Steve Ortega to Fill County Vacancy?

The untimely death of County Commissioner Dan Haggerty has opened up an opportunity for Veronica Escobar to fulfill her public policy agenda. In 2008, Veronica Escobar, then a County Commissioner, asked then County Attorney Jose Rodriguez for a legal opinion on the process for filling a County Court vacancy. At that time, Veronica Escobar was asking about the process to fill the County Judge’s position due to the ongoing political back chatter that Anthony Cobos may have been contemplating resigning as County Judge. Escobar was looking to see if she could be named to the County Judge position even though she was a County Commissioner at the time. Rodriguez’ opinion let her know that she would first have to resign and her previous position had to be filled by the county judge and then the county commissioners would then have to vote her into the county judge’s seat.

Obviously Veronica Escobar has given a lot of thought to filling vacancies at the County Commissioners Court.

In fact, on March 1, 2012; after a “community member” recommended Tania Chozet, Veronica Escobar selected Chozet to fill the vacancy left by Willie Gandara on March 3. Chozet had previously worked at the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico and was not on the political radar. But, Tania Chozet was connected. On June 29, 2011 she was appointed by Steve Ortega to the Museum and Cultural Affairs Advisory Board. See the dots begin to connect?

During her tenure at the County, Tania Chozet was part of a voting block for Escobar. In the last city elections, Tania Chozet ran for Steve Ortega’s vacated city representative office. She was defeated by Lilly Limon.

Notice the dots that connect here, that would be Steve Ortega. Yes, the same Steve Ortega un-ceremonially repudiated by the voters of El Paso. Unfortunately everything in El Paso is about “palancas”, or connections, therefore we can only assume that Escobar’s upcoming appointment will be to fulfill her public policy agenda. There is also precedent to a candidate that was rejected by the voters only to be appointed to fill a county seat. Remember Larry Medina?

Dolores Briones (prisoner no: 87112-280), currently at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington Kentucky for public corruption, appointed Larry Medina (prisoner no: 65787-280) on January 4, 2006 to serve as a county commissioner. Larry Medina is also serving a prison sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson Arizona, also for public corruption. Briones is expected to be released on July 11, 2015 and Medina’s release is expected on April 15, 2014.

It has been rumored that Steve Ortega has been living in the Kern Place area since he married Elizabeth Smith Tapp on August 15, 2012. At this point it is unclear whether the appointee, to fill the vacancy, needs to live in Precinct 4 since government offices are closed for the weekend but my assumption is that they must. It is also unclear whether Steve Ortega wife’s address is in Precinct 4 but it is in the general vicinity. If it is, Steve Ortega could effectively live in the district and that would make him eligible for the vacant county seat.

The unfortunate passing is the perfect scenario for both Veronica Escobar and Steve Ortega. Not only does Veronica Escobar get a strong County majority to push forth her agenda but Steve Ortega gets to keep himself in the political realm, as he prepares for his next office run, while once again drawing a taxpayer funded paycheck.

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