The recent announcement by Lina Ortega that she will not be running to keep her Texas House of Representatives District 77 seat has led to many rumors of several individuals running in the March 2024 primaries for her seat. Among the many names are former and current city representatives. Next week we will run down the names that recently surfaced for Ortega’s seat and possible contenders for the mayoral race. But one name surfaced almost immediately after Ortega’s announcement was published by us – Norma Chavez. Since losing her seat in 2010 – after angering the El Paso Democratic establishment – Chavez has been trying to make a comeback to political office.
Norma Chavez, who currently is a political consultant providing services to currently announced candidates, last held political office in 2011 after losing to Naomi Gonzalez in the November 2, 2010 general election. Chavez, who held the seat for 14 years, drew the ire of the Democratic Party establishment in 2008 after she helped Marisa Marquez defeat Paul Moreno. Until his defeat, Moreno had held the seat for 40 years. That was the first of several other Chavez missteps in her attempts to win office again.
During her concession speech to supporters after losing to Gonzalez, Chavez said that she “gave 14 years of her life to the state,” and that she, “unfortunately ended her career in a cloud.”
In 2011, Chavez issued a Facebook apology to Moreno for her part in helping to oust him from office.
Moreno and Eliot Shapleigh later teamed up to help Naomi Gonzalez defeat Chavez in 2010. During the heated race, Chavez attacked her opponent, Gonzalez, by raising her sexual orientation during the campaign. Chavez later apologized for bringing up an issue, sexual orientation, that had “no bearing” in the campaign.
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Since her defeat to Gonzalez, Chavez has been trying to get back into office without success. In 2014, Norma Chavez lost the Democratic primary to Cesar Blanco for the Texas House of Representatives District 76 seat. Chavez received less than 2,000 votes against Blanco’s 4,257 votes in the runoff election.
In 2017, Chavez ran against Veronica Escobar for Beto O’Rourke’s congressional seat in the March 2018 primaries. Chavez finished a distant third place behind the eventual winner, Veronica Escobar and Dori Fenenbock. Chavez received only 3,325 votes out of 49,868 votes cast in that election. Chavez responded to the loss by filing a lawsuit.
Chavez Alleges Election Fraud
A few days after her defeat, Chavez filed a lawsuit alleging that Escobar committed “fraud and mischief” to defeat Chavez. The lawsuit also named the county’s election administrator, Lisa Wise. Wise, according to the lawsuit “tampered” with the ballot machines to help Escobar.
On her short-lived political blog, Chavez posted an explanation of why she believed that she lost the election due to election fraud. Chavez wrote that election machine tampering is “not just a Russian thing.”
Chavez wrote in her 2018 blog post that she would “be posting a series of blogs…on whether we can trust the El Paso, Premier/Diebold (Dominion) AccuVote” ballot machines. Dominion Voting Systems, the makers of the AccuVote machine sued Fox news for airing unfounded conspiracies about their voting machines. Fox recently agreed to pay Dominion $878 million to settle the defamation lawsuit against them for airing of the “conspiracy theories” by Donald Trump that the machines were changing votes cast.
In addition to alleging that the Dominion machines could be hacked, Chavez accused the county’s Elections Administrator, Lisa Wise, as having “in depth knowledge on the political side of what a political campaign needs to win an election and has deep Democratic roots.” According to Chavez, Wise and her husband allegedly helped Veronica Escobar win against Chavez because of the Duranguito controversy.
Although Chavez wrote that she would be posting more “about our hacked machines,” on her blog, she did not.
Less than a month after filing the lawsuit, Chavez and the other two plaintiffs, John Carrillo and immigration attorney Enrique Garcia dropped the lawsuit. The court ordered the plaintiffs to pay court costs. However, Escobar wanted the plaintiffs to pay her legal fees. On April 5, 2018, visiting judge Roy Ferguson ruled that there was no election fraud. He also ordered that the plaintiffs did not have to pay Escobar her legal fees.
Chavez admitted on the stand that she did not attempt to discuss the accusation of election fraud with the Election Department before filing her lawsuit. When asked why she did not go to the Elections Department, Chavez responded that she didn’t want to “go to into the wolf’s den.” At issue was the forensic analysis the plaintiffs were seeking about the election, but never asked for them from the elections department.
Chavez again ran for the Texas House of Representatives District 77 seat on the November 8, 2022 elections as an Independent. Chavez later dropped out of the race.
During her 14 years tenure at the Texas House of Representatives, Chavez faced many criticisms by fellow members of the House and political observers from the moment she took office in 1997. Chavez, wanting to put her name on a bill establishing an optional state holiday for Cesar Chavez, asked the House committee chairman to kill an unopposed Senate version of the bill because she wanted the one with her name adopted instead of the Senate version that did not have her name on it.
In 2001, Chavez battled Joe Pickett on the House floor that “produced a ‘mushroom cloud of profanity’.” Chente Quintanilla accused Chavez of trying to “divide” the El Paso delegation at the State House in 2009. In 2002, Chavez was rumored to being detained by El Paso police. According to the now defunct publication, The El Border Observer, Chavez was briefly detained by El Paso Police officers investigating a loud party. Several other individuals were also detained.
After helping Marisa Marquez defeat Paul Moreno, Chavez felt “slighted” by her and began focusing on sabotaging Marquez. Chavez went so far as to send a text message to Marquez telling her not to attend Chavez’ college graduation celebration paid for, in part, by lobbyists. Chavez had sent a text message that read “U R not my friend” to Marquez.
Although Chavez had lost to Gonzalez, her campaign’s issues were not over. The Texas Ethics Commission began to investigate her.
Texas Ethics Commission Sanctioned Chavez For Election Campaign Violations
On April 21, 2011, the Texas Ethics Commission met to consider an ethics complaint filed against Chavez for several election violations while Chavez held the District 76 seat. Chavez agreed to correct her reports but admitted no wrongdoing in her financial disclosure reports. Nonetheless, the Texas Ethics Commission sanctioned Chavez a $1,000 civil penalty at the hearing.
Chavez is now seeking the seat being vacated by Lina Ortega. What is remains unclear is whether she will be running as a Democrat or as an Independent.