Election analysis: Biden won El Paso County by a smaller margin than Hillary Clinton

O’Rourke also said ‘it wasn’t a matter of which candidate was more progressive’ in mayoral race

UTEP%E2%80%99s+Union+East+Building+was+a+site+for+early+voting+from+Oct.13-30.

Anahy Diaz

UTEP’s Union East Building was a site for early voting from Oct.13-30.

Andrea Valdez-Rivas, Contributor

The 2020 election proved to be the most nail-biting and consequential election of our lifetimes for many reasons: Record-high early voting and extremely close races with a raging pandemic as the backdrop. Voters cast a record-breaking 158,000,000 ballots this year, U.S. Elections Project found.  

It took several days after Election Day, but we all know now who will be in the White House after January 20, 2021. This wasn’t only a win for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; it was a win for all the Americans who exercised their privilege to vote. 

In the Nation

For Democrats, the presidential election was called for Joe Biden fair and square. But for Republicans, it’s far from over. Nobody should’ve thought that this year’s presidential election would be easy to call, but like 2016, the polls projected a landslide for the Democratic candidate. That’s not what took place, again. 

A surge of early votes came in at just under 100 million nationwide, extending counting in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina.  

Regardless of the complexity of elections, it was made clear that Joe Biden would be the 46th president of the United States when reputable news organizations like the Associated Press and NBC projected Biden the winner after Pennsylvania finished counting more than 95% of the ballots cast. 

But Republicans are waging a legal war, at least the ones loyal to President Donald Trump who inspired doubts about America’s core democratic process of voting, depicting the 2020 election as “fraudulent.” 

Trump quickly took to Twitter to say, “stop the fraud” which many outlets are calling out as inaccurate claims. He also falsely claimed victory, then he and other Republicans told states to “stop the count” of votes.  

But the facts remain like this: Biden carried more 75 million votes nationwide along with more than 270 Electoral College ones, while Trump held a popular vote of more than 70 million, the Associated Press projects. Let’s be clear, the number of votes both candidates got was unprecedented and record shattering, but Biden bested Trump.

From here on out, it’ll be a tough, uphill road for the Biden administration.  

Biden’s agenda involves stopping the construction of the southern border wall, raising taxes on households that make over $400,000 a year, expand Obamacare and scale back on tariffs set by Trump, among other plans.  

All of this, however, may be roadblocked since Republicans are clinging to Senate majority. We won’t know until the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs in January, but there’s no question Democratic have an uphill battle because the peach state hasn’t voted a Democrat into the U.S. Senate in decades.

Currently, there are 48 Republicans voted into the Senate compared to 46 Democrats, as projected by the Associated Press.  

The Biden Administration’s actions could also be challenged by the republican-packed Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment meant a 6-3 Republican majority following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. 

In Texas

Voter turnout has never been anything to brag about in Texas. 

It wasn’t until the 2018 highly contested U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, that voters were more inspired to vote.  

This year, even more Texan voters turned out. In early voting alone, at least 9.7 million Texans cast their ballots, the Texas Tribune said — that’s almost a million more compared to 2016, in which 8.96 million ballots were cast, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website. 

The contested Senate seat went to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, marking his fourth term in the Senate. 

His opponent, Mary Jennings (MJ) Hegar, D-Texas, targeted Cornyn for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. 

Sen. Cornyn won with 5.9 million votes, while Hegar received 4.8 million. 

I never expected for Texas to flip blue. From 1872 though 1976, Texas was Democratic, but that changed in 1980 when it flipped red. Texas has stayed red ever since and chances are, it will stay like that for years to come. 

In El Paso

The  Covid-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on El Paso’s community, making it the focus of national media attention as a hopeless hot spot.  

During the month of September, El Paso was ranked second nationally in Covid-19 cases per 1,000 people and the infection numbers continue to rise — 1,919 new cases were reported Sunday alone.

Perhaps the most striking observation of the 2020 election is that Biden didn’t win El Paso County by a larger margin than former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In fact, that margin was smaller. According to NBC News, Clinton won El Paso County in 2016 with a margin of about 43.2%. In 2020, Biden won the county by 34.3%, which a loss of almost 10 percentage points from 2016. But fret not, El Paso County is still reliably blue.

After Mayor Dee Margo’s nonchalant approach to Covid-19, it’s no surprise Leeser took most of the vote and led the race with a large gap. His name alone is enough to give him the recognition around El Paso, especially since he was the mayor prior to Margo. 

Leeser obtained 42% of the vote and Margo 25%. Since neither Leeser nor Margo reached 50% of votes, there will be a runoff.  

Still, Leeser may not be ambitious enough to take on the mayor’s role.  

The circumstances are too different now than when he last served as mayor from 2013 to 2017. 

In a voter’s guide compiled by El Paso Matters, Leeser was asked what changes in approach to the Covid-19 pandemic he would make. 

His response was somewhat vague: “There is limited benefit in going backwards. The fact is COVID is here and will be here for a while. We have an added challenge as a border community. Until we get control of COVID, it will be difficult to satisfactorily address debt, taxes and jobs. Social distancing and masks are key to saving our economy so that El Pasoans are healthy, our businesses can fully reopen and our students can safely go back to school. The City has a responsibility to lead by example. We won’t see full economic recovery until people are comfortable that it is safe to resume activities.” 

It’s still unclear to me which exact steps will be taken. 

But Leeser will most likely win in December because of his citywide recognition as a car dealer owner.

The race for mayor included four other candidates: Veronica Carbajal, Carlos Gallinar, Dean “Dino” Martinez and Calvin Zielsdorf 

Leeser obtained 42% of the vote and Margo 25%. Since neither Leeser nor Margo reached 50% of votes, there will be a runoff.  

Carbajal, the only woman in the race, came in third, with 22% of the vote and Gallinar with 7%.  

Martinez and Zielsdorf finished with under 2%. 

The large gap between Carbajal and Gallinar caught my eye and I grew interested as to why it was so wide. 

I’d expected Gallinar to come closer to winning — he had support from Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and O’Rourke. 

If Escobar and O’Rourke represent most of El Pasoans’ values, why weren’t more votes cast for Gallinar? 

Congressman O’Rourke told The Prospector it wasn’t a matter of which candidate was more progressive than the other. He said Gallinar would’ve been ideal for O’Rourke because of his support for increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.  

“I don’t know, what Veronica’s position on (minimum wage) was necessarily, but that’s a very progressive view in terms of ensuring that any person who works full time the city of El Paso can work just one job and doesn’t have to work a second or a third job. You know, I think that he’s someone who is incredibly ambitious for the community,” O’Rourke said. 

This election persevered through trying times. Regardless of safety issues surrounding the pandemic, a record-shattering number of voters cast their ballots and that’s what truly mattered.

Andrea Valdez-Rivas may be reached at [email protected]; @AndreaVRNews on Twitter.