The story in the El Paso Times was very peculiar. State Rep. Norma Chávez, D-El Paso, told an audience in Austin this week that she was running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Eliot Shapleigh. Chávez, reached later by telephone, backed away from the declaration she made at a dinner in front of members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, lobbyists and others. She said it was not an official announcement because she was still gauging support, talking with consultants and waiting for results from polls to see whether she had the backing to run for the Senate. “It was an announcement but not an official announcement,” she said. “The lobbyists and my colleagues know that. None of them will take it serious. They’re all asking me when are you going to announce? When are you going to announce?” I think that the problem here can be summed up in four words words: county attorney Jose Rodriguez. He is well regarded in El Paso, and he has run countywide. Chavez runs in one of El Paso’s five House districts. She is so strong in her own district, the segundo barrio, that she didn’t lose a single precinct the last time she was challenged. She also has significant influence in the area known locally as “the valley,” the far eastern areas of El Paso County near the Rio Grande. But that’s 2/5 of the county, not a majority. I would not expect Chavez to run well in Joe Moody’s district, in the affluent northwest part of the county where I-10 heads for New Mexico, and her relationship with Marisa Marquez, who represents central El Paso, is openly hostile. What is “an announcement but not an announcement?” It is an admission that she may have jumped the gun by indicating her interest in succeeding Eliot Shapleigh in the Senate too soon. Almost immediately, a host of hopefuls indicated their own interest in running for Chavez’s seat. Now she may have to choose between a risky race for the Senate, or a safe race for reelection against multiple challengers.
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