As much as political observers have rejoiced about the repudiation of Steve Ortega in the last election the fact is that the Hunt/Foster public agenda policy is still firmly in place. Yesterday, the final slate of candidates for the upcoming March Primary has been finalized. As much as many may think there is an opportunity to wrestle control away from the Hunt/Foster policy agenda the fact remains that Steve Ortega’s loss was nothing more than a reflection of a non-party driven electorate that repudiated an arrogant unpopular portion of a larger public policy agenda; the ballpark.
Unfortunately the ballpark is just one piece of an elaborate public policy agenda that includes many other pieces. These are downtown redevelopment, of which the ballpark is but one piece, the medical industry development led by the Medical Center of the Americas and the refocusing of economic development from city-focused one to a regional point of view. From a general public policy overview the three prongs are not inherently wrong for the community however what many in the community object to is their exclusion from participating in the development of the public policy and in participating in its benefits.
In my opinion the public policy agenda currently in El Paso is about benefiting those driving it to the detriment of the majority of El Pasoans. And as much as I and many others would like to see a new power base driving the public agenda there continues to be infighting between diverse special interests that keeps them divided and working separately from the others while the Hunt/Foster candidates slate continues to work cohesively towards one goal; keeping themselves in power.
Candidate slates exist to put office holders in place to further a public policy agenda. In El Paso, when Susie Byrd, Veronica Escobar, Beto O’Rourke and Steve Ortega (disciples of Ray Caballero and Eliot Shapleigh) were wrestling control from the existing power base as early as 2000, useful idiots that included the El Paso Times masquerading as a newspaper decried the perceived Luther Jones slate of candidates they were challenging.
However, once in power, Woody Hunt formed the Citizens for Prosperity PAC to funnel political contributions to like-minded candidates. Hunt’s modus-operandi went further than simple political contributions and instead formed an organized apparatus not only to funnel political contributions from wealthy individuals directly to political candidates that support his public agenda but also to get his particular slate elected through entities such as the Forma Group.
As I have showed you before, candidates that support the Hunt/Foster public policy agenda seem to be cultivated, polished and incubated in taxpayer funded jobs or non-profit organizations until their services can be used. Remember how Veronica Escobar first worked at taxpayer expense for Ray Caballero? She then went to work at the Community Scholars, a non-profit until she could be elected into office. Escobar was incubated until she had been groomed and positioned to lead the public policy agenda.
This example shows how the Hunt/Foster candidate slate is enabled and put into position. However there is one political infrastructure in place that allows the differing political slates the ability to leverage political power; the Democratic Party of El Paso.
On Party Politics
I am not very well attuned into the party politics because my focus has been general politics and because El Paso is a Democratic Party stronghold. That and El Paso’s ineffective political leadership makes El Paso a none player in State and National politics. However, in recent elections there has been an obvious breakdown within the Democratic Party local leadership and the party has split into two major factions and a third disjointed group of individual political operatives volleying for position within the two dominant groups.
As far as I can tell, there is the Veronica Escobar faction that was created when Ray Caballero brought forth his slate of candidates at the behest of Woody Hunt’s public agenda. The other group is the remnants of the former powerbase that was displaced by Escobar’s group. The displaced seem to center around Silvestre Reyes making him the identity of the second power base.
The third group is a disjointed and disfranchised set of individuals that did not pick sides in the Escobar-Reyes power bases and are yet to organize themselves into a cohesive group. Their ideology is incompatible with each other and therefore they seem to jockey for position without being able to come together cohesively to challenge either the Escobar or the Reyes camp.
From a non-party operative’s point of view it seems to me that the Escobar faction is using the Democratic institutionalized party infrastructure to get their slate into office. The Escobar party faction seems to use the Democratic Party as a means to an end; to keep the Hunt/Foster public agenda policy in place, rather than being true adherent’s to the party’s proclaimed ideals.
For their part, the Reyes camp seems to be trying to regain its foothold within the Democratic Party in El Paso however the decentralized ideology of the remnants of the former power base, not to mention the disjointed individuals each trying to establish their own power base, have rendered them weak and therefore unable to mount a serious challenge to the Hunt/Foster slate of candidates.
Unless the disjointed Democrats are able to form a cohesive policy agenda that they can all share in I believe that the upcoming elections will keep the Escobar faction firmly in place. For all of its faults, the Hunt/Foster policy agenda led under the umbrella of Veronica Escobar is firmly organized around a single policy agenda that all have subscribed to. With Beto O’Rourke firmly in place, Veronica Escobar’s power base will be hard to overcome in the primaries because as of now the challengers have yet to organize under one banner devoid of internal infighting.
As the fielded candidates begin their quest for votes it will be interesting to see if the disjointed Democrats can coalesce around a common goal; the dismantling of the Hunt/Foster slate represented by Veronica Escobar or will they let their own quest for power within the party to continue to empower the current public policy agenda.