EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council representatives voted Tuesday to hold a special election to fill the seat belonging to District 3 Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, after determining last week that she resigned her seat as a result of a brief Facebook post about a mayoral bid.
Council set a Nov. 5 date for the special election, holding it in conjunction with an already anticipated bond vote.
“This special election is not publicly supported. I’m urging you to end this conversation for a special election,” Hernandez told her fellow council representatives shortly before their decision. Numerous residents from her district also showed up to voice their support for Hernandez.
Mayor Pro-Tem Claudia Ordaz Perez later told ABC-7 that Hernandez would also be barred from running for the District 3 seat during the special election.
Tuesday's council action followed last week's determination by the city's legal counsel that Hernandez had resigned.
In a Facebook post last month, which was deleted a short time later, Hernandez appeared to launch a mayoral campaign. But Hernandez has insisted that the post was inadvertently made by a volunteer on her staff -- and maintains she never authorized it although she has considered running for mayor.
The Texas Constitution says certain public officials can trigger an automatic resignation if they announce they are running for another office. City lawyers indicated to council that the Facebook post constituted an announcement and triggered the "resign to run" provision.
"Prior legal interpretations by the courts and the Texas Attorney General make it clear that once it is “made known publicly by a written or oral statement,” the resignation has occurred. If “a reasonable person may conclude from what is made public that the individual intends, without qualification, to run for office,” this provision is triggered. There is no exception for a mistaken announcement," said a statement released by city officials last week.
Some observers have suggested that Hernandez could opt for a court challenge over the issue, but she didn't immediately comment on her plans after Tuesday's meeting.
Current Mayor Dee Margo, who first contended that Hernandez had resigned and called on council to set a special election for her seat, has already said he will seek re-election as mayor -- setting up the potential of a Margo versus Hernandez mayoral race.