Opinion

The Progressive Battle for Mayor

El Paso progressives are battling among themselves for the mayoral race. On one corner you have Verónica Carbajal and on the other you have Carlos Gallinar. Carbajal and Gallinar are two of the six candidates on the ballot for the November 3rd election. The other mayoral candidates are incumbent Dee Margo, Oscar Leeser, Dino Martinez and Calvin Zielsdorf.

Dee Margo has about $160,000 in campaign funds, as of the latest election finance reports. Margo has spent about $61,000. Carbajal has about $5,000 left and has already spent about $15,000. Gallinar has about $60,000 and has spent about $17,000. And, Oscar Leeser has spent less than $200 but has almost $190,000. Martinez and Zielsdorf have not filed campaign finance reports because they did not raised campaign funds prior to the last filing date.

Money wise it is a race between Oscar Leeser and Dee Margo. Conventional wisdom assumes that the mayoral race is heading into a runoff between Leeser and Margo.

Trying to upset the Leeser-Margo runoff are El Paso’s progressives who have hitched their wagons to either Carbajal or Gallinar.

El Paso’s progressives are delivering an easy runoff to Oscar Leeser and Dee Margo because they are divided in their support for a progressive mayoral candidate.

On Carlos Gallinar’s side is the Veronica Escobar political faction. Susie Byrd and Escobar are helping Carlos Gallinar. They are trying to spin Carlos Gallinar into a progressive candidate looking to defend El Paso’s marginalized population against further gentrification of their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately for Gallinar, he has a strong history of supporting downtown redevelopment at the cost of displacing people from their neighborhoods.

Verónica Carbajal, on the other hand, has a strong public record of defending neighborhoods from the gentrification that has been going on for years. Carbajal, an attorney for the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, has focused on environmental issues and in excessive taxpayer spending, including gentrification of marginalized communities.

The November election is the first time that El Pasoans will be electing a mayor in November. Previously the city council elections were held in May, where voter participation was lower. The November election and the pandemic emergency has changed how a city campaign is run.

Unable to do traditional get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns with neighborhood walk parties and public forums, candidates are now faced with getting their messaging out online and via direct mailings to voters. Mailing are expensive giving the advantage to Leeser and Margo.

Progressives across the nation have become powerful users of social media to get their political messaging out. Neither Leeser nor Margo can hope to reach voters online like El Paso’s progressives can.

This gets us back to Verónica Carbajal and Carlos Gallinar.

They are both focused on taking control of the El Paso progressive network, and, are, in effect splitting the progressive vote among themselves leaving Leeser and Margo in a likely runoff.

El Paso’s various progressive movements have the ability to make an election statement in November, but they are squandering their political clout working against each other.

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