With Election Day barely four weeks away, and the noise from the first presidential debate subsiding, El Paso voters are starting to think local.
Does it make sense for this heavily Democratic community to send a Republican state rep back for a second term in Austin, where the GOP controls the game?
Or should a Democrat and former state rep return to serve in what is now known as El Paso’s no-drama delegation?
If it were a boxing match, the ads would hype “Margo v. Moody III – The Tiebreaker, Nov. 6!”
First-term state Rep. Dee Margo and Democrat Joe Moody, the district’s former representative, have met in three elections since 2008, when Moody was elected to the District 78 seat. They have faced each other 30 times or more in candidate debates.
“I know his positions so well, I could answer questions for him,” Moody said of Margo after last week’s head-to-head forum on KCOS Channel 13.
Beyond their desire to serve the citizens of District 78 and the fact that they’ve each been elected to the same office once, the candidates don’t have a lot in common.
Margo, 60, ran John D. Williams Insurance Co., better known as JDW, for 31 years until this past February. He remained board chair until last month when the Chicago-based HUB International bought the company. JDW was El Paso’s biggest and oldest locally owned insurance agency.
Margo said his career in the insurance business is coming to an end and he’s hoping the new door that opened to him in politics will stay open long enough to make it a second career.
He’s been interested in political office for years, but it took him three tries to win one. His first loss was against state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh in 2006.
Today, it’s obvious that Margo likes being a state rep.
“And, I will say the state of Texas and the people of El Paso do get their money’s worth out of me at $600 a month gross salary, $7,200 a year,” he said.
Margo worked well enough with his Democratic colleagues in the El Paso delegation during the 2011 legislative session that two of them, Reps. Marissa Marquez and Naomi Gonzalez, were featured in a Margo flier recently speaking up for him, which made El Paso’s Democratic Party leaders hopping mad.
Moody, 31, a lawyer and the son of longtime state District Judge Bill Moody, grew up in politics and was the youngest member of the House when he was elected in 2008. He’s newly married and hopes to re-start his political career in four weeks.
He thinks he’ll have a better than even chance because the presidential election will bring more Democratic voters to the polls than two years ago, and the newly drawn District 78 boundaries may improve his chances.
Redistricting added traditionally Democratic voting precincts in Northeast El Paso to the district while removing some of El Paso’s wealthiest and most Republican neighborhoods around El Paso Country Club.
“It’s still a swing district, but I think it has gotten more Democratic than it used to be,” Moody said.
Both candidates sat down for interviews with El Paso Inc. last week. They talked about endorsements, education, the state budget, gambling and becoming the no-drama delegation.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.