In late July, House of Representatives for District 77, Lina Ortega announced she will not be running to keep her seat. As soon as she announced her intention, several names began to surface as probable contenders for her seat. The first name was former mayoral candidate and Fair Data partner David Saucedo. Since then, several other names have surfaced.

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El Paso News spoke to several political consultants and observers about the upcoming elections about the likely candidates and the politics behind the announcements. They agreed to speak to us about the candidates as background only because of the nature of their businesses with candidates or because they were not authorized to speak for any potential candidate.

Because of an expected visit from Joe Biden next year and an open mayoral race, several candidates for office began announcing early for the 2024 elections. At least 18 candidates have announced they are running for several open seats as of this morning. Except for Bill Hicks who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Yvonne Rosales’ resignation, most of the contenders will run on the Democratic Party ticket. Most of the rest of the candidates are positioning themselves for the March Democratic Party primaries.

Joy Degenhart

Before looking at the open seat for the Texas House of Representatives District 77 and the mayoral race we will look at another candidate that recently announced they are running for office. Joy Degenhart announced in mid-July that she is seeking the 388th District Court judgeship. Degenhart is challenging Marlene Gonzalez for her seat. Gonzalez announced on July 20 that she is seeking reelection to the seat she won in the July 2020 runoff against Laura Strathmann.

In her campaign website, Degenhart writes that she is running for the seat because “a judge should follow the law and not make up their own based on his or her personal bias.”

Although there are several announced candidates in the sheriff’s race and other offices, the two offices currently generating the most attention in political circles are the upcoming mayoral race and the seat currently held by Lina Ortega. Of the two, Ortega’s seat has generated many rumors of individuals who are looking to run for the seat. Many of the names that have surfaced in the two seats are current city representatives. However, because of the Texas law that requires a city representative to vacate their office upon announcing they are seeking a new office, the city representatives mentioned as possible contenders are not commenting on their future to avoid being forced out of office prematurely. Nonetheless, their names consistently keep coming up as potential candidates.

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Vying For Lina Ortega’s Seat: Vince Perez, Elisa Tamayo, Norma Chavez and Art Fierro?

The Quorum Report, a longtime online newsletter focusing on Texas politics, reported on three names that have been rumored to be looking at running for Ortega’s open seat. They are Vince Perez, Elisa Tamayo and Norma Chavez.

Although Norma Chavez has been named as a possible contender for Ortega’s seat, she has not made an official announcement. Nonetheless, those who spoke to us are confident that she will likely run.

Elisa Tamayo previously ran for District 76 in 2020. She previously worked for Cesar Blanco and Jose Rodriguez. In the March 3, 2020 primaries, Tamayo was defeated by Claudia Ordaz for the District 76 seat, 56% to 44% of the vote. In late 2021, Claudia Ordaz moved out of her home in District 76 to run against Art Fierro for the District 79 seat. Texas redistricting in 2021, removed District 76 and put Ordaz’ in District 79. Rather than run against Lina Ortega, Ordaz moved to run against Fierro. Ordaz defeated Fierro in the 2022 March primaries. Art Fierro went on to run for and win the city council district 6 seat later in 2022, defeating incumbent Claudia Rodriguez. His current city council term ends on January 5, 2027.

Several sources told us that Art Fierro has been unhappy with the length of the city council meetings and wants to return to the Texas legislature. According to them, Fierro has expressed an interest in running again for the seat currently held by Claudia Ordaz after rumors surfaced that Ordaz was considering a run for mayor.

Ordaz was in El Paso recently meeting with individuals asking her to run for mayor in 2024. According to one source, Ordaz met at an El Paso downtown restaurant to discuss the mayoral race. Ordaz, according to the source, decided to stay in Austin rather than running for mayor. It is unlikely that Ordaz will run for the mayor’s race, although one political insider El Paso News spoke to believes that Ordaz can mount an effective mayoral candidacy.

Vince Perez

Ordaz’ former husband, Vince Perez is also rumored to be interested in running for Lina Ortega’s open seat. Several individuals told us that Perez is actively seeking support for his candidacy. Perez was sworn in as the county commissioner for Precinct 3 in January 2013. In 2020, Perez was overwhelmingly defeated by Iliana Holguin, who currently holds the seat and is running for reelection.

Currently, Perez is a partner in the technology consulting startup Fair Data and a political consultant.

Nonetheless, several current and former city representatives, in addition to Fierro have been rumored to be considering running in 2024. Because of the resignation to run for office rule, any current city council representative seeking to run for another office cannot publicly comment about a potential run for office without first resigning their city council seat. Any public indication that they are considering a run for another office triggers an automatic resignation from office. Because city council members cannot make public comments about their intentions to run for office in 2024, they are not willing to comment.

