Race for Pct. 3 seat up for grabs among four candidates
By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
The race for Commissioner of El Paso County’s Pct, 3 has some interesting characteristics, twists and turns in that almost every candidate has political experience in one way or another. Take, for instance, the campaign of Dora Oaxaca. She has been largely instrumental in helping several candidates win their political campaigns, including Chente Quintanilla. The former Texas State Rep. for District 75, Quintanilla opted not to run for a sixth term but chose, instead, to become a candidate for County Commissioner and is now competing for the seat against Oaxaca.
She also helped Willie Gandara Jr. win election for County Commissioner of Pct. 3 four years ago, a seat which Gandara Jr. still maintains. However, he chose not to run for reelection, but, opted to run for State Rep. in District 75, leaving vacant and up for grabs the County Commissioner’s slot. Confused? So are we. Another candidate for Pct. 3 is Vince Perez, a former director of communications for U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso), who hopes to bring Washington D.C.-type issues to El Paso’ Mission Valley. With all three candidates very capable of winning Pct. 3, the race is proving to be most interesting and captivating.
Oaxaca, a single-mom, is a Socorro born and raised product with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. She has garnered a huge role in El Paso, not only politically, but as a social activist. She has served on the board of Project Bravo, the Cesar Chavez Foundation, received the Si Se Puede Award, among other accolades and honors. She has also been largely responsible for helping get elected a wide variety of candidates, such as Manny Najera for State Rep., and Chente Quintanilla for State Rep. In fact, she helped Quintanilla defeat Najera in their race for the House seat, even though she had once helped Najera to that same post. She also worked hard to get Gandara Jr. elected County Commissioner for Pct. 3, and, now, she finally took the plunge herself and has tossed her sombrero in the political ring.
“My main concern is to provide an equality of services to the people in the Mission Valley and East El Paso,” Oaxaca said. “There are still colonias in the Valley that need water, although that’s almost done. However, we still need sewage, gas and electric service in some areas. That’s my goal, to bring everything up to par, to help make life easier and more comfortable for the people who live in colonias.” She said she has already been endorsed by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Assn., and by C.L.E.A.T.
Quintanilla, on the other hand, has vast experience as a legislator. He said he wants to bring that experience to bear in the Mission Valley. While he acknowledges that Oaxaca helped him get elected to the Texas House, he’s glad to see her in a political campaign herself. Although he has been criticized by Perez for leaving his House seat to run for County Commissioner, Quintanilla said he has earned his stripes. “He’s a retired superintendent for the Socorro ISD,” Perez said. “He gets a hefty retirement benefit from there. Now, he’s retired from State office, so that means even more retirement benefits, and now he wants to run for an office that pays more than $60,000 a year? To me, that’s triple dipping.” But, Quintanilla says, he served the Socorro ISD for 38 years, so he deserves and earned his pension. He also served for 10 years at the State, for which he was being paid a mere $600 per month. “I feel that I’ve earned my pay in all my endeavors. It’s not a windfall. Retirement is a payback for all my years of public service. The money just wasn’t given to me, I earned it.”
But, Perez isn’t having it. To him, Quintanilla and Oaxaca are from the old school of politics and, he said, voters are looking for a new face, for a new voice. He feels that his years of experience working for Reyes have equipped him for serving the Mission Valley, an area which he said he knows best. “At the rate Quintanilla is going, he stands to earn some $140,000 a year,” Perez said. “His main concern is using his political office for personal gain. In his ten years as a legislator, he hasn’t contributed much except to make the sopaipilla the official bread of Texas.”
Perez said his experience working in Washington gave him a unique perspective on the needs of the Mission Valley. He has a Master’s Degree in International Law from Georgetown University. “We need to move beyond the same type of politics, the same type of politics that have made Quintanilla and Oaxaca have some success in El Paso County. I’m about doing something for the common good, about working hard. Working for Reyes was perfect training for my work in the future. It gave me invaluable experience in understanding the issues. That’s why I’m running for this seat. And, I expect to win the election.”
A fourth candidate, Rudy Loya, was not available for comment.