The political futures of two El Paso women in politics were in the news last week, with one intentional announcement for county Commissioners Court and an apparently accidental one for mayor that could turn out to be a costly mistake.
For nine minutes, a page appeared on Facebook announcing that Hernandez will be a candidate for El Paso mayor in November 2020.
The current mayor and an announced candidate for re-election, Dee Margo, wasted little time in posting an item on this Monday’s City Council agenda to call a special election to replace Hernandez.
His action is based on the “resign-to-run” provision of the Texas Constitution that says if an officeholder announces his or her candidacy for another office, it can constitute an immediate resignation from office.
Hernandez acknowledged her interest in running for mayor in an interview with El Paso Inc. but said the Facebook announcement was a mistake by someone in her camp.
“It’s not a mischaracterization to say that I’m not thinking about it,” she said. “But right now, my commitment is to my district.
“So no official announcement.”
The same day, immigration attorney Illiana Holguin, chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, announced her candidacy for the Precinct 3 Commissioners Court seat now held by Vince Perez.
She will not have to resign to run.
Her formal announcement for the Democratic nomination to a position never held by a Republican will come during an announcement party at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Julio’s Café Corona, 8050 Gateway Blvd.
“I’ll finish my term as party chair,” she said. “I think I have a lot of the specific skills that could be a benefit to that part of the county.”
As for calling a special election to replace Hernandez, City Council members seemed stunned by the events and the possibility of a vote so quickly.
“I need to understand more about what’s being proposed and what the law says,” said city Rep. Peter Svarzbein. “I hope we’re going to learn more about what occurred.”
Equally confounded, city Rep. Alexsandra Annello said, “I have no idea what’s going on.
“Nobody’s called me about an election. I’ve tried looking at the Constitution for information, but it’s very confusing. I need to hear from our attorney and maybe outside attorneys.”
City Rep. Sam Morgan could not be reached for comment.
Margo emailed El Paso Inc. a statement:
“A council member who publicly announces their candidacy for another office with more than a year and 30 days left in their term has to resign to run,” he stated. “Representative Hernandez’s public Facebook post caused an automatic resignation of her position as a City Council member.
“Per the City Charter, the special City Council Meeting on Monday to address the next steps has to be called by the Mayor, but I will not preside over the meeting to avoid any potential conflict of interest.”
Since taking office in June 2017, Hernandez has found herself on the other side of the fence from Margo on many issues.
The mayor has responded by removing her from committees to which he appointed her.
By Friday, Hernandez was making it clear she won’t go without a fight.
“Because of potential litigation, I am not going to answer any additional questions,” she said. “I really want to be cooperative, but I am being advised otherwise.
“What I will say is that I am going to do everything in my power to represent District 3 and my constituents.”
Former Mayor John Cook recalled that he was the Northeast representative when he announced his candidacy for mayor and, without resigning, went on to win the office in 2005.
Former city Rep. Steve Ortega, an attorney, said that was because the Texas Constitution allows an elected official to run for another office if he or she announces within a year and 30 days of their current term’s end.
Hernandez’s situation, he said, is anything but clear, describing the case law as “murky.”
“From my perspective, you don’t remove someone from a duly elected seat unless it’s clear cut that they have announced,” Ortega said. “Here, the facts aren’t exactly married to the law because Hernandez says she’s not the one who posted the announcement.
“That’s what it all comes down to for the purposes of resign to run.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.