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Ordaz Perez may challenge Fierro for Texas House District 79

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State Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez may be gearing up to challenge state Rep. Art Fierro after Texas lawmakers drew her current district out of the Texas House redistricting plan.

Ordaz Perez changed her voter registration address from the Lower Valley home she shares with her husband to a house north of Interstate 10 in the Pebble Hills neighborhood that she has owned since 2014, according to elections department and Central Appraisal District records. The switch moves her into House District 79, a seat Fierro has held since 2019.

Redistricting reduced El Paso County’s Texas House seats from five to four. Ordaz Perez’s Lower Valley home seat was drawn into District 77, held by state Rep. Lina Ortega since 2017. Ordaz Perez took office in 2021.

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Ordaz Perez declined to be interviewed but in a statement said she’s “been leaning on running in HD79,” though has not reached a decision.

“I’m taking the next week to make a final decision,” her statement said. “I have until the end of this month to make a decision. This was a long legislative session and I just got back home to my family and I’m going to take a few days to reflect and pray about this.”

Fierro said he was “surprised” to learn Ordaz Perez changed her voter registration address to a home in his district. “I assumed she was going to run where she lived (in the new House District 77),” he said.

As to whether he’ll run in 2022, Fierro said: “There’s no doubt I’ll be on the ballot.”

Ordaz Perez changed her voter registration address on Oct. 12, according to the El Paso County Elections Department. Early the next day, the Texas House approved its new political boundaries for the next decade. All five El Paso state representatives voted against the plan.

The new boundaries will take effect in January 2022 once Gov. Greg Abbott signs the plan into law — unless the courts intervene.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, filed a federal lawsuit in El Paso Oct. 18 arguing that Texas’ redrawn statehouse, State Board of Education and congressional maps should be thrown out because they intentionally discriminate against Latino voters.

The Texas House approved HB 1, the redrawn House districts, on Oct. 13. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the redistricting plan into law. (Illustration courtesy Texas Legislative Council)

El Paso’s House delegation is up for reelection in November 2022, with the primaries in March 2022. The filing deadline is Dec. 13.

Under state law, candidates must live in the district they seek to represent for at least a year before election day. Ordaz Perez said she is splitting time between the homes, as she cares for her parents who live at the Pebble Hills house.

Voters should be registered at the address they call “home,” according to the Texas Election Code.

Ordaz Perez criticized lawmakers’ decision to pit Latina incumbents against one another.

“Sadly in the only urban delegation, in El Paso, that has a majority of women representatives, this map would change that by pitting two Hispanic Representatives against each other and favoring male representation with less seniority in this delegation,” she said during the House debate of the plan, Ortega standing by her side.

“These maps can take away boundaries in hopes that it will deter women like me or Representative Ortega, but make no mistake, I or Representative Ortega will not be deterred and you will see us standing here next legislative session,” she continued.

The redrawn District 79 boundaries include areas currently part of District 76, as well as neighborhoods she represented while on El Paso City Council from 2014 to 2019.

When she first filed for the council’s District 6 seat, she lived at the Pebble Hills address. She was registered to vote there until 2017, according to archived election data, before changing her address to the Lower Valley home.

Whether Ordaz Perez decides to remain in her redrawn seat and challenge Ortega or move to District 79, El Paso’s legislative delegation will have to decide who to back.

“I will humbly ask for their continued support,” Fierro said.

The delegation, including Fierro, Ortega, state Reps. Joe Moody and Mary González and then-state Rep. César Blanco backed Ordaz Perez’s 2020 Democratic primary opponent, Elisa Tamayo. Ordaz Perez still handily defeated the political newcomer for that seat by more than 1,700 votes.

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Molly Smith

Molly Smith has been a reporter for the El Paso Times and The (McAllen) Monitor. She’s covered education, criminal justice and local government. A Seattle native, she’s lived in Texas since 2014, with stops in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and now El Paso. She can be reached at mksmith@elpasomatters.org or 915-247-8857.

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