It’s not the governor’s race. It’s not the race to succeed Tom DeLay in Congressional District 22. It’s not the Democrats’ effort to upset Henry Bonilla in Congressional District 23. The most important race in Texas is taking place about as far from the Capitol as you can get and still be in Texas. It’s the battle for the El Paso state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Elliot Shapleigh. He is being challenged by Republican Dee Margo, a local business leader. Margo has attacked Shapleigh for being an ineffective senator for El Paso, a city that carries a chip on its shoulder about being neglected by the politicians in Austin.

What makes this race so important is that Republicans currently hold a 20-11 majority in the Senate. A Margo win would give the Rs 21–the magic number in the Senate. According to Senate tradition (except during congressional redistricting), eleven senators can block legislation by refusing to suspend the rules that govern debate. If the Democrats were to lose the Shapleigh seat, they could do little more than make speeches and twiddle their thumbs while Republicans passed bill unimpeded.

The race has been hot and heavy. Shapleigh accused Margo of intervening with Tom Craddick and other Republicans to hold up funding the local extension of the Texas Tech Medical School (and thereby depriving Shapleigh of credit) until after the election. Shapleigh claimed to have heard the story from Republicans. For his part, Margo accused Shapleigh of lying when he said that Dewhurst had promised to restore him to the Senate Finance Committee, after removing him as punishment for opposing the reelection of a colleague, Frank Madla of San Antonio, which nice senators just aren’t supposed to do.

The Margo family happens to be very close to a certain family that resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., and it has been talked about that a certain well known political consultant from Texas, who offices at the same address, is helping Margo. El Paso is a Democratic town, and the numbers favor Shapleigh, but the stakes are so high that Republicans are going all-out to win.