The elections results are in for the city council races. Three of the four seats in contention will go on to a runoff. One incumbent, Isabel Salcido decidedly kept her seat. Districts one, six and eight are facing runoffs to determine who will fill the open seats. Brian Kennedy will faceoff against Analisa Cordova Silverstein for the district one seat. Art Fierro will challenge incumbent Claudia Lizette Rodriguez for the district six seat. And, Chris Canales faces off against Bettina Olivares for the district 8 seat.

Early Voting Still Rules

The early voting results, like in past elections, continues to determine the winner on Election Day. Mobilizing voters remains an early voting strategy as the voters determine the outcome during the early voting period. El Paso News predicted the final outcome yesterday based on the early voting numbers. The results during the early voting period generally mirrors the final results. There is no such thing as a last-minute rush in El Paso elections.

There was a late attempt by Joe Pickett to influence the election in the district 5 race. Although the Pickett mailers seem to have influenced the votes cast on Election Day, they were both insufficient and too late to make a significant difference in the outcome. Salcido went into Election Day with 65.69% of the votes and ended the night with 64.04%.

Likewise, the Art Fierro campaign attempted to sway voters with a late strategy of targeting Claudia Rodriguez through tax messaging and party politics. Fierro went into Election Day with 33.31% of the early votes and lost ground on Election Day. Fierro ended the night with 30.25% of the votes. What is notable is that Cristian Botello benefited by the Fierro campaign strategy of targeting Rodriguez late in the political cycle. Botello siphoned votes from both Fierro and Rodriguez on Election Day but Fierro lost more of his votes. Nonetheless, it is clear the race was settled during the early voting period.

Polling Works

El Paso News was provided several internal polling numbers leading up to Election Day. Internal polling is the normal strategy for well-funded campaigns. Internal polling determines the messaging strategy a campaign takes. Although polling is criticized by some members of the community as “unreliable” or an an attempt to “influence” the election outcomes, the fact remains that the internal polling shared with El Paso News generally predicts the election outcome. All were within the margin of error. This is especially true with exit polling. Fair Data published its exit polling numbers before the polls closed yesterday.

Ethics Complaints Do Not Work

Several ethics complaints were filed against Claudia Rodriguez during the campaign. Although the negative messaging via the ethics complaints have an influence on the final outcome they are too late to change the dynamics of the election. Art Fierro did not benefit from the ethics complaints. Fierro ended the night 13 points behind Rodriguez. Fierro lost ground during Election Day as voters shifted votes away from him.

Activism Does Not Work

There was much talk about the Duranguito and sports arena controversy leading up to the election. Activists can be loud and will dominate the news cycles but the voters, in the case of El Paso, are not swayed by the activist narratives. This is best shown by Rich Wright in the district 8 race. Wright ended the night in third-place with 25.51% of the vote, even with an influx of cash by J.P. Bryan. Social media activism and discussion forums do not sway El Paso voters enough to make a difference in the final outcome.

Republicans Influenced Election Results

There is a long running narrative that the Republican Party has little influence in El Paso elections. This is a false narrative as demonstrated by the most recent votes. Generally, Republicans are about 30% of the electorate that voted yesterday. This can be seen in the Ricardo Samaniego and Guadalupe Giner race where Giner ended the night with 32% of the vote. However, the race that best demonstrates this is the County Commissioner race where Sergio Coronado had to fend off Blanca Trout. Coronado ended winning, as expected, with 14% more votes than Trout, or 6,914 votes.

More important is that the immigrant narrative has little sway over the El Paso electorate. Claudia Lizette Rodriguez was on Fox News and Newsmax during the election and it had little impact on her race. If anything, it can be argued that she motivated the right-leaning electorate. Likewise, Trout who first tried to run as a Democrat and then ran on the Republican ticket is decidedly pro-Trump. This does not seem to have had a negative impact on her votes, coming close to outperforming Coronado.

Although a Republican candidate still has a difficult time prevailing in El Paso elections, they do effect outcomes through targeted voter mobilizations in local races. Republican voters had an affect on the city council races, especially in the Fierro/Rodriguez race. Fierro lost ground on Election Day. This can be attributed to the Republican vote and the targeted negative campaigns against Rodriguez.

Election Campaigns Cost Money

However, the most important election outcome is the cost to run a city council race in El Paso. This is demonstrated by analyzing the outcome against how much each campaign spent on the election.

El Paso News analyzed what each vote cost each candidate. To better understand the cost for each vote, we took the total spent by the campaign and divided it by the number of votes. This shows how much each campaign spent for each vote, which is a good representation of what it costs to win in an El Paso city council race.

As readers can observe, it cost city council candidates between $3.12 to almost $14 per vote they got. More important is the observation that the amount spent on the election is proportional to the amount spent by the opponents.

For example, Brian Kennedy and Analisa Cordova Silverstein are in a run-off. Both spent roughly $11 per vote. This is also true for the Fierro and Rodriguez run-off where each candidate spent about $7 per vote. Although it should be noted that Fierro spent slightly more than Rodriguez, he is, nonetheless, significantly behind in the final results. In the Chris Canales versus Bettina Olivares run-off, both candidates spent about $3 per vote with Canales spending slightly more proportionally.

This shows that if an opponent is raising significantly more money in the election cycle, it is important to match the amount to remain competitive.

Bryan vs. Hunt

One of the election narratives is about how much wealthy money influences the outcome. It used to be Woody Hunt, and to a lesser extent Paul Foster that was thought to determine the election outcomes. In this election cycle we had another wealthy campaign contributor that injected campaign money into the election. Houston-based and Duranguito supporter, J.P Bryan contributed $20,500 into the election. His contributions are $6,000 less than Woody and Josh Hunt contributions.

Thus, although it can be argued that Hunt money can influence the election, Bryan has demonstrated that the Hunt money influence can be curtailed somewhat by another wealthy benefactor. However, this further demonstrates that city council elections are won through money.

Election Outcomes

Here are the final numbers in the city council races.

The Missing Data

El Paso News analyzed the campaign costs to the candidates using the 30-day and 8-day financial reports. There is some missing data the must be analyzed to better understand the election. The first is that the reports that have been filed do not provide a clear financial picture as there are still expenses that have yet to be reported by the campaigns. Although much has been argued about incorrect reports filed, there are other financial details that are ignored.

Although some narratives about how much certain campaign consultants were paid this election cycle have been made, there is another element in this election cycle that has yet to be addressed. It is the costs incurred by the campaigns that have yet to be reported. For example, there has been campaign consulting fees incurred by one or more candidates that are yet to be disclosed. This is because the consultants have yet to bill the candidate which, although legal, does not represent a clear picture of how each campaign spent money. Thus it remains an open question as to how much it costs to run an El Paso city council race. More important is whether the narratives created about consulting expenses, ethics complaints and who funds the elections are the real facts or are they just narratives designed to demonize certain political factions in the community.

Here is our analysis for your review:

Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.