Vol 29, Issue 43 Print Issue

What's Next for the Contentious El Paso Delegation?

Awkward.

Maybe that should be the theme for next session’s “El Paso Day” at the state capitol, when lawmakers and lobbyists from the border region come together to showcase the swath of Texas they call home.

Two members of the five-person House delegation, Democratic Reps. Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Marquez, lauded the experience of incumbent Dee Margo, a Republican, during his race against former lawmaker and Democrat Joe Moody. Moody beat Margo in 2008 only to lose to him two years later, a casualty of the GOP tsunami that took over Texas – and the rest of the country.

Marquez and Gonzalez said their “support” for Margo – they phrased it carefully and said it wasn’t an actual endorsement – stemmed from the fact that the delegation had become a cohesive unit after several sessions of infighting.

But Moody won the election, making HD-78 one of seven districts the outnumbered and outmatched Democrats gained in the Texas House. Marquez didn’t return calls seeking comment. Moody seemed ready to get back to work the day after the election. And he seemed ready to try and fend off inquiries about how everybody is getting along.

“To me it makes no difference,” Moody, 31, said. “Campaigning is one thing and working in the Legislature is another.”  

Moody said Gonzalez and Marquez have already been in touch, and the delegation is meeting soon to hammer out details about strategy leading up to January’s inauguration. He said the delegation was divided in 2008 and the group was able to work through it then, and he didn’t anticipate any lingering backlash.

Richard D. Pineda, an associate director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP, said the support heaped on Margo was part of a political chess match.

“The calculated risk is this: cast your support with a Republican that has good relationships with the party and good relationships with the speaker, and see that translate into support for better committee assignments or stronger consideration when it comes to the session,” he said. “If you back him and he loses, there is definitely some backlash.”

That backlash, however, may be minimal in Austin. 

“[There is] plenty of time to make up the difference and push for a session that benefits the community and take that in to a reelection,” in 2014, Pineda said.

How party leaders in El Paso feel, however, is another matter. El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman Rick Melendrez was not happy when news of the non-endorsements broke. “You don’t forget who brought you to the dance,” he said then.