May 11 Elections promise wild excitement
By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
If you didn’t register to vote in the May 11 elections by Thursday, April 11, 2013, it’s too late now. That was the deadline for registering to participate in elections which promise to become highly interesting and, perhaps, a bit controversial. The controversy, of course, will occur in the Mayoral race, that features no incumbent this time around. Mayor John Cook will not be eligible to run for another term, so all the candidates are relatively new. Except for perennial candidates Jaime Perez and Jorge Artalejo, who really bring nothing new to the table, except for failed attempts at being elected.
Perez, especially, offers very little to the voter, even though he has run for mayor, both in 1983 and in 1985. He also ran for El Paso County Judge in the election that saw Veronica Escobar gain that coveted seat. Perez is an also ran who makes one wonder why he would run in the first place. But, of course, that’s the gist of our election process; that anyone who wants to, can run for any office he or she desires. It doesn’t mean they will win, but, at the very least they can say they ran for this office or for that office. This, plus the fact, that campaigns are hard to judge and one never knows when a dark horse enters the race and wins in the end. Another candidate who doesn’t seem too serious about winning election is Artalejo – a substitute teacher who refuses to dress in the traditional suit and tie, but, instead, attends forums and events wearing sweat shirts and inordinately uncombed hair.
Then, there are those candidates who are truly serious about winning the election and they include mama’s boy, Oscar Leeser, an early favorite, who owns Hyundai of El Paso and has the money to throw a monkey wrench into the political plans of City Rep. Steve Ortega. Ortega was able to raise substantial amounts of money at the outset of his campaign, but, Leeser, who lent his campaign $50,000, rapidly caught up to Ortega’s fund-raising with more than $80,000 in the bank. Ortega, however, said that he’s not worried because Leeser may be able to raise more money, but, he has the most donors, and that translates to votes.
Well, it remains to be seen, but Ortega’s dream that his run for Mayor would be a cakewalk with very little opposition is turning rather into a nightmare of sorts now that seven people are running for the post – two of them are hardly qualified, but the other five bring experience, business sense, and other elements to the fray. Besides Leeser, other candidates include Robert D. Cormell, a small-business owner; Gus Haddad, who’s headed several city boards and commissions; Hector Lopez, a man with deep community roots and involvement, and retired Dept. of Defense employee, Dean Martinez.
Another element which promises to bring a little more than average excitement to the May 11 elections is the fact that voters will be choosing a new slate of trustees to run the El Paso Independent School District because so many of them were fired or they resigned after being accused of corruption, of transferring students other grade levels so they wouldn’t have to take the state-required exams, of removing them from the classroom for various reasons and for padding test scores so that administrators could earn high marks and bonuses. Disgraced former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia was indicted for fraud and for awarding $450,000 in taxpayer dollars to one of his girlfriends. Other officers were aghast at the huge oversight which had escaped them, when they weren’t looking someone else’s hand was on the till.
After the cheating scandal was uncovered, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams appointed a Board of Managers to oversee the district, a move that caused the trustees to reject his efforts and to contest his authority to do so. Board President Isela Castañon Williams has said that Garcia blind-sided the entire board, therefore they shouldn’t be replaced, nor should they act as if they had done something wrong. But, whatever. Voters will decide on May 11 whether an entirely new board will take the district’s helm. One official who has expressed an interest in running, but hasn’t made a decision is City Rep. Susan Byrd, who represents District 3 on Council. If she does decide to run, she will go up against incumbent Alfredo Borrego, who has proclaimed his innocence and non-involvement in the cheating scandal.
For voters, May 11 will bring much to consider in not only who will replace John Cook as Mayor, and who can be trusted to turn the corruption and scandals of the EPISD around. Voters must be doubly careful to not award seats to people who would turn against the children who attend our schools. Coach Cordova, Sal Mena, Mickey Duntley, and Linda Chavez have learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to fool people. As the saying goes: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, fool all of the people some of the time, but, you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”