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El Pasoans Elect Woman Mayor

May 28, 1989

EL PASO (AP) _ Suzie Azar became the first woman mayor in El Paso history Saturday with a landslide victory over fellow city council member Ed Elsey in a runoff election.

″I’m thrilled to death. I’m ready to go to work,″ Mrs. Azar said. ″One hundred seventeen years is a long time for El Paso to wait, and I’m glad they waited for me.″

The final, but unofficial totals showed that Mrs. Azar captured 65 percent of the votes, or 29,961, to only 35 percent, or 16,218, for Elsey.

″When you get a margin like 65 percent, that’s a mandate from the people that they’re willing to work with you,″ Mrs. Azar said.

The successor to Mayor Jonathan Rogers, who by law had to step down after four consecutive two-year terms, will face problems posed by widespread poverty and rapid growth. Unlike most Texas cities, El Paso has a strong-mayor form of government with no city manager.

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The new mayor is expected to grapple with a high car-theft and house burglary rate, a growing youth gang problem, shockingly high rates of hepatitis and tuberculosis in outlying areas, double-digit unemployment and a steady influx of Mexicans, many of whom work illegally for low wages.

Nonetheless, the runoff was almost devoid of issues until two weeks ago, when Elsey brought up the matter of Mrs. Azar’s finances.

Mrs. Azar’s husband, Dick, leases business property from the city-owned airport, and Elsey said he wanted to know how much the Azars made from businesses on the property.

At Elsey’s prodding, Mrs. Azar released a statement showing that she and her husband had a net worth of about $3.7 million. Elsey, owner of a medical supply business, has a net worth of about a tenth as much.

The two city council members defeated four other candidates in the May 6 general election to make it to Saturday’s showdown. Before the May 6 election, the six-candidate campaign focused on taxes, police protection and economic development. But Elsey and Mrs. Azar held similar views, and Elsey chose to stress personal wealth as a campaign issue.

El Paso’s elections are non-partisan and there are no party primaries. Elsey is a Republican and Mrs. Azar is a Democrat.

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