El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, a former Republican state representative, joined The Texas Tribune on Wednesday to talk about key issues facing El Paso and the difference between politics at the state and local level. Here are a few takeaways:
The Republican party in Texas looks “totally different” to him now than it did when he was in the Legislature.
When asked about the state of the Republican Party in Texas, Margo suggested that too many single issues are now driving policy decisions, and that lawmakers are voting based on what their party demands, versus what their constituents need.
Margo described himself as a fiscal conservative who’s more liberal on social policies, adding that he’s “never voted straight ticket in my entire life.” He later said he was never in favor of the "bathroom bill" that would've put restrictions on which public bathrooms transgender Texans could use.
Meanwhile, Margo declined to explicitly endorse any candidates running for office — though he said U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who outraised U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the last reporting period in his campaign to unseat him, would do a great job in the U.S. Senate. Margo suggested that some of Cruz’s "rhetoric" was problematic, and said he has a “real heartburn issue” with anything potentially detrimental to the El Paso community.
El Paso isn’t a sanctuary city, but that doesn’t mean he supports SB 4.
As the sixth-largest city in Texas — and the largest border city in Texas — the immigration debate before the Texas Legislature affects El Paso directly. Margo said if he were still a legislator he wouldn’t have voted for Senate Bill 4, which passed during the last legislative session and allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain and arrest.
Margo described the city of El Paso as a “melting pot” and disagreed with President Trump’s intention to end family migration. He also said he’s not in favor of any expensive border wall.
Despite his disagreements with President Trump’s views on immigration, Margo made it clear that El Paso is no sanctuary city — one where law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration laws.
El Paso doesn’t always get a fair shake.
Now that he’s running a city, Margo expressed concern that state legislators in Austin get to call the shots on matters like property taxes — issues that affect El Paso directly — without sufficient input from local politicians.
He also said El Paso doesn’t get the attention and resources it deserves from Austin or Washington. But he added that with an average workforce age of 31, the city is making efforts to position itself for the future.
Those efforts are why El Paso hoped for a shot at becoming the site of Amazon’s coveted second headquarters. Margo said El Paso has “all the attributes that an Amazon would want,” but the city didn’t make the shortlist with two other Texas cities, Austin and Dallas.