Rodriguez Announces Senate Candidacy

Today in El Paso, County Attorney Jose Rodriguez announced he is running for the state Senate seat that Democrat Eliot Shapleigh is giving up.

Rodriguez, who was first elected countywide in 1992, said he is running to ensure the rest of the state realizes that the future of El Paso is the future of Texas. He said he would fight for investments in public education, public universities, and job growth in El Paso.

After a divisive 2009 legislative session for the El Paso delegation, Rodriguez said he would also work to unite the famously fractious group of lawmakers.

Rodriguez is the first to officially announce his candidacy. At least  two other Democrats are also mulling campaigns for the rarely open Senate seat: state Rep. Norma Chavez and former Tigua Gov. Albert Alvidrez.

Here is the text from the announcement speech Rodriguez planned to give today in El Paso:

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

STATE SENATE ANNOUNCEMENT

NOVEMBER 8, 2009

Almost 20 years ago, as a younger lawyer with no political experience, I got this idea that I could run county wide and serve as County Attorney. Some might say that I was presumptuous.

Had I tried to do it alone, I would have most definitely been presumptuous.  But I learned early on the power of bringing talented people together … committed, compassionate people … people who truly care about their community.

Together, we redefined the office of the County Attorney.  Amazingly, what seemed unusual to some when we started many of these initiatives is now seen as a model in counties throughout the state.  But our end goal was never about the office … it was about living out the sense of community that makes El Paso such a special place to live and raise a family.

Our driving mission was simple:  we didn’t just want to be a cog in the wheel of government, we wanted to be a part of the solution to problems that confront us.

Working with people who share that drive — in the office and throughout our community — has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

So I'd like to start today off by taking a moment to say “thank you.

[Recognize wife, family, colleagues, staff and friends]

Recently, thanks to the efforts of Congressman Reyes and so many people here in this room, President Obama signed legislation to re-name our courthouse in honor of Judge Albert Armendariz.  He, like a lot of us, came from humble roots and went on to achieve great things.  But what set him apart was that he didn’t live out the stereotype of taking people down as he moved up.  To the contrary, as he moved up, he took on the added weight and responsibility of  helping the entire community rise up with him.

Alicia Chacon provided a similar inspiration for me. As a mentor and friend, she engrained in me a sense of honor in public service, in lending a helping hand, and in working to change the community for a better future.

And I’ve also been privileged to call another great El Pasoan a friend, a colleague, and leader … that’s our own Senator Eliot Shapleigh.  Bright, articulate, passionate, and a fierce fighter for El Paso, he has been called the conscience of the Senate, just as Paul Moreno came to be known as the conscience of the House.

Armendariz … Chacón … Shapleigh … and the list goes on. This is what El Paso is all about.  We may not have much, but in our best moments we stick together and look out for each other, especially for the less fortunate.

In the County Attorney’s Office, I’m proud of our efforts to transform the community and the lives of families by not only expanding existing services and functions but also adding new ones such as Teen Court, Environmental Court, Community Prosecutor, and Mental Health Task Force.

And we’ve also used the visibility of the office to bring attention to critical issues not traditionally tackled by a

prosecutor’s office, such as under-funding in state transportation, mental health and other programs, health disparities up and down the Border, and harmful immigration and border security policies.

Perhaps the most lasting impact we’ve made is less glamorous but more fundamental. Together, we are instituting a first-of-its-kind County Ethics Commission with some real teeth so we can address corruption and betrayal of the public trust.  We can never forget that change isn’t possible unless you honor the people’s trust and confidence in government.

And despite all our efforts, I think we all know there’s a lot more to do.  In today’s economy, a lot of our neighbors are living month to month.  Healthcare and unemployment remain a serious challenge.  Time is working against us because at the same time that El Paso and the Border continue to get the short end of the stick on state investments, the global economy has undergone a massive transformation, and only those communities with an educated workforce will reap the rewards.

Last session, Governor Perry signed a state budget that bailed Texas out with more than $10 billion of President Obama’s Recovery Act to balance the budget. But we all know that money won’t be there next time.  So our schools, our universities, our health care programs, and our roads are all in a precarious position.

These are critical times.

As we all know, Eliot Shapleigh has decided to step down as our State Senator.  He will leave a vacuum that must be filled.  Unless we continue to fight for El Paso, we’ll be forgotten.

I am no longer a young lawyer.  And surrounded by so many friends here today, I’m not a presumptuous one either.

I respect and admire Eliot; he has done great work for El Paso and the entire border region.

But, I realize that I am not him and he is not Jose Rodriguez.

So, I don’t look at what I’m about to tell you as a “political opportunity.”  I look at it as an obligation and a challenge that I undertake with the greatest humility. It’s time to once again say it’s not enough to be part of the process, we want to be part of the solution. 

That’s why today I am announcing that I am a candidate to represent El Paso as your next State Senator. 

Can I assume from your response that you’re not going to let me do this on my own?

While we face some tough challenges, we’re also presented with some incredible opportunities.  It’s time the rest of the state learns that the future of El Paso is the future of Texas.

If we invest more in early childhood education, we’ll tackle our high school dropout problem before it even becomes a problem. 

If we provide incentives for teachers — especially to recruit more math and science teachers in the classrooms — we can begin the hard work of repositioning Texas to compete in the global economy.

And if we look at a college education as the investment that it is and our universities as the economic drivers they are, we’ll remove the economic barriers that prevent too many students from continuing their education and we’ll support our institutions of higher education both in teaching and research.

We need to see that the needs of our cities and counties are understood, respected and responded to by the legislature. If I am elected your state senator, I will work closely with each of them to advance their interests.

We will work tirelessly to help our existing businesses thrive and bring new jobs to El Paso., and our support for Fort Bliss and the needs of our military will be second to none. 

It is critical, and I will do everything possible to unite with our  house delegation behind El Paso’s priorities. 

I could go on about smart investments that can save us money and create new opportunities — but, I want to take a moment to recognize that my decision today closes a very meaningful chapter in my life.

In running to represent El Paso in the State Senate, I am, in effect, stepping down as your County Attorney.

This was never a one-man-job.  It was team effort.  And I’ve been honored to work side-by-side with some of the most dedicated public servants in El Paso.  [Recognize members of team]

I could not be more proud of not only what we’ve accomplished, but how we’ve done it.   And I am confident that the office will continue doing great work for the community.

I think we were successful over the years because we didn’t let the job define us, but rather our passions.   I repeat, we’re not just part of the process, we’re part of the solution.  And that passion we’ll carry forward in this campaign to ensure El Paso’s voice continues to be heard loud and clear.

Over the course of the next weeks and months, we’ll be speaking out on the issues and laying out our agenda to ensure El Paso’s voice is heard.  We’ll be getting out in the neighborhoods and asking you to join us … knocking on doors, letting neighbors know what’s at stake, and bringing people together like never before.

Bringing people together is going to be a real important part of our campaign.  In parts of the state, and in Austin, we’re known all too well for our family feuds.  I believe part of my obligation in this campaign is to do what I’ve done as County Attorney, and to remind my self each and every day that we really our one family.

And you all are an important part of my family.  Thank you for being here. Let’s enjoy the food and refreshments.  

Let’s enjoy each other’s company because tomorrow we get to work. 

And, I promise you this---No one will out work me during this campaign as your state Senator.

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