Candidates file for Galveston’s mayor’s race

Bill Keese watches Rose D’Ambra, senior administrative assistant for Galveston, sign and notarize his ballot application for the mayoral race at city hall on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Keese said Wednesday that candidate Roger “Bo” Quiroga offered him a board appointment in return for his endorsement in the Dec. 15 runoff election.


A defeated Galveston mayoral candidate Wednesday asserted one of the men still in the race had offered him a board appointment in exchange for an endorsement ahead of this month’s runoff election.

Bill Keese said Roger “Bo” Quiroga offered him an appointment to the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees, which governs the Port of Galveston, if Keese agreed to endorse Quiroga over Craig Brown in the mayoral race.

“He said, ‘I was talking to people, and I would sure like to get you a seat on the wharves board; I think you’d be good at that. I’d like to do that, and I’d like you to endorse me,’” Keese said.

Keese took the ask as a quid pro quo, he said. A few days after the call, Keese told Quiroga he wouldn’t be endorsing him, he said.

Quiroga on Wednesday said he never specifically promised a board appointment as a quid pro quo for an endorsement. But he told Keese, a former state representative, he would consider him for the wharves board, Quiroga said.

“I told him that if a spot became open and he wanted it, I would consider him for it,” Quiroga said. “I didn’t make an offer to do it just for his votes.”

The call between the two men happened Nov. 4, one day after the general election determined Quiroga and Brown would head to a runoff.

Keese was one of five candidates in the mayoral race and ran on a platform of being an experienced lawmaker and Galveston outsider who could bring a new vision to the island.

He finished fourth in the race, garnering just 1,247 of the 19,665 votes cast for mayor.

His supporters, if they choose to participate in the runoff election, could help swing the final outcome of the race. Quiroga and Brown were separated by just 1,142 votes in the general election.

Keese also received a call from Brown on Nov. 4, he said. Brown asked for Keese’s support but did not offer anything in exchange for it, Keese said.

Keese chose not to endorse either candidate in the race for mayor, he said.

Still, Keese felt Quiroga’s offer was unusual and inappropriate and that people should know about it, he said.

“I was very surprised,” Keese said.

He said in his political career he’d never had anyone offer him something in exchange for an endorsement.

“A quid pro quo,” Keese said. “No one would ever do that. I’ve never had that in three campaigns for the legislature.

Keese said he prided himself on running an ethical and honorable campaign that followed the rules, which is why he was unnerved by Quiroga’s request.

“There are certain codes you should adhere to,” he said. “That was a benchmark of my campaign. That’s a benchmark of my life.”

Wharves board trustees are unpaid, like all of the volunteer board positions in the city, and are appointed through a vote of the Galveston City Council.

Wharves board trustees are among the most active and high-profile in the city.

Generally, candidates for the board are considered after they apply for the position and are interviewed by the entire city council. This year, however, the city council didn’t conduct public interviews with candidates and instead only asked them to write essays explaining their qualifications before making appointments.

Keese in 2018 filled out an application to be considered for city boards but has never asked to be appointed to the wharves board specifically, he said.

If he were elected mayor, Quiroga himself wouldn’t be able to make an appointment to the board. It would take a vote of the entire city council and four affirmative votes.

Although he said he told Keese he might consider him for the wharves board, Quiroga said he didn’t have a predetermined list of people he wanted to appoint to city boards and commissions.

“Anybody that I think is a good candidate, I would consider,” Quiroga said, adding he didn’t know whether it was reasonable for Keese to interpret his words as an offer.

“What I told him was that he would be a good candidate and that he would be a good candidate on any board,” Quiroga said.

Quiroga proposes changes to the way the city council appoints people to city boards. He wanted the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce to have more say on who gets appointed to city boards.

“We promised that the chamber of commerce would look at these applicants and make a recommendation,” Quiroga said. “It would just free up a little more time for us and let the business people take a look for the qualifications.”

Early voting in Galveston’s city council runoffs began Monday and continues through next week. Election Day is Dec. 15.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


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(27) comments

Lisa Blair

“We promised that the chamber of commerce would look at these applicants”? Who’s we? And why are they promising the chamber, a special interest that charges admission, participation in our city board nominations? The definition of pay-to-play.

Thanks to Bill Keese for running an ethical and honest campaign and for shedding light on one more example of why Quiroga is unfit for public office.

Bill Broussard

Lisa. I’m not so sure that letting the chamber decide doesn’t violate the city charter. D$”-!, we just got out of four years of weekly constitutional run- arounds at the national level and this candidate is promising more

Lisa Blair

I think you’re right about that Bill.

Charlotte O'rourke

This “we” decision and promise to an unknown source of how council will appoint city boards ,,,, not only violates the city charter on conflicts of interest, but violates the chamber’s IRS tax exempt status not to endorse candidates, the requirement to make decisions in public with your fellow council members, and just plain old common sense.

