El Paso county judges used to not make waves in our area. The office was never as sexy or as well-covered by the local media as the office of El Paso Mayor. What with the fight over the ballpark that tanked former mayor John Cook's political career, and the fight between current mayoral candidate Oscar Leeser and former El Paso City Rep. Steve Ortega in the aftermath of the ballpark struggle, politics over at the County Commissioners Court just didn't seem as novella-like and therefore were really on the evening news that often. It wasn't really until Congresswoman Veronica Escobar was elected to the position that it really got much attention and that was really because she was part of the Beto O'Rourke faction and everyone knew she was destined to run for higher office.

Fast forward to our current county judge. Ricardo Samaniego was elected after Escobar announced that she was going to take a run for her current Congressional seat. He was rather quiet, seemed like a middle of the road candidate and won the election over former mayor John Cook. Things were going pretty smoothly in his tenure at the County until the massive turbulence of COVID-19 hit. All of a sudden, El Pasoans found out that the county judge had more authority over what happens in El Paso than the mayor does. At first, the relationship between Samaniego and Mayor Dee Margo seemed seamless as the two worked together in press conferences in the early days of the pandemic. The men appeared to be on the same page about an early shutdown, enforcement of precautions, and presented a united front not only locally but to state authorities. But that didn't last long. Within a few months, there were separate press conferences and a couple of weeks ago, a very controversial second shutdown that Margo and several El Paso restaurant owners were so unhappy with that they filed a lawsuit against Samaniego that was quickly joined in on by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Mike and I got the chance to do our first interview with Judge Samaniego on Monday and it is worth a listen. He has a great sense of humor, is so proud of being an El Pasoan, and you can hear the concern in his voice when he talks about keeping our region safe during this pandemic.

It's about 15 minutes but he is a very good interview and we have a lot of fun with him along the way. The pandemic has made the county judge's office a much tougher one than it probably ever has been, but I have to say, I'm glad Samaniego is there.

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