U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes' office on Wednesday confirmed that former President Bill Clinton will come to El Paso later this month to endorse the congressman.
The former president is scheduled to arrive on April 24, but other details have not been worked out, a spokesman said.
Clinton's impact on the congressional race could be "very important," said Gregory Rocha, a University of Texas at El Paso political science professor.
"Obviously this race must be very close if the congressman has to pull out all the stops like this," Rocha said.
Reyes, a Democrat, is running for re-election against primary opponents who include former city Rep. Beto O'Rourke. O'Rourke, with name recognition, an ability to raise money and a door-to-door strategy that has taken him to nearly 15,000 homes, has mounted a credible challenge to the seven-term incumbent.
Reyes is running on his experience and political connections, which he says will continue to get things done for El Paso.
"I am honored to receive President Clinton's endorsement and even more honored to have him visit with thousands of El Pasoans -- as he shares vivid memories about his time in office, the work the two of us have done for close to 20 years and his endorsement of my re-election bid as the federal representative of the 16th District of Texas," Reyes said in a statement.
Others contending in the Democratic primary are former educator and Army officer Jerome Tilghman, retiree Ben Mendoza and Paul Johnson.
Running in the Republican primary are Corey Roen, a former soldier who recently served in Afghanistan, and Barbara Carrasco, an El Paso business woman.
Clinton, referring to Reyes as a "staunch Democrat" whom he respects and admires, formally endorsed Reyes late last year. In the statement announcing the event, Clinton used Reyes' nickname.
"Silver has been one of the most effective legislators in Congress and his work on the House Armed Services, Intelligence and Veterans Affairs committees have kept El Paso on track and our nation safe," Clinton said. "His work at the federal level has brought billions of dollars in funding for the region."
O'Rourke says Reyes has not done everything in his power to help El Paso.
Reyes uses his connections "when he's trying to save his seat in Congress," O'Rourke said. "But where are these connections when our veterans need help or when El Pasoans struggle with nearly 10 percent unemployment?"
O'Rourke said Clinton should know about Reyes' connection to Aliviane Inc., a mental-health organization involved in a public-corruption investigation.
Reyes secured a $250,000 earmark for Aliviane, whose chief executive officer was indicted late last year and resigned.
"If President Clinton knew about Reyes' links to corruption, I'm confident he wouldn't be coming," O'Rourke said.
Reyes has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the Aliviane case and called for an FBI investigation of the company. He has said it is up to local government agencies to ensure that the federal money is properly used.
"These shameless and cowardly attacks (by O'Rourke) against Congressman Reyes will only serve to energize our base," said Chuy Reyes, who manages his brother's re-election campaign. "While O'Rourke will continue to sling mud and attack Congressman Reyes' character and his family throughout the remainder of this campaign, Congressman Reyes will remain focused on creating jobs, strengthening health-care access, and expanding educational opportunities for all El Pasoans."
Clinton's willingness to again endorse Silvestre Reyes will help, said UTEP's Rocha.
"He's trying to mobilize his support and associate himself with the most popular Demo crat in the nation," Rocha said.
El Paso has embraced both Clintons, the former president and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In early 2008, Bill Clinton made numerous stops in El Paso supporting his wife's presidential bid.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, at the time governor of Arizona, spoke here in favor of Clinton's then-rival, President Barack Obama.
Nearly 70 percent of El Paso voters chose Clinton over Obama in the March primary election that year. And just before the Democratic National Convention in August, six of El Paso's delegates supported Clinton while four were committed to Obama, even though he was the presumed nominee.
At least one El Pasoan is not impressed with Clinton's scheduled appearance -- Republican Party Chairman Tom Holmsley.
"Bill Clinton and Silvestre Reyes have a great deal in common," Holmsley said. "Both have profited from their public offices."
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