The two El Paso County commissioner seats up for reelection in 2022 have drawn a variety of candidates.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego will not face a challenger in the March Democratic primary election, and no Republican is running. Guadalupe Giner said she will run as an independent in the November general election.
El Paso Matters reached out to the candidates who filed to run for contested Commissioners Court races in the March primaries. County Commissioner incumbent Carl Robinson, who represents Precinct 4, could not be reached for comment. Victor Navarette, who filed as a Republican candidate for Precinct 4, could not be reached. The phone number he has on file with the El Paso County Republican Party was out of service and he didn’t provide any other contact information on his candidate filing.
Robinson drew four Republican opponents and two Democratic opponents. Incumbent David Stout, who represents Precinct 2, will face two Democratic opponents.
The winner of the primaries will meet in the November general election. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the primary, a runoff will be conducted in the spring between the top two finishers in the race.
The following candidates responded to El Paso Matters interview requests and explained why they chose to run for office.
Precinct 2 Democratic candidates
Gutierrez, 57, retired in December 2019 from the city of El Paso after 24 years of service, serving as assistant/chief of staff to the last four District 2 representatives. She unsuccessfully challenged city Rep. Alexsandra Annello in the Nov. 3, 2020, election.
Asked why she chose to run for office, Gutierrez said it was because of Stout’s rhetoric about law enforcement that stemmed from a social media post from September 2020. Stout said: “Today we braved the concrete jungle on a five mile march from Ponder Park to Memorial Park to protest police brutality, remember the 33 lives that have been lost at the hands of law enforcement over the last number of years in El Paso and to demand accountability. (El Paso Police) Chief Allen must go and the way our streets are policed must change. NOW!”
Gutierrez said that kind of rhetoric has negative impacts on local law enforcement and recruiting for the El Paso Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.
“What he doesn’t understand is that it’s a brotherhood, all law enforcement and Border Patrol, sheriff, DPS (Department of Public Safety), (police departments), it’s a brotherhood, so you attack one you attack all,” said Gutirerrez, who added that she comes from a family of law enforcement officers.
Stout said the post and his comments were specifically directed at El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen and the custodial deaths and lawsuits that have occurred during his tenure. He was not making generalizations about everyone on the police force and is concerned that Gutierrez has statements on her campaign literature that claim Stout has called for defunding police.
“(This is) absolutely untrue, I’ve never called for defunding the police,” Stout said. “I have called for accountability within policing and in those types of agencies, (where people in those agencies need to be) held to a higher standard. When you’re a public servant, you should be held to a higher standard. I think that there should be more public oversight when it comes to the way that accountability is rendered within those agencies.”
Soto, 40, is a political newcomer who works as a general contractor on residential and commercial properties.
Asked why he is running for office, Soto said he has been an active member of the community and wants to improve services for Precinct 2. He said he has seen a lot of issues surface over the past several years regarding services from the county. Those include Ascarate Park, the El Paso County Coliseum and county administration. Soto did not specify what those issues are, but said he wants to see improvements.
He also said his experience running his own business and being familiar with the community will help him present new ideas and forecast future needs.
“I feel that there’s a huge opportunity for that and I’m actually pretty good about forecasting and putting a process in place. That’s how I think I will make a huge contribution to the county Commissioners Court,” he said.
Stout, 41, if reelected, will be serving his third term as Precinct 2 county commissioner.
Asked whether he was concerned he drew opponents for his reelection bid, Stout said: “You either run scared or don’t run at all. So obviously, I welcome the challenges.”
Stout said he wants to run for reelection to continue the work he has been doing with the county. He said he thinks he has been an effective and progressive voice on the Commissioners Court while also able to make sure the county is efficient with taxpayer dollars.
Stout said some of the work he wants to continue includes the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disbursement of federal funds to where they are needed most. He said he proposed a lower tax rate this year to ease the burden on taxpayers after a spike in property values.
“There’s a lot of different things going on right now and I feel that if you had a change in the leadership, it could set the county back and the precinct back a little bit,” Stout said.
Precinct 4 Democratic candidates
Dorothy “Sissy” Byrd
Democrat Dorothy “Sissy” Byrd, 64, unsuccessfully ran in 2020 to represent El Paso City Council’s District 4.
Byrd’s initial candidate filing with the Texas Secretary of State was rejected. Byrd said the issue stems from her checking an incorrect box on the application regarding criminal background. She said she thought she had a felony theft charge from more than 20 years ago on her record. When she was told her application was rejected she said she made calls to a judge and attorneys, who told she was never officially charged.
