According to the El Paso Times, early voting numbers for the Democratic Party primary in El Paso are up 86 percent from 2014 and 170 percent from 2016.
It is probably safe to assume that the turnout, as has been the case in almost every election since 2016, is in reaction to Trump being elected president. In turn, Republicans have faced high-profile losses in typically red states, such as Virginia and Alabama. The Democratic Party is seeing a rejuvenation following their defeat at the hands of the Russians—I mean the Republicans.
Several high-profile seats are up for grabs in November, and with El Paso being a blue city and county, the primaries on March 6 are basically the be-all and end-all for several seats.
Here is a quick look at a few local races of note. We won’t even fool ourselves into thinking that the “Trump effect” could land Texas a Democratic governor. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for Beto O’Rourke for now.
Most of the elections this year are pretty boring to be honest. A lot of them are judges and commissioners. However, that does not mean that you need to sit at home and do nothing. It is apathy that keeps old white men in charge of this country with unchecked power.
The race for Judge of County Court at Law 5 features four different candidates running, with Kristin Raquel Romero, Jesus Rodriguez, Mike Herrera and Danny Razo.
According to the Texas Bar Association, Romero works for the El Paso District Attorney’s Office and holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Kansas. She has been practicing criminal law since 2004.
Rodriguez has been practicing family law for 21 years and has served as an associate judge for 11 years. He was also named Outstanding Judge of the Year by the El Paso Bar. It may seem odd for a family law judge to run for this position, however, the court will be designated a family law court following this election to help alleviate a backlog according to the El Paso Times.
Mike Herrera has also served as a judge in El Paso at the 383rd District Court. In 2016, he received the state’s second-most severe sanction for a judge after he was found to have held his own divorce case in his court for several months.
Danny Razo graduated from Texas Tech in 2003 and has practiced all types of law from his office in El Paso, according to the Texas Bar. His campaign materials mention that he has worked with youth in El Paso for many years and has taught law at local high schools.
Despite the number of candidates for this position and the available “dirt” on one of them, this race has stayed fairly clean. The same cannot be said for Judge of County Probate Court 1.
Incumbent Patricia Chew has held the seat since 2011. Now she faces a challenge from probate lawyer Darron Powell. Chew claims that Powell donated money to her campaign until a ruling in her court did not go his way, then he decided to run against her at the last minute. Meanwhile, Powell is busy with a court case of his own where he is a defendant.
Powell is being sued by seven former clients who say that he overcharged them and attempted to bully them into selling a ranch and mineral rights involved in a will dispute that he was working on for the family. Powell says that the lawsuit is unmerited.
He also says that Chew has problems of her own in her courtroom. Powell claims that an associate judge in Chew’s probate court purchased a house involved in a trust that the court managed, which would be an ethics violation. Chew says that the house had changed hands several times since being handled by the court.
Who knew that a Probate Court election could be so interesting?
Speaking of interesting, the race to replace Beto O’Rourke, as if that was possible, has become very interesting.
There are eight names on the ballot for the U.S. Congressional District 16 seat, but let’s be honest, Dori Fenenbock and Veronica Escobar have made it a two-woman race.
Fenenbock, the former president of the El Paso Independent School District Board, kicked off her congressional bid with $300,000 from campaign donors. According to her Federal Election Commission filings, 47 percent of that money came from individuals who had voted in the 2016 Republican primary. Only 17 percent came from individuals who had voted in the Democratic primary.
Until 2014, Fenenbock was a registered Republican. It seems right up until the congressional seat opened up. We all know that Republicans don’t get elected in El Paso.
Some billboards on I-10 have Escobar’s face on them talking about how she raised her salary and taxes while she was a county judge. Those weren’t put there by Fenenbock, although she has said that she agrees with their message.
Instead, the billboards were put there on behalf of Fenenbock by a Republican Super-PAC named Keep El Paso Honest. So far, all of the organizations claims have been proven false and more importantly, have even helped to catch Fenenbock in some unethical deeds of her own.
The Keep El Paso Honest Super-PAC accused Escobar’s campaign manager Susie Byrd, a volunteer on the EPISD board of trustees, of soliciting donations from vendors on Escobar’s behalf. A report in the El Paso Times stated that Fenenbock, in her position on the school board, solicited donations, while Byrd had not.
Escobar has received the endorsement of O’Rourke, EMILY’s List, Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC, National Nurses United, Texas State Teacher’s Association, Gabby Giffords, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Steny Hoyer (Democratic whip), El Paso Times and numerous other congressmen and women.
She has also managed to run a clean campaign despite the constant onslaught by the “Democrat in Name Only” Fenenbock and other outside Republican organizations.
On another interesting note, sitting Judge Luis Aguilar of the 243rd Judicial District would very much like you to vote for Selena Solis, Feliciano “Felix” Castanon or Roberto J. Ramos. His name appears on the ballot just below those three, but it was entirely by accident. He forgot to have it removed and does not want to be re-elected.
Regardless of how you feel about the mudslinging and the ugliness that crops up every year, regardless of how you feel about the situation in Washington, 2018 is our chance to do something about it.
That chance begins in on March 6 and early voting has already begun. If you are a Democrat and want the best people in Washington to fight what is happening, or here in El Paso to do what is best for us despite what is happening at the national level, this is the time to stand up and be counted.
Don’t be jaded. Get out and vote.
Follow Jason Green on Twitter @greenevansj