Eliot Shapleigh

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Eliot Shapleigh
Shapleigh Head Shot.jpg
Member of the Texas Senate
from the 29th district
In office
January 14, 1997 – January 17, 2011
Preceded by Peggy Rosson
Succeeded by José R. Rodríguez
Personal details
Born November 11, 1952
El Paso, Texas
Political party Democratic
Residence El Paso, Texas
Alma mater Rice University, University of Texas
Profession Attorney
Religion Episcopalian

Eliot Shapleigh (born November 11, 1952) is a politician from the state of Texas, who represented the state's 29th Senatorial District, which comprises the majority of El Paso County, from 1997 to 2011. He announced on October 16, 2009 that he will not run for re-election in 2010. When asked if he will run for another office he indicated that he is undecided, though suggested he will not run for Congress.[1]


Eliot Shapleigh was born and raised in El Paso. He has lived and traveled extensively in Mexico, and is a fluent Spanish speaker today. Senator Shapleigh graduated from Rice University in 1974 and served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa until 1977. He then attended The University of Texas School of Law, graduating in 1981. In 1983, Senator Shapleigh founded his own law firm with two partners and today is the managing partner of the Shapleigh Law Firm, PC.

Senator Shapleigh currently resides in El Paso, Texas.

Community involvement[edit]

Unite El Paso[edit]

In 1992, Senator Shapleigh joined with hundreds of other progressive El Paso civic leaders to found Unite El Paso. This group of emerging leaders wanted to improve the per capita income in El Paso and create a viable economic model for future growth. From the 1950s, when El Paso’s per capita income levels were 20 percent higher than the Texas average, El Paso's per capita income level began a steep decline. By 2000, levels had fallen to 30 percent below the state average.[2]

Unite El Paso successfully identified major new initiatives to reverse this decline and create a consensus vision for a new, more prosperous El Paso. To launch that vision as one of several initiatives, the group defined a goal of a new four-year medical school as the anchor of a Medical Center of the Americas.

Court of Inquiry[edit]

In 1994, Senator Shapleigh, at the request of Judge Edward Marquez of the 65th District Court, was sworn in as an ad litem for the El Paso Court of Inquiry. Several prominent El Paso lawyers joined Judge Marquez to investigate whether the constitutional rights of the citizens of El Paso had been denied due to historically inadequate funding in the areas of transportation, mental health, and nutrition.[3] Judge Marquez later issued an historic and groundbreaking report that identified significant disparities in funding that affected border economic and educational outcomes. Among the several findings in the report, some later became important statewide issues, including state highway funding.[4] In 1999, then Texas Comptroller John Sharp issued a report outlining the various inequities faced by Texas border communities when compared to the rest of the state.[5]

Texas Senate career[edit]

Legislative record[edit]

Senator Shapleigh is dedicated to increasing equity in state funding, ensuring fairness in state taxation, expanding educational opportunities for minority and low-income students, and developing community solutions for health, safety, and environmental issues. As an advocate for El Paso and other border communities, he is also interested in raising per capita income and boosting economic prosperity along the Texas Border.

In June 2009, Senator Shapleigh completed his seventh session as a legislator. During his tenure as a state Senator, he has authored more than 600 bills, with particular focus on education, economic development, infrastructure, technology, veteran, and health care issues. Additionally, he has been integral in helping prepare the state for the Department of Defense's periodic reassessment of infrastructure needs, or base realignment and closure (BRAC).

As a result of his commitment to Texas' defense communities and military heritage, Senator Shapleigh was appointed Chair of the Subcommittee on Base Realignment and Closure in 2004 and continues to lead that subcommittee. He also serves as Vice Chair of the Veteran Affairs & Military Installations Committee. Additionally, Shapleigh is a member of the Health & Human Services, Nominations, and Transportation & Homeland Security Committees.

Some of the key pieces of legislation filed and passed by Senator Shapleigh include:

  • Senate Bill 1368 (81st Texas Legislature).[6] In 2009, Senator Shapleigh passed legislation that created the El Paso County Ethics Commission, the first of its kind in Texas. S.B. 1368 will allow the county to establish an independent ethics commission that will adopt, publish and enforce an ethics code governing county public servants.
  • Senate Bill 962 (80th Texas Legislature).[7] In 2007, Senator Shapleigh passed legislation that helps El Paso secure state funding to build the fourteen new schools that troops and families moving into the community as a result of BRAC.
  • Senate Bill 1479 (79th Texas Legislature).[8] In 2005, Senator Shapleigh passed the Texas Soldier's Payday Protection Act to prevent predatory lending abuses on Texas soldiers. S.B. 1479 barred lenders from taking certain actions against military personnel, including barring collection activities during deployment and requiring lenders to make disclosures to military customers regarding these restrictions.
  • Senate Bill 652 (78th Texas Legislature).[9] In 2003, Senator Shapleigh spearheaded the state's preparation for the 2005 BRAC round by authoring the omnibus Texas Military Preparedness Act.
  • Senate Bill 749 (77th Texas Legislature).[10] In 2001, Senator Shapleigh passed S.B. 749, which allowed the state agency responsible for environmental regulation to have the ability to work closely with Mexican counterparts on projects of mutual concern.
  • Senate Bill 974 (76th Texas Legislature).[11] In 1999, Senator Shapleigh authored the legislation that launched Texas Online,[12] one of the best state online government website in the U.S.[13]
  • Senate Bill 758 (75th Texas Legislature).[14] In 1997, Senator Shapleigh's passed legislation that increased criminal penalties for graffiti offenders, created a graffiti eradication fund, and required businesses to restrict access to aerosol paint.

