July 28–More than 10,000 people had cast ballots during early voting for the primary runoff election as of Friday, and Republicans were voting in higher numbers than two years ago, officials said.
Locally, the ballot includes races for the Precinct 3 county commissioner, as well as several judicial, county constable and precinct chair races. The county’s Precinct 3 seat has been held by only three men in the past 50 years, which has created a heated race between the two men vying for the Democratic nomination for the position.
On the state level, the rivalry between U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst seems to be drawing more Republicans to the polls than years past. Cruz and Dewhurst are in the runoff for the
GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
As of Friday, 8,284 Democrats had voted in the runoff, as well as 2,301 Republicans. Early voting ended Friday.
County Elections Administrator Javier Chacon said that the turnout for Democrats is about average. The Republican Party runoff, in comparison, has attracted twice as many voters as two years ago.
“That’s certainly where the spike is,” Chacon said.
Perhaps the most-watched local contest in Tuesday’s runoff will be that of county commissioner, in which political newcomer Vincent Perez is facing a longtime politician, state Rep. Inocente “Chente” Quintanilla.
“If you’re tired of the same old politics, get out and vote and do something about it,” said
the 30-year-old Perez, the former communications director for U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes. Perez has campaigned heavily against Quintanilla, who he says is only seeking a third source of income after twice having been labeled “furniture” by Texas Monthly magazine by virtue of indifference or inactivity.
Quintanilla, 68, didn’t immediately return calls, but he has said that he has as many years experience as his opponent has been alive. A longtime educator and school district administrator, Quintanilla has been on the El Paso Community College Board of Trustees and has been in the state office for about 10 years. Quintanilla has said Perez hasn’t campaigned on issues, and instead has launched a negative campaign against him.
The winner of the runoff in the Democratic primary will face Republican challenger Fred Chavez in the Nov. 6 general election.
Precinct 3 covers most of the Lower Valley east of Hunter Drive and south of the interstate to Tornillo, as well as a part of the East Side east of Loop 375.
The seat is now held by Tania Chozet, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Willie Gandara Jr.
Gandara resigned from the court after being indicted on federal drug-trafficking charges in February. Gandara is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Monday before U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo.
Gandara’s term was to expire Dec. 31, and he was not seeking re-election. Instead, Gandara had filed to run for Quintanilla’s state representative seat. He dropped that bid after his indictment.
Only three commissioners have represented Precinct 3 in more than 50 years: Rogelio Sanchez, who was elected to the seat nine times starting in 1959 and died in 2006 at the age of 85; Miguel Teran, who served three terms and was implicated in the ongoing public corruption investigation but hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing; and Guillermo “Willie” Gandara, who was voted into office in 2008 and resigned earlier this year after being indicted on federal drug-trafficking charges.
Former El Paso Police Chief Carlos Leon won the Democratic primary election to represent the East Side’s Precinct 1. He will face Republican challenger Bill Lenderman in November.
The new commissioners, who are paid $60,855 a year, will take office in January 2013 and serve four-year terms.
Cindy Ramirez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6151.
— Primary runoff election day: Tuesday.
— Hours: Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
— Information and polling places: epcounty.com/ elections