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Government/Politics

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo Loses Reelection Bid To Oscar Leeser

Leeser
Courtesy of El Paso Inc.
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Former El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser.

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El Paso Mayor Dee Margo has lost reelection to his predecessor, Oscar Leeser, in a runoff defined by the city's coronavirus crisis and the incumbent's management of it.

With early voting numbers Saturday night showing Leeser beating Margo by almost 65 percentage points, an overwhelming margin to beat on an election day during COVID-19, Margo conceded, according to local reports.

At the time of his concession, Leeser had 82.3% of the early vote, while Margo had 17.7%.

"It was pretty overwhelming, so I don't think today's (election day) votes will have any material change at all," Margo told the El Paso Times. "I was surprised it wasn't closer, but that doesn't change my feeling about El Paso, my community and I am still committed to it. I want us to go forward and not backwards."

He said he doubted any other mayor has had to endure the crises he has battled throughout his last term, and was hopeful the community would realize he did “the best I could to lead.”

Leeser, standing by his wife at a podium Saturday, told reporters that he was elated.

"It's an exciting night for El Paso,” he told El Paso’s ABC-7. “Voters voted for a change and I'm so excited.”

Margo told the television station that he was now going to be a “full-time grandfather and part-time golfer.”

The Texas Tribune could not immediately reach Margo or Leeser for comment late Saturday.

Margo was running for his second term at the helm of the border city, which is the sixth most populous in Texas. Leeser led the city for a term before choosing not to run for reelection in 2017.

The race to lead the solidly Democratic city was nonpartisan, though Margo previously served in the Texas House as a Republican, while the Texas Democratic Party was behind Leeser.

El Paso became a national coronavirus hot spot on Margo's watch, and his handling of the pandemic saw some turbulence in recent weeks as he disagreed with the county judge on a business shutdown order — since halted in the courts — and came under fire for a pair of comments made while discussing El Paso's coronavirus response.

Margo ran on his experience guiding the city through three major crises — not just the pandemic but also the 2019 massacre at a Walmart and the Central American migrant influx prior to that. Leeser more narrowly focused on Margo's coronavirus handling, using a TV ad to call him "out of touch" and "out of time."

Margo entered Saturday as the underdog after garnering only a quarter of the vote in the six-way November election, finishing 18 points behind Leeser. Leeser enjoyed high name recognition as not only a former mayor but also a prominent local car dealer.