Poor El Paso. Its 614,000 residents share a valley with Ciudad Juárez, a Third World city more than twice its size. It has less than half the tax base of Austin, its downtown is on life support, and its four-hundred-year history is practically invisible to tourists. It is the one Texas city that has lost jobs because of NAFTA. So why does Ray Caballero think El Paso is on the verge of greatness? Because he’s running for mayor as a reformer in a city ripe for reform. Caballero was once touted as El Paso’s Henry Cisneros, a handsome lawyer with the ideas to turn the city around. But he opted to work behind the scenes, often with state senator Eliot Shapleigh. In January, though, the 59-year-old Caballero jumped into the fray for the May 5 election. As an example of his leadership, he cites his role as an attorney for the court of inquiry that investigated whether the state was delivering El Paso its fair share of funding, a topic that resonates with voters who believe that the city is shortchanged because of its location.
Still, most of Caballero’s criticism is directed not toward the rest of Texas but at the old order in El Paso. He vows to break the power of the bankers who he says run the city and has even referred to a group of local bank presidents as “thugs.” He has attacked two of his opponents, former mayor Larry Francis and current mayor pro tem and city representative Presciliano Ortega, Jr., both of whom are running