Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Full Slate - Municipal Races for 2015 Part 2

Alright then, lets have a quick look at the city council candidates for District 1. This race will ultimately congeal into three tiers of candidates. Front-runners most likely to make a run-off, stronger candidates that have a good chance to make a run-off, and the also-rans. The biggest factors in this race are going to be money, field work, and name ID in that order. One observation I can make about this field of candidates compared to those in the past is that it is a higher caliber field of candidates.

I'll go in alphabetical order since there are so many candidates.

Richard Bonart - He's most known for his environmental work, but by the masses he's most known for an incident involving the PSB stuff. He's a veterinarian and has been in practice for many years. That means a lot of people know him. Especially people who spend a lot of money taking care of their pets. For a lot of people their pets are like family members and so there is a great deal of trust involved when you put your loved one's health in another person's hands. That'll be helpful for Bonart. He has the capacity to self-fund his campaign. I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet, but based on what is publicly available about him, he seems to be pretty strong on policy development even if he his perceived to be a bit one-dimensional.

Biggest Strength - Most will tell you that his notoriety and stature in the community is his biggest strength, but it isn't. His biggest strength is Susie Byrd. This race changed entirely when another candidate joined the race and having a field program became that much more important to his campaign. Others will tell you that having a field program on the westside isn't that important but there's nothing unique about the westside that would mean that voters there respond completely different than voters in the rest of the country.

Biggest Weakness - Its unlikely that he will do his own campaigning outside of showing up to a few forums and debates, which really isn't campaigning. He's perceived as being one-dimensional so he'll have to dispel that perception. He's also perceived as being difficult to work with.

Biggest Unknown - Money. He has the capacity to self-fund the race but wealthy candidates are notorious for not wanting to put their own money in the campaign. With so many candidates in the race its going to make it that much more expensive to tough voters and have them remember you.


Bertha Gallardo - Gallardo is the only Latina in the race. She has done work with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the workforce board, and is arguably the only candidate in the race with executive-level corporate experience. She's a public affairs officer at Las Palmas Del Sol and has served as Vice President of Managed Care at Las Palmas Del Sol and Executive Director of Managed Care at Tenet. Her professional experience coupled with her experience with the Chamber and the workforce board means she knows a lot of executives. She knows a lot of them that probably normally don't contribute to political races but may do so in her case. I haven't had a chance to speak to her yet so I don't have a sense of her policy knowledge or political leanings.

Biggest Strength - Being the only Latina is a big advantage, though not as much as it is in other districts. Her strength is in her potential to raise money from sources that aren't normally in play. These are people that probably aren't even going to be hit up by the other candidates.

Biggest Weakness - Campaign organization. The talent in terms of campaign management is finite and there's only two operatives that I know of that are normally involved that aren't as of yet. They may have their eye on another district so Gallardo has to get some professional help. She's never been involved in politics before and can't afford to try to DIY this race otherwise her money means nothing. -

Biggest Unknown - Can she develop a base of support? Right now she isn't very well-known within the district, at least not compared to a few of the others. Does she have the capacity to build enough of a base to make a run-off? Thats the unknown with her.


Manny Hinojosa - The El Paso Times article from over the weekend mentioned Hinojosa as having an occupation that I hadn't heard of him having before but I haven't spoken to him in a while. He's most known for his religious work and as a candidate. He previously ran for District 1 and most recently ran as a Libertarian for District Clerk. When he ran for District 1 the first time he was largely associated with a slate of candidates that then Pastor, now Bishop Tom Brown ran. Hinojosa does a great deal of charity work and ministry.

Biggest Strength -  This might surprise you but Hinojosa knows more about campaign and government issues than people give him credit for. Once he develops a message he's pretty disciplined about it and stays with his talking points very well. He does very well working a room focusing on individuals on a one-on-one basis. He also has guts, I'll give him that. A few years back he showed up to one of our El Paso Young Democrats meetings and wasn't shy about telling us he was a Republican at the time.

Biggest Weakness - He's a very strong religious conservative and while a fiscal conservative message might play well, a religious conservative one might diminish his effectiveness. He needs to raise money and develop a base of support. He doesn't have one right now and he doesn't have access to big donors. Like it or not, money gives you the capacity to send out your message to voters. Typically Hinojosa just goes to campaign forums, fundraisers, and events and doesn't conduct any grassroots or mail program. He needs to develop and build on a base of support.

Biggest Unknown - The biggest unknown is if he's learned any valuable lessons from his last two attempts at running for office. Will he campaign any differently or stick to the same play book?


Daniel Lopez - I have actually had a chance to speak to Mr. Lopez recently over the phone. He's a business consultant and alluded to an interesting personal back story that we didn't get a chance to talk about during our conversation. Lopez has never run for office before and most of his experience has been with small business and government. He's President of the Board at Volar Center for Independent Living and is self-employed. He has previously worked for the city of El Paso from 1995-2000. He went to high school in the valley at Bel Air and later graduating from Ysleta. Prior to working for the City of El Paso he worked for the City of Brownsville.