Paul Sivon

The Regional Chamber of Commerce shouldn’t be given the keys to the City, the residents should be the top stakeholders considered

Bill Hynek

Just when Galvestonians were beginning to forget what kind of Mayor Quiroga would be, he's dumb enough to remind us.

Bill Broussard

What I told him was that he would be a good candidate and that he would be a good candidate on any board,” Quiroga said.

What nonsense It’s right up there with the nonsense of accepting republican PAC money for a non- partisan local election and letting the chamber of commerce decide who’s on our city boards.

I went from a resident with a casual interest in our mayor race to a passionate supporter of Craig brown in three weeks and it’s 100% because of the goof ball stuff Bo’s said and done. I guess he doesn’t realize that the number one thing voters want in 2020 is some form of sanity and normality

Bill Broussard

There’s a new horror show that might come out. It’s called “Nightmare on Twenty Third Street” starring Maceo, Robb, Quiroga 1 and Quiroga 2. In it, they eat the young in an order selected by the Chamber of Commerce. In case you want to—go-spoiler alert! There is no happy ending.

Carol Hollaway

Bill, is this local conspiracy theory version of Q-Anon? But in this case, it’s Q(uiroga)-nonAnon. Ha!

Lisa Blair


Bill Broussard

Carol. One BIG difference...Quiroga is real ( I think)

Emilio Nicolas

Quiroga's comments appear intended to kiss up to the Chamber of Commerce and just go to show how much pull the Chamber has in City government elections. The Chamber IS the organized establishment in this town. Brown IS the establishment candidate and Quiroga is trying to cut in. Seems both are poor choices. More should have voted for Keese! At least we see our local paper doing some coverage of the local election.

Madonna Mamerow


Ron Shelby

What would Keese's motivation be to come forward and say this (if it didn't happen) when he's not endorsing Brown either? In fact, it just open's Keese up to criticism from Bo's supporters. There's only one reason he'd come forward to say something,... and that's because it happened.

Bill Broussard


Mike Box

Smacks of old time good-old-boy politics. I've sent my vote in for Craig Brown.

Bill Broussard

If I were currently on the wharves board I would be wondering just which one of us did he intend to replace with Keese?

John Nilsson

This is terrible. Quiroga is worse than I thought.

Jarvis Buckley

100 years Galveston politics never change.

Be careful which side you believe.

Jeff Patterson

I’d heard rumors of these type of “ back room deals”... certainly don’t want that kind of management for our city but until today, they were just rumors. Thank you Bill Keese for showing up with “ the receipts” I’ll take a hard pass. Im voting for Craig Brown


Madonna Mamerow

This is Galveston. Bill should have been our choice. The guy with the top credentials that worked in the state legislature that new how to get the federal dollars here, but unfortunately Galveston is stuck only on the names that we are used to hearing. We need a fresh start of outsiders in City Hall he can see the problems for what they are---the city is a dump ground, no consistent enforcement of the ordinances, it's a hand shake quid pro quo going on everywhere, and they all think people don't want to move here because the housing isn't affordable. SMH. It's because we are a dump with no rules enforced. Coin toss. [sneaky]

bryan manuele

Thanks for telling like it is!

Ana Ortiz-Monasterio Draa

Did you see the video of Mr. Quiroga speaking at the VA? He made it very clear he thinks the city is doing too much enforcement, wants to get rid of the City Marshal. Far from a coin toss, Mr. Brown is a highly ethical man, a great choice for mayor!

Charlotte O'rourke

It seems some are suggesting the chamber is really shadow government. With this move, it would come into the light and start performing a governmental function that elected officials were elected to perform.

The chamber has excellent, knowledgeable people in its organization and on its board. It performs a very important function. Businesses are important and need an environment to thrive.

But that function should not be to take over the role of council and select public officials for city boards. This should be performed by elected officials in public meetings, not in a closed process, with paid membership a requirement to participate, with potential conflicts like the CEOs or chairmen of these boards being members of the chamber, paid for with public money from the public organizations.

I hope city council and the new mayor whoever that turns out to be rethinks this promise.

Bill Keese

I am a proud member of the Chamber. I serve on the Legislative and Advocacy Committees and the Galveston Harbor and Pelican Island Committee. I have never heard anyone at the Chamber even suggest that the Chamber take on this role. The Chamber wants its voice heard but does not want to take over any city functions.

The Chamber was never mentioned in my conversation with Roger Quiroga and I’m shocked that he would throw the Chamber under the bus to try to explain his actions.

Charlotte O'rourke

Thanks for posting Bill. The residents voting for you obviously made a wise choice in voting for an ethical and upfront candidate. I hope you stay in Galveston and run or serve in another position.

Mary Branum

Thank you Bill. I serve on the same committees as you and in all the years have never heard the Chamber ever mention this.

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