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Poll Shows 48 Percent Want El Paso Mayor Recalled

Despite the Eighth court of appeals’ decision to stop the recall election against mayor john cook, citing illegal activity by those trying to oust him from office, the issue of domestic partner benefits, which sparked the recall efforts still has El Paso divided.

ABC-7 commissioned a scientific poll by Frank N. Magid Associates. They surveyed more than 300 TV news viewers in El Paso between the ages of 25 and 54. A slim majority of respondents, 51 percent, said the city of El Paso should not pay the health-care benefits of partners of city employees who are part of an unmarried couple. Forty three percent said the city should pay for benefits and 6 percent remain undecided.

Mayor John Cook, along with four other city representatives have been criticized and praised for their decision not to implement a voter-approved ordinance meant to rescind the health insurance benefit council had recently granted to gay and unmarried partners of city employees.

The poll shows a plurality of respondents, 48 percent, said the mayor should be recalled for that decision. Forty one percent said he shouldn’t be recalled and 11 percent were undecided.

Cook said that can be because often people don’t understand why he made that choice.

“It goes to the core issue of thinking that their vote was trashed,” Cook said. “So did they really understand why we changed their vote? And when I asked those people who say ‘I voted for that ordinance’, I ask ‘so you didn’t want to give retired police officers and fire fighters their benefits? You didn’t want to give the benefits to foster children, step children, other dependents who weren’t dependent children’ and they say ‘no’ and I say ‘well that’s what you voted for.”

Under the City Attorney’s interpretation, more than 100 unintended people would have lost their health insurance if city representatives would have implemented the ordinance. The vaguely worded ordinance was written by the group headed by Word of Life pastor Tom Brown, who urged council to apply the measure, despite the unintended consequences.

“I would rather have a messy democracy, than no democracy at all,” he told City Council in June, when city representatives voted not to implement the ordinance.

Despite a plurality showing they’d like the mayor recalled, Cook said he could have changed that.

“I think had it actually come down to an election, you would have seen a very aggressive program at fundraising, and number two, changing the opinions of people, so I think the survey might have been valid for that snapshot in time but it may have been different results had we done it after we had campaigned,”Cook said.

The poll also looked into how the issue was divided among age groups. A majority of respondents, 55 percent, between the ages of 25 and 34, said the City should pay for benefits.

Fifty one percent of hose polled between ages 35 and 44 said the city should not pay for the health insurance. Forty five percent said the city should pay, and 4 percent were not sure.

Fifty six percent of people polled who were between 45 and 54 years old said the City should not pay for the health insurance, while 33 percent said yes and 11 percent said they were unsure.

Among those who were opposed to paying the benefits, 59 percent thought Cook should be recalled. Even among those in favor of providing health benefits to partners of unmarried couples, 40 percent said the mayor should be recalled; 55 percent of that group said he should not be.

“To a lot of people this was an issue about homosexuality. It wasn’t an issue about retired police officers, fire fighters, or other people that would have lost their benefits. Had you asked the question, should municipal judges lost their benefits, you probably would have gotten a totally different result,” the mayor said.

Hispanic respondents were more likely than Anglo respondents to say “yes,” the City should pay for health benefits (Hispanic 47 percent, Anglo 29 percent), but a small plurality of Hispanics said the city should not pay (48 percent to 47 percent).

ABC-7 did reach out to pastor Tom Brown for this story. He first required a note promising ABC-7 would not ask about the court’s decision against his group. ABC-7 does not provide such notes and Brown declined an interview.

Another recall organizer, Sal Gomez, said they were under strict rules by their attorney not to talk to any media.

Gomez said that his stance has not changed. He said that if the military does not provide health insurance for domestic partners, neither should the City.

The data for the poll came from 312 respondents, all from El Paso County. All are between the ages of 25 and 54, and all are regular viewers of local television news. The margin of error for the entire sample of 312 is plus or minus 5.5 percent. The margin of error within various subsets ranges from plus or minus 6.3 percent to 13.1 percent.

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