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Rubio took advantage of the similarity in their names to impersonate him: “He would tell people, ‘I’m Joe Rubio,'” said Joe Rubio \(whose given name is Jose was making representations that were not true, that he had authority to do certain things in the office.” \(Jose Juan Rubio, in prison in Louisiana, could not be reached Never mind the F.B.I.: Joe Rubio has a campaign to run under the slogan “Courage to Stand for What is Right.” He is stressing his office’s accomplishments in the areas of domestic violence and child protection to which he has devoted considerable resources. As there are no Republican contenders for the office, the election will be decided by the March 14 primary, in which Rubio faces two challengers, Albert Gutierrez and Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez. No official polls have been taken be a close one between Rubio and Gutierrez, whose names appear on thousands of signs plastered all over Laredo, and whose faces stare out from billboards that soar above the long lines of trucks on 1-35. From the standpoint of Rubio’s challengers in particular, it is a race that pits old-style machine politics against open government, and in that sense, this election has played and replayed in Laredo for the past twenty years. “In 1978, when the political machine that dominated Laredo for ninety-four years broke apart, different factions went in different directions,” says Dr. Jerry Thompson, a historian and Dean of Arts and Sciences at Laredo’s Texas A&M International University. “And I think what we have today are remnants of that. These people in county office [have] large numbers of employees at their disposal, and those employees have extended families you can create a large faction.” Yet Laredo’s explosive growth \(it is one of the fastest-growing the old power bases. Adds Thompson: “Laredo has become much more sophisticated in the past ten years, and though there is a. great deal of political apathy here, I think accusations of corruption do matter, and I think large numbers of people are paying attention to what’s being said.” But will those people elect a new District Attorney? Albert Gutierrez is thirty and looks no older; he’s blond \(rubio in SpanThough eager to become district attorney, Albert Gutierrez is something of a reluctant candidate when it comes to the gripping and grinning part. \(“Albert is not a politiHis campaign signs and push cards forgo A Albert Gutierrez the traditional red and/or blue in favor of black and gray, which is in keeping with his apparent intention to stand out by not standing out, to play by the rules. “I’m running under ‘experience you can trust,’ and I really believe that,” said Gutierrez. “I’m talking about trial experience, experience going to crime scenes. And trust, that’s pretty basic. Plus, you’re not going to have to trust me because that can be through open records. It will all be public, the decisions we made, and why.” Gutierrez grew up in Laredo, went away begin his career. He spent a year in private practice before going to work for Rubio as an Assistant District Attorney in 1995. “Me and several young lawyers who went in there all about the same time, we weren’t aware of any corruption, as far as money changing hands, but there was a lot of peculiarities, for example, Joe’s father was there all the time, as if he was working there,” Gutierrez said. \(Rubio confirmed that his father paid visits to the office, but countered that Gutierrez’ mother also used Karen Olsson to stop by. “Everybody’s parents used to Gutierrez also ran up against the office pecking order. “You had the people who had been there for awhile, they had their clique and they were obviously in good with Joe’s father, which carried over to Joe. Me and several other people never got into the clique; we didn’t want to, but if you weren’t in there you weren’t in that much favor with Joe.” Gutierrez left to work for a private firm three months after the 1998 F.B.I. raid, and announced his,candidacy not long after that. See “Laredo,” page 18 MARCH 3, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7