Election Day just over a month away, Rice University’s School of Social Sciences and Department of Political Science are hosting a virtual discussion about the presidential, congressional, state and local contests.

Flyer advertising webinarPanelists for the Sept. 30 event include former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett ’71, a senior fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, fellow in energy and transportation at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and professor in the practice in Rice’s School of Social Sciences; former Houston Mayor Annise Parker ’78, who previously served as a professor in the practice at Rice’s School of Social Sciences and the Jones Graduate School of Business and was a fellow at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders; and Houston Chronicle reporter Lisa Gray ’88. They will examine the impending election and the far-reaching implications for Houston, Texas and the U.S. A Q&A session will follow the 7 p.m. discussion.

Amid the intensity of the presidential race, the 2020 general election will be the first in which Texans can’t vote a straight ticket.

“While the attention is focused on presidential and national politics, I am interested in the impact of not having straight-ticket voting on local races,” Emmett said.

“Voters will have to choose one office after another, all the way down the long list of positions — including judges — that Texas puts on the ballot,” Gray added. “I’d like to think that’ll lead to a burst of civic engagement, in which voters carefully evaluate the candidates in each race. But c’mon: Will most Texans really do that?

“It’ll be fascinating to see what happens on those down-ballot races,” she said. “Will people stop voting when they get to the races they don’t know about? Will they just pick the R’s or the D’s all the way down the line?  Will they vote for slates of candidates — Republican, Democrat and third-party — who advance whatever cause is dearest to their hearts? Or will we see an outbreak of voting based on which of the candidates’ names the voter likes best? I worry it’ll be that last option.”

The event will be moderated by Mark Jones, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies at Rice.

“We are pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for our community to learn more about what to expect from the 2020 elections and what this will mean for Houston and Texas in particular,” said Ashley Leeds, a professor of political science and the department chair. “We’re fortunate to have such distinguished alumni who are able and willing to provide their perspective.”

To register for the webinar, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.