The El Paso mayor’s race of 1981

In 1980 Mayor Tom Westfall announced his would not run for reelection in 1981. Ray Pearson and Jonathan Rogers emerged as the front runners.

Pearson was a democratic party activist, lawyer and had a lot of political influence. Pearson also served as chair of the City Housing Authority and public service commissions. He had a lot of money and a broad scope of support. Many assumed he would win but then came Jonathan Rogers.

Rogers ran as a businessman who had a better idea and firmer control of city finances. In 1981 tax increases, budget cuts, and infighting at city hall were some of the factors that may have helped Rogers win. Rogers margin of victory was very close, he had lost to Pearson in the general election but he won in the runoff, that was the only time in his four terms as mayor, that he was behind or lost a race.

Rogers candidacy was a surprise and he was seen as a unlikely contender, but he ran a strong campaign running against the city increasing of taxes and represented financial stability, something that many felt the city needed.

The 1981 city election represented a another conservative voting trend for the voters of El Paso, first one being in 1979. Pearson charged that Rogers owned city land and would have to recuse himself. Rogers called Pearson a follower and said he took many of his parts of his platform from him.The 1981 election failed to drive interest and excitement but there was a contentious amendment killed by the voters. The 50 percent tax limit amendment which would limit spending and the amount of taxes. Both Rogers and Pearson opposed it and there was not a big difference in terms of what they thought about city policy.

More on Mayor Rogers in Future posts.

Joseph Longo
EPCHS volinteer

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.