EL PASO, Texas – El Paso residents have elected a new mayor, handing a defeat to incumbent Mayor Dee Margo in favor of his predecessor, Oscar Leeser, in a runoff race defined by the city’s coronavirus crisis.
Leeser, who was mayor of the West Texas city on the Mexican border from 2013 through 2017, won with an overwhelming 82% of the vote, according to El Paso County's unofficial tally. He finished first among six mayoral candidates in November, but with less than 50%, forcing Saturday's runoff.
Leeser pledged Saturday night to bring together the city that has been battered in recent years by overcrowded migrants at the border, a mass shooting at a Walmart and the economic and health crisis brought on by the coronavirus.
“We're going to unite our voice and we're going to have a plan to make sure our community feels we no longer have a crisis,” Leeser, standing by his wife, told KVIA-TV. “I look forward to really starting tomorrow morning.”
Mayoral races in El Paso are nonpartisan, but Margo, a businessman and former state legislator, identifies as a Republican. Leeser, president of a Hyundai dealership, is a Democrat.
Margo said in a concession speech Saturday that he believes no mayor has had to deal with the array of calamity he's faced in the last two years.
"I am hopeful that it will be recognized that I did the best I could to lead on behalf of the community through these three crises including the one we are still going through which is this pandemic,” Margo told the El Paso Times.
Leeser will be sworn in in early January, a city officials told the Times, although a date has not been set for the ceremony.