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El Paso Reps Gonzalez and Márquez Face Primary Challengers

by: Shelby Alexander

Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 10:30 AM CST

Two Democratic primary races in El Paso are heating up and challenging current incumbents. In HD-76 and HD-77, Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Márquez have received criticism in the past for being funded primarily by Texans for Lawsuit Reform, as well as endorsing Republican Dee Margo over fellow Democrat Joe Moody in the 2012 election. This cycle, Gonzalez and Márquez are having their Democratic credibility and personal decision-making challenged by some new and familiar faces.

In HD-76, Gonzalez is facing off again with former State Representative Norma Chávez who she unseated in 2010, as well as Congressman Pete Gallego's chief of staff, Cesar Blanco.

In HD-77, family lawyer and Stand With El Paso Women PAC co-founder Lyda Ness-Garcia is challenging Márquez.

Read more about the races below the jump.

Challengers facing Gonzalez in HD-76 likely saw an opportunity after she was charged with drunk driving in Austin during the 83rd legislative session after she reportedly hit another vehicle, which then hit a cyclist. However, she is looking to move forward- as Gonzalez told the Texas Tribune: "I have addressed to the constituents what did take place, and all I can say is that I am not asking for any special treatment," she said. "It's about learning from the mistakes we make and moving forward from them."

Norma Chávez is campaigning on her past experience, and has apologized for her mistakes on the campaign trial, which included attempting to out Gonzalez in 2010. "I go in with the experience and I also go in with my seniority so with my seniority that plugs in for El Paso so I'd like an opportunity to once again represent the people of district 76" Chávez told KDBC.

Cesar Blanco cites his experience as a six-year veteran of the Navy, as well as his work in Washington DC in giving him the assets to apply it to the State Legislature. In a media advisory for his campaign kick-off, Blanco stated: "As a native El Pasoan, I proudly answered my country's call just as my father did and his uncles before him. I followed my military service by working for three Congressmen in Washington, DC who represented El Paso. Today, I'm answering a different call ... raising my voice and applying my skills to ensure our families have access to our fair share of opportunities."

In HD-77, Lyda Ness-Garcia has been direct in her criticism of the incumbent she hopes to replace. In her campaign announcement, Ness-Garcia criticized Márquez for her Republican donations and support of Dee Margo in 2012:  "...Too often, our State Representative has sided with high-dollar lobbyists and Republican campaign contributors at the expense of middle class El Paso families."

In addition, with growing awareness regarding payday lending donations in Statewide elections sparked by a series of reports by the El Paso Times, Ness-Garcia has also called on Marquez to return campaign contributions she has received from the payday lending industry. "Marisa Márquez has taken thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the predatory lending special interests who support Rick Perry and Greg Abbott," Ness-Garcia continued...Working families in our district deserve a state representative who can stand up to Perry and Abbott; not one who shares their campaign donors."

Márquez responded to the criticism in a recent El Paso Times article: "In an attempt to misrepresent my campaign contributions, my opponent failed to mention my strong legislative record to regulate predatory lenders," Márquez said via email. "My record speaks for itself. Not only have I authored and co-authored legislation to regulate predatory lenders, but I support community efforts to protect consumers."

Campaign finance reports will reveal where the candidates' line of support comes from, which will be interesting to see if Gonzalez and Márquez will continue to be funded primarily from Republican mega-donors, and how they will refute future criticism. Texans for Lawsuit Reform is both of their primary donors, and TLR has not been friendly to Democrats.

Will Marquez and Gonzalez be able to campaign on their records alone? Or will their challengers be able to weigh in on Democratic disapproval enough to win?

Correction 1.10 @ 12:25pm: this post was updated to include the source of the quote from Chavez.

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Do not republish without express written permission.

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