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What's On The Minds Of Voters In El Paso, Texas


El Paso, Texas, is a Democratic stronghold, a deep pocket of blue in a large red state. It's also home to high-profile former congressman and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. The city is predominantly Latinx and young. Both of those groups have had historically low voter turnout even in presidential election years. Angela Kocherga with member station KTEP in El Paso talked to voters there about their concerns.

ANGELA KOCHERGA, BYLINE: Eighteen-year-old Carla Gonzalez will be voting for the first time. Her present concern is finding a job. She's looking for work in downtown El Paso.

CARLA GONZALEZ: I'm willing to do anything, learning anything - construction, even. I just want to do it for my little sister and my mom.

KOCHERGA: They live in Juarez just across the border. Like many in El Paso, she has family in both Texas and Mexico. Gonzalez says COVID-19 has created economic hardship for all. As she waits for a job interview at a snack bar in El Paso's historic San Jacinto Plaza just blocks from an international bridge, she reflects on Donald Trump's presidency.

GONZALEZ: Treat others the way you want to be treated. President - I'm not a fan of him, not at all.

KOCHERGA: Gonzalez plans to cast a ballot for Joe Biden. David Ashcroft cannot decide if he wants to vote at all.

DAVID ASHCROFT: It kind of makes me sick to my stomach just knowing that I put one of these people in office. The best thing for me is just to not vote.

KOCHERGA: The 21-year-old waiter is standing in the plaza near a fountain with a large sculpture of alligators. He's with a friend, Amanda Kilcrease. She's a 20-year-old college student who says she will vote but reluctantly.

AMANDA KILCREASE: It just feels like if Trump wins again, like, then - and I didn't vote, I would have guilt with that, too, that I didn't take a small action that could have had an opposite outcome. But I'm also not happy with the outcome of Biden. I just want to stress that.

KOCHERGA: This is also the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart one year ago August. That's on the minds of Marta Santiesteban and her husband. Her 90-year-old father was killed at the store. The young gunman from the Dallas area told police he drove to El Paso to, quote, "stop the Hispanic invasion."



SANTIESTEBAN: We're being invaded.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Of Mexicans in the United States.

SANTIESTEBAN: Yeah. I think the climate contributed 100%. This is on Donald Trump.

KOCHERGA: President Trump has his supporters in El Paso, too. Some of those voters were shopping at a farm supply and animal feed store on the western edge of El Paso near the New Mexico state line. William Long was in the parking lot after picking up some dog food.

WILLIAM LONG: I'm pretty much going to probably vote for Mr. Trump even though if he'd shut up sometimes, he'd be way ahead. But the only thing is at least you know what's going on in that mind of his.

KOCHERGA: Voter Terry Manning was reluctant to talk about issues on his mind because of the divisive political climate, something he never imagined in El Paso, a place known for tolerance.

TERRY MANNING: We all grew up sharing different viewpoints and different cultures, and just everybody was together. But I have friends who've had their yard sign stolen or, once the sign was stolen, had eggs thrown at their house if they were for a particular candidate.

KOCHERGA: The music producer and photographer voiced his concerns after loading his pickup truck with bales of hay.

MANNING: That's alfalfa hay. I've got five horses, three goats and a donkey.

KOCHERGA: Across town, Omar Castaneda was buying parts at an auto supply store with his wife and two sons, ages 13 and 8.

OMAR CASTANEDA: Trying to get the kids back to go to school - I think it's important as far as socializing them. I think it's a big part of growing up, and I think they need that.

KOCHERGA: He's also concerned about social justice.

CASTANEDA: Black Lives Matter and the whole racial thing going on - I think it's very important that they prioritize that during their presidency.

KOCHERGA: Castaneda has not decided who he will vote for yet, but after a tumultuous summer, he's ready to pay attention to the presidential race.

For NPR News, I'm Angela Kocherga in El Paso.

(SOUNDBITE OF TREMOR'S "CARACOL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Angela Kocherga
Emmy winning multimedia journalist Angela Kocherga is news director with KTEP and Borderzine. She is also multimedia editor with ElPasoMatters.org, an independent news organization.