Opponent of eminent domain use wins runoff: El Paso TX Times, 6/10/07

By Gustavo Reveles Acosta

Eastsiders on Saturday elected Rachel Quintana - a staunch opponent of the use of eminent domain in Downtown redevelopment - to a four-year stint in the El Paso City Council.

Quintana, 28, defeated Jim Suerken in the runoff election, in which a dismal 5 percent of voters participated.

"I'm humbled. It's awesome," Quintana said in a phone interview from her victory party at one of state Rep. Joe Pickett's properties. "I knocked on 1,500 doors today alone, and I think because I delivered my message to people personally, that really made a difference."

Just about 2,100 of the more than 42,000 registered voters in the East Side district went to the polls to decide who would fill the seat being left vacant by East Side city Rep. Presi Ortega. Ortega couldn't run for re-election because of term limits.

Quintana, 28, ran a campaign of fiscal conservatism and of opposition to some of the most important initiatives proposed by Mayor John Cook and the majority of the City Council.

Throughout her campaign, she said she would oppose not only eminent domain but also the selling of certificates of obligation for flood repairs as well as the unified development of about 3,000 acres of Public Service Board land in the Northeast.

"My promise is to let the voters decide on these issues to put them on a ballot and let them make the decision," Quintana said. "I'm not just talking eminent domain. I mean any major detail of the business of the city."

The majority of the board and Cook supported Suerken, who had said he would work with the the council on some of the initiatives Quintana opposed.

Suerken could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Quintana, a University of Texas at El Paso graduate working as a courier for Federal Express, said that who supported whom during the campaign was no longer an issue, and that she wanted to work effectively with all council members.

"That doesn't matter. It's a clean slate. I hope to unify the council," she said. "I am a very positive person, and that's what I expect for the next four years."

Quintana will be sworn into office during a ceremony June 19 at the Plaza Theatre, she said.

Voters interviewed Saturday said they were split between the two 20-something candidates on the ballot.

John Vega said he voted for Quintana because she told him during a home visit that she would keep taxes down.

"That's the most important thing for me right now because I'm a homeowner and my taxes are through the roof," he said. "I can't afford for anyone to come in and raise them anymore."

But Suerken supporters said they wanted to continue the progressive measures the majority in the City Council have fulfilled.

"He seems like a bright young man full of great ideas for the city," Rosa Guevara said. "I think he could move the city forward."

El Paso TX Times: http://www.elpasotimes.com