City Rep. Ortega officially announces run for mayor

City Rep. Steve Ortega running for mayor

EL PASO, Texas - A familiar face is running for mayor.

City Rep. Steve Ortega made his official announcement Wednesday night and he's being compared by some to a former El Paso mayor.

Ortega is known for some unpopular decisions. Decisions he stands by.

But person after person at his campaign party Wednesday kept on saying one word to describe him: visionary.

It's something people have heard before in another similar campaign.

"He's made some tough choices that he's been criticized for," said State Sen. Jose Rodriguez.

From the 2006 Downtown plan to the establishment of the Stormwater Utility, the recent ballpark plan, and who can forget the contentious domestic benefits battle turned recall effort.

Ortega has often been in the middle of the unpopular decisions and controversy.

"The critics are loud but not strong," Ortega said.

Ortega falls in line with a tight faction who believes in investing in the city to make it more competitive with other in the southwest. But those ideas come with some hesitation.

"They're moving at a pace where the taxpayers can't keep up with them El Paso has to grow at a slower pace," City Rep. Eddie Holguin said.

Ortega disagreed.

"My thoughts to those critics is look at the results of (Tuesday, Nov. 6). We're a community that now believes in itself. El Paso instead of mediocrity now wants greatness.

Ortega, who advocated for the passage of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, said the voters mandated a better future when they - by a significant margin approved all three.

It's a move he believes wouldn't have taken place 10 years ago when he and others supported Mayor Ray Caballero.

"I think Steve Ortega has all the qualities of a visionary leader, much like Ray Caballero," Rodriguez said.

No one else has officially thrown their name in the ring. City Rep. Emma Acosta said she's considering it and has set up an exploratory committee. She said she will make a decision by the end of the month.

Ortega had unofficially announced his run for mayor on Monday night with the creation of the Ortega for Mayor Facebook page. The campaign launch is similar to how Beto O'Rourke, Ortega's friend, launched his own campaign for Congress.

In addition to a Facebook page Ortega's campaign has also launched a website - It appeared the Facebook page and the website were made public on Wednesday.

Ortega has been the Eastridge-Mid-Valley city representative since he was elected in June 2005.

In June, Ortega voted in favor of building a baseball stadium in Downtown El Paso at the site of City Hall. He was not present for a new vote on the matter in September because he was on his honeymoon.

Last year El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values filed paperwork to recall Ortega, City Rep. Susie Byrd and Mayor John Cook because they voted to continue providing health insurance for gay and unmarried partners of city employees, overturning a voter-approved initiative aimed at taking those insurance benefits away.

The way City attorneys interpreted the voter-approved initiative, more than 100 unintended people would also lose their health insurance if the ordinance would have taken effect. The ordinance was written by El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values, the same group trying to recall the mayor.

The group wrote the ordinance without the help of an attorney after El Paso City Council extended health benefits to 19 city domestic partners. Ordinance supporters said they did not want their tax dollars funding the health benefits of unmarried couples and people in homosexual relationships, which some believe are an abomination to God.

The recall election had been set for mid-April until the Eighth Court of Appeals ruling on Feb. 20. The Eighth Court of Appeals, made up of Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure, Justice Guadalupe Rivera, and Justice Chris Antcliff, ruled unanimously that petitioners broke the Texas Election Code by not re-purposing their political action committee - El Pasoans For Traditional Family Values - for the recall efforts.

Originally, El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values was classified as a PAC for the 2010 ballot initiative meant to take away the health insurance of gay and unwed partners of city employees, not as a recall group.

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