In last Tuesday’s elections, El Paso voters backed the city’s $413 million public safety bond proposition while District 3 city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez landed in a second unintended election to keep her City Council seat.
Ysleta school district voters also approved a $425 million bond, the district’s second major bond approval in four years.
In the city’s Dec. 14 runoff, Hernandez will face Will Veliz, a 25-year-old real estate broker and first-time candidate who came in second in a four-way race.
Dec. 14 will also serve as the date for yet another special city election, that one to fill the District 6 council seat city Rep. Claudia Ordaz-Perez is giving up to run for District 26 state representative in 2020.
Hernandez came away from last Tuesday’s election with 2,583 votes or 46% of the 5,580 votes cast. Veliz received 1,612 votes, 29% of the total.
Brooks Vandivort finished third with 1,507 votes, and Ana Dueñez came in fourth with 328 votes.
In that election, 5,580 District 3 voters cast ballots. That’s 3.2% of the district’s 46,755 registered voters.
An outright win for Hernandez looked tantalizingly close when absentee vote totals announced soon after the polls closed showed her with a little over 48% of the early vote, which is almost always an indication of an election’s outcome.
But she would need over 50% to avoid a runoff and didn’t reach that when the all votes were counted.
“Yeah, it looked close, but I was prepared for any outcome,” she said. “I’ve been through campaigns before.”
Hernandez, who continues to serve on the council as a hold-over, said she and her campaign workers will soon be back to knocking on doors again.
“This election was a very short turn-around,” she said. “I only had six weeks to organize, fundraise and hit the streets.”
Campaign finance reports showed Veliz outraised Hernandez, taking in $37,510 and spending $39,155 compared to her $27,222 in contributions and expenditures of $22,476.
Veliz’s largest donation, $7,500, came in two installments from Richard Castro, who was one of a number of well-known businesspeople contributing to his campaign.
El Paso Inc. made two attempts to reach Veliz for a post-election interview and left messages, but he did not return those calls.
Hernandez said she’s not worried about Veliz’s fundraising advantage because knowing and meeting people is typically more important than money in a City Council race.
Her largest campaign contributor, the El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association, gave her $4,000, and she also had a number of contributions from business leaders.
“I got a lot of small contributions from constituents who regularly come to my meetings and lots of small businesses,” Hernandez said. “More money buys you more and bigger signs, but voters care about your message.
“I think it’s clear because out of 26 precincts in my district, I won 25 and lost one.”
First elected in 2017, Hernandez, 32, found herself having to run again to keep her council seat after the city determined she had effectively resigned from office on Aug. 3 when an announcement that she was running for mayor was posted for approximately 15 minutes on her Facebook page.
Hernandez conceded she was thinking about running for mayor, but said she had not made a decision when a campaign volunteer accidentally posted the announcement.
The city attorney’s office and an outside attorney told City Council it had no say in the matter because the announcement triggered the “resign to run” provision of the state Constitution.
It says an elected official’s announcement for another office constitutes a resignation if it comes more than a year and 30 days before the official’s term ends.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.