Local bar owner starts PAC to keep Steve Ortega from being elected El Paso's mayor

Bar owner's PAC aimed at preventing Ortega becoming mayor

EL PASO, Texas - A local bar owner has started a Political Action Committee to keep City Rep. Steve Ortega from being elected Mayor.

The owner of the Three Legged Monkey, James Michael Armstrong, started the "we the people" campaign to convince others not to vote for Ortega.

His Eastside bar has been in a years long battle with the city to stay open.

Armstrong's PAC released an online video that accuses Ortega of taking campaign contributions from owners of the baseball team slated to come to El Paso, when Ortega said he would not take contributions from them.

"Only Steve can go ahead and comment on what made him change his mind," Armstrong said.

Ortega, who is usually accessible to the media, denied ABC-7's request for an interview for this story. He said he did not "want to dignify the group's accusations with a response."

He admits last summer he had said it would be inappropriate for him to take campaign contributions from the baseball team's owners. Ortega argues he felt it would be inappropriate to accept contributions from them during the negotiations of the baseball stadium but not months after the deal had been reached.

His campaign finance reports show he accepted contributions from Paul Foster, Woody and Josh Hunt and their spouses in mid-April. The baseball decision took place in June.

Ortega announced his candidacy in November, not in the Summer, when he said he made the statement about the contributions being inappropriate.

For Armstrong, the timeline is irrelevant.

"He made the statement that he was not going to take it, he goes back on his word and takes that money," Armstrong said.

Armstrong refused to disclose how much money he's spent on the campaign. The PAC's finance reports do not show it has received any contributions. Armstrong said he's mostly funding it on his own.

"I've spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears," he said. Armstrong had negotiated a small advertising buy to run an ad on ABC-7 but he didn't complete the transaction with our sales department by deadline.

Armstrong believes Ortega accepted contributions from the investors who will make money off the baseball stadium. Ortega disputes that, citing the investors have vowed to donate their profits to charity.

Woody and Gayle Hunt donated $2,500 to Ortega in April. Josh and Martha Hunt donated $2,000 and Paul Foster donated $5,000 - also in April.

City Council had voted in favor of ending Armsrong's lease at Hawkins Plaza because they said neighbors complained of unruly patrons and noise. The ordeal ended in bankruptcy court, where a judge ruled Armstrong could keep his bar so long as he paid property taxes for 2011 and 2013.

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