Potter County, which claims Amarillo as its county seat, is a conservative county, having voted for the Republican presidential nominees in every election since 1964 and having supported President Trump in 2020 by a 38-percentage point margin. Still, this year, Potter Republicans are hoping to claim an upset in one of the last Democrat strongholds in the Amarillo area.

In Potter County’s Precinct 2, voters have bucked the Republican trends of the county to elect Democrats in numerous election cycles. The county commission seat for the precinct has been held by Democrats for nearly four decades, with boxer-turned-politician Manny Perez winning the seat in the 1980s to give Democrats an upper hand in the precinct. After Perez died in 2011, county commissioners appointed Democrat Mercy Murguia to the seat, and Murguia held it until her resignation last year.

Now, appointed Democrat incumbent Robert Ruiz is hoping to hang onto the seat and keep the Democrat stronghold intact in East Amarillo.

Standing in Ruiz’s way is Amarillo firefighter Blair Schaffer.

Schaffer won the Republican nomination for the seat unopposed in March and is hoping to flip the seat this year, becoming the first Republican in decades to represent East Amarillo on the Potter County Commission. He is the first Republican to attempt to flip the seat since Republican Joe Ruiz fell 126 votes shy of ousting Perez in 2006.

If Schaffer won the seat this year, it would mark a dramatic upset, and one that some Republicans didn’t even push for when the seat was vacant; Republican Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner appointed Democrat Robert Ruiz to the seat over Schaffer and defended the appointment during her primary campaign earlier this year. Still, Schaffer is undaunted by the task ahead.

“I want to serve our community,” Schaffer said in a recent Facebook post. “It is past time for change. Democrats have had control of this precinct for over 36 years. I will bring you a positive change.”

Opposite the Ruiz-Schaffer race, Republicans in the precinct are also hoping to defend the lone Republican elected official in the precinct against a vigorous Democrat challenger.

Justice of the Peace Robert Taylor, who pulled off an upset in 2018 to win the open J.P. seat, is hoping to prove his victory wasn’t a fluke by fending off a challenge from Democrat David Deleon this year. Deleon, a deputy with the Potter County Sheriff’s Office, is emphasizing his law enforcement experience and pledge to be a “nonpartisan” judge in his efforts to flip the seat back to Democrat control.

Meanwhile, Taylor, also a former peace officer, is hoping to hang on to the seat, emphasizing his experience in the race.

“When experience matters, there is only one clear choice,” Taylor said.

Early voting in both races begins on October 24. Election Day is November 8.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.

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