Cruz ad rehashes O’Rourke’s role in El Paso land development plan


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new digital ad by Sen. Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign will soon appear on a computer screen near you.

As polls tighten,the advertisement represents the most up-front attack on the past of his Democratic opponent, Congressman Beto O’Rourke. While there’s some truth to it, the video does not tell the entire story. 

“As El Paso City Councilman, Beto O’Rourke used his position to push insider deals to benefit his own family,” a narrator reads. The ad claims that O’Rourke voted to use eminent domain for a land development project that his father-in-law would profit from.

The project included a small part of the Segundo Barrio, a historic Hispanic neighborhood in south El Paso.

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier wrote in a press release that “O’Rourke showed a callous disregard for so many El Pasoans, ignoring their pleas to recuse himself from voting on the project for the sake of enriching his own family. If he wouldn’t listen to his constituents’ concerns then, Texans across the state cannot trust him to listen to them now.”

These accusations are not new against O’Rourke. They were brought up in a 2012 attack ad from his then primary opponent, Democrat Sylvestre Reyes. 

All day KXAN dug through old articles, videos, documents and our El Paso station’s coverage of the controversy.

In the early 2000s, O’Rourke did push the The Downtown Plan to be part of the city’s master plan.

Beto’s father-in-law, Bill Sanders, was one of many business and civic leaders advocating for the plan through the Paso Del Norte Group. People living in the Segundo Barrio were upset O’Rourke did not recuse himself from votes on the issue.

There were two ethics complaints filed. However, they were dismissed. An ethics commission found no wrongdoing according to El Paso newspaper articles from the time. 

Eminent domain

A former member of El Paso city council says the Cruz ad was cut out of context. 

She says in 2006, O’Rourke supported the option of taking private land if needed to get rid of unreliable landlords. After community pushback, she says O’Rourke voted with the rest of council to ban eminent domain in the first year of the final proposal.

“We took that off the table when we finally adopted,” she said. “It was based on a lot of feedback from the community. We realized it was a huge distraction.”


Sanders and O’Rourke were quoted at the time saying any profits would go to a downtown nonprofit. However, the project never came together. KXAN hasn’t found any record of Sanders or O’Rourke making any profit from the plan.

A new CNN analysis predicts the Texas Senate race might be closer than originally thought. This Texas race was pegged as a “likely” Republican victory. Now, the race is listed as “lean Republican.” That’s just one step away from “toss-up.” 

The Emerson College poll released last week shows Cruz just one point ahead of O’Rourke. Twenty percent of registered voters are still undecided.

Additional requests for comment to the Cruz and O’Rourke campaigns went unanswered. 

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