Mayor Dee Margo, who somewhat jokingly calls himself El Paso’s crisis boy because of the tragedies he has seen the city through since taking office in 2017, now has a political crisis of his own to fix before his Dec. 12 runoff against former Mayor Oscar Leeser.
That’s if he can, because he came away from the Nov. 3 election and a record turnout with only 25% of the total votes – 51,168 to Leeser’s 87,881 votes or 42.5% of the total in a six-candidate race.
Leeser wasn’t far from winning the race outright, and Veronica “Vero” Carbajal, with 45,340 or 22% of the votes, wasn’t far from knocking Margo off.
He even beat President Trump’s 81,235 total but was nowhere close to Democrat Joe Biden’s 168,801 vote total in El Paso County.
Asked why he did so well, Leeser said, “Don’t you know? It’s the confidence that people have in me that remember I was mayor from ’13 to ’17, and we really work well with the people.”
Leeser had a health issue that kept him from seeking a second term – then. But now, the Hyundai car dealer said, he’s back and ready to run.
The vote, he said, made it clear that El Pasoans are looking for a change at City Hall.
“That’s something really important to talk about because I will tell you that today we’re in a confidence crisis,” he said. “That’s the biggest problem that we see today, and this is why I got the percentage of votes that I received.”
Margo saw the city through the Aug. 3 Walmart shooting, the messy Trump visit and its aftermath and COVID-19, which has caused hundreds of deaths and lost jobs.
But Margo didn’t answer the why-it-happened question or speculate about the impact that higher taxes had on home-owning voters.
It’s been awhile since a former mayor challenged a sitting mayor, and Margo said, “I’m happy to compare my 3½ years with Oscar’s four years.
“For one thing, we’ve added more jobs in spite of this pandemic,” Margo said. “We’ve had more site visits by companies.”
He said taxes were raised because they had to be, but noted that he did veto the proposed budget and tax increase last year because of additions the council made, only to have his first veto overridden.
In El Paso’s District 2 City Council race, challenger Myriam “Judy” Gutierrez led with 8,020 votes, very nearly defeating incumbent Alexsandra Annello with 40% of the vote to Annello’s 6,119 or 36%.
James Campos placed third with 2,700 votes or 16%.
In District 3, incumbent Cassandra Hernandez avoided a runoff, taking 12,439 or 54% to the second place Jose Rodriguez, who received 7,028 votes or 30.5% for the right to face Hernandez in the runoff.
Will Veliz came in third with 3,558 votes or 15.4% in his second try for Hernandez’s seat in a year, despite strong backing from business interests and City Hall support.
Despite his legal problems, District 4 Rep. Sam Morgan made it to the runoff with 7,890 votes or 32% of the total. He’ll face Joe Molinar, who got 6,987 votes or 28.4% of the total in a five-candidate field.
Dorothy “Sissy” Byrd came in third with 5,710 votes, or 23%, followed by Wesley Lawrence with 2,633 votes and Shawn Nixon with 1,349 votes.
In District 7, incumbent Henry Rivera, a retired police officer, took 12,549 votes or 56.7% to easily defeat Aaron Montes, a former newspaper reporter, who didn’t do badly with 9,525 votes or 43%.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 630-6622.