“I made a mistake. I’m not that same person from 1993,” Byrd said of what she has previously described as a felony theft conviction. “This weight has been lifted off my shoulders that I’ve carried all these years because I never knew.”
Byrd said she wants to run for Precinct 4 because she likes to be involved in the community and wants to help through public service. She said after having conversations with others about whether to run, or whether Robinson was going to seek reelection, she decided to go ahead with the decision.
“It doesn’t matter if the incumbent runs or not, I have to depend on me and what I want for our community,” Byrd said.
Byrd said she is also running because she wants to be present for constituents.
Robinson has largely been attending County Commissioners Court meetings via phone or virtually since meetings resumed in person in September.
Coronado is a longtime Canutillo Independent School District trustee who unsuccessfully ran for county judge in 2006 and 2010.
Coronado, 62, said he is running for office because he thinks there are a lot of areas in the county that need to be improved. Coronado said he thinks the criminal justice system — which includes the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, constables and justices of the peace — has not been well taken care of. Those offices are run by elected officials.
“We really need to pay attention and make sure that that’s running correctly, and they have the proper resources for it — so I want to be a voice for that,” Coronado said.
Coronado said that among other issues, he also thinks there needs to be more oversight of University Medical Center and that board members that oversee the hospital should be elected and not appointed by the Commissioners Court.
Coronado said his experience with the school board and previous experience working in county government qualifies him to serve.
“While I respect (Commissioner) Carl (Robinson), I don’t think that he’s been into the job 100% over these last years,” he said.
Precinct 4 Republican candidates
Adams, 52, is a political newcomer and construction business owner.
He said one of the reasons he is running for office is because he is tired of seeing the same politicians jump from one elected office to another.
Robinson served two terms as a city representative before being elected to the Commissioners Court.
“I am like a lot of citizens in cities throughout the country. I am not a politician. I’m a businessman, but I’ve been in civic organizations. I’ve been on multiple boards,” Adams said. “The reason why I want to run is I’m very tired of seeing the same El Paso politics mentality.”
Some of the issues Adams said he is concerned about include stormwater infrastructure in the Canutillo, Vinton and Westway areas.
“As a businessman or a business person, I should say, we should be able to fix those problems,” he said. “If you don’t fix the factory, you’re gonna lose money. If you don’t fix your company, you’re losing money, you’re gonna make those necessary repairs and we keep passing it off.”
He also said he is concerned Robinson has not been physically showing up to county meetings.
Fatuch is another political newcomer running in the Republican primary election.
Fatuch, 41, who works in retail, said he had considered running for office over the last two years, but was not sure how to approach it. He said he felt compelled to run for Precinct 4 because he disagrees with several recent decisions made by Samaniego. Fatuch did not specify what they were.
“El Paso’s had a history of bad leadership and I think one of the big problems here is that El Paso leadership for a long time has not been very keen on transparency. They do half truths,” Fatuch said.
Fatuch said he is concerned the county is neglecting the Northeast, Canutillo and Vinton areas on flooding and that the issue should have been addressed long ago.
“It’s just mind boggling to me,” he said.
Fatuch said his experience in customer service has allowed him to build community connections and thinks it will be helpful when connecting with constituents.
“I believe that I can connect with people better and I’m more willing to be open and honest about everything than I think any of our commissioners are,” he said.
Trout is a current Canutillo Independent School District trustee. She finished fifth among the six Republican candidates seeking their party’s 2020 nomination for the 16th Congressional District.
Trout, 50, posted on social media in July that she was running for Commissioners Court Precinct 4 as a Democrat and was criticized afterward. Asked why she had initially stated she would run as a Democrat, Trout said it was an honest mistake by someone helping her with her campaign graphics.
The post has since been removed and Trout said she wants to represent all constituents.
Trout said she is running for the commissioner’s seat because she has a passion for public service and because she has the passion to fulfill the duties. She said her experience over the years serving as a trustee and on other boards including serving as vice chair of the Far West Texas School Boards Association has given her the experience she thinks will benefit the county.
She said transparency and listening to the community — including complaints — is very important and said she has learned how to address issues over the years.
“Definitely I’ve been facing all those challenges and I’ve been learning from them,” she said.
Trout also said she feels the Canutillo area has been neglected in the way of infrastructure and said the county needs more accountability and transparency.
“We need to work even better, even harder to serve our community and I think that I’m a person that has a passion for service,” she said.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Sissy Byrd’s filing as a Democrat, Carlos Soto’s campaign for the Precinct 2 Commissioners Court seat and Adam Fatuch’s age.
Cover photo: A polling place at El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus during the May 2021 elections. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)