The Mayor’s Race

Oscar Leeser, the current mayor, is termed out and cannot seek reelection for mayor. Because Leeser cannot run for reelection, the mayor’s 2024 election has generated much interest.

Several names have been mentioned as possible contenders for the mayoral race in 2024, including several current city representatives. Among them are District 3 representative Cassandra Hernandez who was recently reprimanded by the city’s Ethics Commission for her use of her city-issued gasoline card.

Another current city council representative that is often mentioned as having an interest in the upcoming mayoral race is District 5 representative Isabel Salcido. Both District 1 representative Brian Kennedy and District 2 representative Alexsandra Annello have also been mentioned as possibly having an interest in running for Oscar Leeser’s open seat. However, Kennedy is unlikely to vacate his seat to run for mayor so soon after winning his first election, however Kennedy’s recent financials show that that he may be preparing to run. Kennedy recently loaned his campaign $40,000, leaving him almost $63,000 to run. Annello has been rumored to be thinking about the mayor’s seat and possibly Lina Ortega’s seat.

The other name that has come up for the mayor’s seat is former city representative for District 1, Peter Svarzbein.

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Peter Svarzbein

Svarzbein is currently the El Paso Community Engagement Manager for the Anti-Defamation League’s Southwest Region, which includes Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso and the Rio Grande valley. Svarzbein was first elected to the city council in 2014 and took office in 2015. Unable to run for reelection because he was termed out, Svarzbein left office in January of this year. He had served two years at the city council.

On June 6, 2022, Svarzbein filed a code of conduct complaint against Oscar Leeser, accusing Leeser of threatening him in February 2022. The complaint followed a city council attempt to override the mayor’s veto of a vote to extend Tommy Gonzalez’ contract. After a 6-2 defeat, Svarzbein called the mayor’s two vetoes “political theater.” After the vote, Svarzbein filed the code of conduct complaint against Leeser for the February incident. Svarzbein told the news media that although he had drafted the complaint in February, after the alleged incident, he waited to file it hoping the situation between himself and Leeser “would improve.”

After the vote to override the mayor’s veto failed, Svarzbein filed his complaint.

The complaint read in part that on February 1, 2022, Svarzbein “felt in physical danger” because Leeser followed him out of the city council chambers. According to the complaint, Leeser told Svarzbein to “shut your mouth,” “keep talking, keep talking” and then “shut your mouth or I will shut it for you,” after the February city council meeting. Svarzbein added that “I noticed at this point that he [Leeser] stood up more straight and clenched his right fist.” According to Svarzbein’s complaint Leeser told him, “you [Peter] think you know everything and speak on every item, and you know nothing and the City Council is tired of you and thinks you are a joke,” as he followed him out of the city council chambers. Svarzbein reported that city representatives Henry Rivera and Isabel Salcido, as well as city officials Tracey Jerome Karla Nieman and Laura Prine witnessed the incident.

Eight days later, the City announced that Svarzbien’s complaint had been “resolved.” Details of the meeting between Leeser and Svarzbien’s meeting to resolve the complaint were not made public. However, the City released the following statement:

“The Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp had a constructive conversation and will continue to practice civility and professionalism during discussions and debates. Both remain committed to moving the City of El Paso forward and will continue to work together to see great things happen in El Paso.”

City council fired Tommy Gonzalez in February of this year.

However, one political observer who spoke on background only, told us that Svarzbein is considering Lina Ortega’s open seat because he does not feel he can win a citywide race.

Another name that remains in contention for the mayoral race is Veronica Carbajal who ran in the last mayoral election. As of today, her previous mayoral campaign website remains live.

However, Carbajal has not made any formal announcement about her intentions, and her recent vote to issue non-voter approved certificates of obligation for the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) has made a mayoral race untenable for the voters to vote for her.

Sylvia Acosta

One name that was recently mentioned as being recruited to run for the mayor’s open seat is Sylvia Acosta. Acosta retired as the CEO of the YMCA in June 2022. She was appointed the CEO in 2017. About a month after her resignation, Acosta was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Growth Officer of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, a business growth engine.

The 2024 mayoral race will likely yield a crowded field. There are several months left before the final field of candidates solidifies, and because of the resign to run rule, the current city council members to potential run in 2024 will not be known until the end of the year.


As was the case during the 2022 elections, El Paso News will disclose the candidates the author’s branding and technology company provides services to. Candidates Iliana Holguin and Bobby Flores have contracted services from the author’s company. These services are provided separately from the publication and have no influence on our reporting.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “Analysis: Election 2024 State Representative And Mayoral Races Heating Up”

  1. Norma Chavez will run for Ortega’s seat. How do i know…She told me so and said to let you all know.

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