Biggest Strength - Being a former city employee his biggest strength is going to be in policy and understanding of the machinations of city government. He's a smart guy who has pretty advanced knowledge of policy. I asked him basic candidate questions about what he thinks are the biggest issues facing the district, etc and he did very well. Usually people either give me a deer in the headlights look or have a prefabricated answer ready to whip out. He seemed very genuine, open-minded, and he's very likeable.

Biggest Weakness - He hasn't run for office before and needs some guidance on how to effectively deliver his message. He isn't well known within the district and has to raise his profile. The hardest part for him is going to be able to stand out from the pack in terms of message. That is going to be very difficult without some campaign money.

Biggest Unknown - Can he distinguish himself enough from the rest of the candidates running. There is already a couple of business candidates, a couple of hispanics, several men, he's neither old nor young, etc. He's gotta find a way to distinguish his candidacy.


Peter Svarzbein - The visual artist is the Rodney Dangerfield of the field. He can't get no respect. No one in the blogosphere takes him seriously or thinks he's a credible candidate. I got called out for calling him a white guy instead of Latino. DK seems think he's too Jewish and thinks there's something fishy about him having a PAC. At first I thought it was because DK's mom is Bonart's treasurer. Then DK mentioned his connection to another candidate, so Everyone else thinks he's too young or not a serious candidate because he's a visual artist. But he's got a master's degree and teaches at Texas Tech School of Architecture. He owns property and runs his own business. He comes from a prominent family on the westside. Like Bonart he's known for his activism. Like most of the other candidates he has an advanced degree. Not as much business experience as the other candidates but certainly more marketing experience. So far he's got more campaign visibility than the other candidates in the district. He should, he was the first one out of the gate. He has the work the hardest of all the candidates to realistically make a run-off.

Biggest Strength - He started early, he has an actual campaign structure, and he's the youngest candidate. He takes campaigning seriously, which flies in the face of the typical stereotype of artists.

Biggest Weakness - He has a credibility gap with the establishment. That means raising money is going to be harder for him. He needs money to feed that grassroots operation. It doesn't take a lot of money, but you need a decent amount.

Biggest Unknown - Can he do enough to make a run-off? Can he get the money his campaign needs? Can he pull off the upset?


Al Weisenberger - This is the candidate that waited until the last minute to get in the race but made the biggest impact. He along with Gallardo are the two candidates that have changed the tone of the race the most. David K wrote that he thought the race was Al Weisenberger's race to lose. I think DK is right. Its certainly Weisdenberger's race to lose. When the rumor of Weisenberger getting into the race most of the people I know on the westside didn't know who he was. They'd never heard his name. They knew nothing about it. Even the very politically astute. Turns out it was a generational thing. Most people my age and younger aren't familiar with him but older folks and David K are familiar with him. I also had a chance to speak with him and he is absolutely going to be a formidable candidate. He seemed to have a really strong grasp of policy and actually had an agenda in mind in terms of what to do as a city council representative.

Biggest Strength - The establishment has all seemed to have gravitated toward his candidacy. He is now the Forma candidate in the race, which would actually make him the second, possibly third candidate that Forma has signed with in this race. He will be the candidate that gets all the money and from what I'm told he's pretty well to do to begin with. Very likeable guy so he will have no problem whatsoever winning people over.

Biggest Weakness - This is also a bit of an unknown as well, but its his age. He's an older candidate, as is Bonart, so doing a lot of the grassroots stuff is probably not going to happen. Voters in El Paso have pretty consistently drifted toward younger candidates. The exception was Ann Morgan Lily when she last ran and defeated a younger opponent. She was also a Forma candidate. If he does no grassroots effort at all, and a couple other candidates do, he's leaving the door open to not make a run-off. Races with this many candidates are all about turn-out and who can best GOTV.

Biggest Unknown - Will enough people remember him and vote for him.


District 1 said...

My picks are Bonhart and weisenberg in a runoff. Manny could be a force if he had an organization and money. I would place my money on Bonhart. His personality needs some work. He's good but too blunt.

The artist was smart to start early, that will help. But, he's 15 minutes if fame type. He pushed for the trolley. That to me is an issue that will haunt him.

Anonymous said...

Why would Crazy Manny ever be a force? He never gets very much of the vote. Give me a break.

Unbiased said...

Crazy manny has learned a lot from past campaigns.

He handles the tough questions with ease and has stuck to his message everytime. Which is how to win. Candidates get to slinging mud and the public forgets their message.

Btw, Manny is not crazy. Sit and talk with him.

I chose Bonhart to be the winner.

There you got your break.