Redistricting Blues, Part II: At-Large Districts and the Chicano Mayor
El Paso's move to single member districts did not bring the equality some had hoped for El Paso's people of color (POCs).
As mentioned earlier, the White-dominated city council of the time, divided the city into two “safe” white districts, and as for the other two districts, drew them so that they could go either way. So in those two districts, which should have been safe Chicano districts, the council drew them to make sure they did not go Chicano.
El Paso currently has eight districts which were last drawn in 2000 after the 2000 Census.
Return of At-Large
Have we seen the end of at-large council representatives. It is interesting to note which parties and representatives have mentioned briefly, that Downtown should have an at-large congressman. Watch your asses!
Why have a Brown Republican when you can have a White one?
Former County Judge Anthony Cobos represented District 8 at the time, and during deliberation of the Districting Commission, he was supportive of moving District 8 farther north past Sunland Park Drive thinking the richer and whiter residents would support his politics. But what often happens with POC who are of the conservative persuasion or Republican, when Whites can replace you with one of their own -- they will do it. Why have a Brown Republican when you can have a White one?
Now, remember, the city offices of mayor and representatives are non-partisan. That means candidates for mayor and city council do not run as Republicans or Democrats.
Non-Partisan City Elections
This all goes back to the 1957 Election. Raymond Tellez ran successfully for mayor in the Democratic primary. Everybody knows that in the Stronghold of Texas, if you win the Democratic primary, you are a sure win for which ever elected office you ran.
Tellez ran with a slate of White alderman candidates. When the White Elite found that they had been beat, they initiated a write-in campaign. They alleged that Tellez as a Mexican could not be “unbiased,” and would “fill the courthouse with Mexicans” as if whites are not biases.
Tellez would beat the write-in candidates, but two years into his election, the city changed their mayoral and city council races to non-partisan. How convenient?
You see, the White Elites realized that the Chicano community could organize and beat them in a Democratic primary. And even though most of the White Elite were “Democrats” in name, their politics was like today's fiscal Republicans. However, the White Elites knew they had to run as Democrats to win.
So, they moved to have non-partisan elections. In this way, Republicans did not have to run as Democrats or face a Chicano opponent in the run off who had the strength of a straight-ticket ballot.
People wonder why El Paso has only four Chicano mayors, five if you include Wardy.
It's been difficult to elect a Chicano mayor and those “Hispanic” candidates that cater more to the White elites than the POCs in El Paso, will gain favor from the White elites and maybe get elected.