Additional information regarding Senator Shapleigh's sessions in review may be found on his website.[15]

El Paso Economic Summit[edit]

As a result of the Unite El Paso movement, Senator Shapleigh organized the 1998 El Paso Economic Summit, along with civic leaders such as Woody Hunt, UTEP President Diana Natalicio, and Mayor Carlos Ramirez. Hundreds assembled at UTEP to describe a communitywide effort to build capacity for higher wage jobs in El Paso. At that gathering, the number one goal for El Paso's future was identified as establishing a four-year medical school as the anchor of a joint institution Medical Center of the Americas.

Soon thereafter, Senator Shapleigh, County Attorney José Rodriguez, Woody Hunt, Robert Brown, John Montford, and others joined in discussions about how best to establish the medical school and which institution should carry the mission forward. As a result, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents made establishing a four-year medical school in El Paso an important goal of the System. Over the coming legislative sessions, incremental progress was made in establishing the state's ninth medical school and first since 1977.[16] In 2009, the first new medical students at El Paso's medical school began their studies at the campus. The El Paso Medical School was the first new medical school to be established in the U.S. in 30 years.[17] The school also is the only four-year medical school on the United States/Mexico border.

Community Scholars[edit]

Senator Shapleigh co-founded Community Scholars, Inc., El Paso's nationally recognized youth leadership program. With a vision of developing the regional community leaders of tomorrow, Community Scholars is a youth leadership development internship program that provides public policy research opportunities for high school sophomores, juniors, and college students. The summer program began in 1998 and operates under Community Scholars, Inc., a grass roots nonprofit corporation.[18]

The Texas Eleven[edit]

Senator Shapleigh was one of the Texas Eleven, a group of Democratic Texas State Senators who broke quorum and removed to New Mexico for 46 days in 2003 in a quorum-busting effort aimed at preventing the passage of controversial re-redistricting legislation, spearheaded by then Congressional House Majority leader Tom DeLay, that would have benefited Texas Republicans.

Eventually the Texas Eleven was vindicated by the United States Supreme Court through its rulings that the re-districting could be considered gerrymandering and did bear unconstitutional elements.


Senator Shapleigh led the opposition to the reopening of an ASARCO-operated copper smelter located near downtown El Paso since 1887. The smelter, which had been shut down in 1999 due to low copper prices, filed to renew their air permit application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2002. Joined by leaders[19] from across the three-state, two-nation region, Senator Shapleigh and hundreds of activists from El Paso, Juarez, and New Mexico placed enormous pressure on the corporation to justify putting over 7,000 tons of new pollutants into El Paso's air. After eight years, the TCEQ Commissioners granted the permit on a 3-0 vote. The Environmental Protection Agency soon intervened, however, citing deficiencies with the permitting process and ASARCO's air control equipment.[20] As a result, ASARCO announced that the El Paso smelter would not reopen. As of July 2009, it appears the smelter property will be placed in an environmental remediation trust so that it may be cleaned up using funding obtained via ASARCO's bankruptcy.[21]

Border Legislative Conference[edit]

From 2007 to 2008, Senator Shapleigh served as the chair of the Border Legislative Conference (BLC), a program administered by the Council of State Governments (CSG)-WEST and its regional partner in the South, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). The BLC serves as a mechanism for ongoing dialogue and collaboration between state legislators of the United States and Mexico. The BLC fosters the development of shared solutions along the border region through joint consideration of common problems and exchange of information. BLC members are legislators from the ten states along the U.S.-Mexico border: California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the U.S., and Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas in Mexico.

Invest in the American Dream[edit]

Senator Shapleigh organized and held the Invest in the American Dream Conference in 2008. The conference kicked off a five-year community-driven initiative centered on creating wealth and financial stability, developing financial literacy, facilitating access to capital, and replicating financial best practices.

Equipo Bowie[edit]

In 2008, Senator Shapleigh founded Equipo Bowie, a unique community engagement strategy to improve academic achievement throughout the El Paso Independent School District's Bowie High School feeder pattern through proven evidence-based early childhood education through twelfth grade initiatives. Equipo Bowie will seek to perform a comprehensive baseline analysis on the Bowie High School feeder pattern, identify best practices and develop systemic solutions to key, prioritized challenges, deliver resources where needed, and measure progress.


Throughout Senator Shapleigh's service in the Senate, he has received numerous honors for his work on education, health, and border issues. He has also been recognized for innovative technology programs, as well as his integrity and passion.

National honors include being named a Visionary Technology Innovator by the Center for Digital Government for his commitment to expanding access to government services through technology and Legislator of the Year by the American School Health Association for his commitment to the health of school children. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Sierra Club. He was also named as one of the National Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of Information Technology by Government Technology Magazine.

State-level honors include receipt of the National Association of Social Workers' Texas Public Elected Official of the Year for 2009. Senator Shapleigh has been named the Texas Legislator of the Year by the Mexican American Bar Association, the Hispanic Journal, Texas Pharmacy Association, Texas Sierra Club, and the Texas American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). In 2007, Senator Shapleigh was given the MALDEF Matt Garcia Public Service Award for his work on immigration issues and his leadership on other statewide issues affecting the Mexican-American community. Senator Shapleigh was also honored in January 2008 by the American Electronics Association (AeA) Texas Council as a 2007 Texas Technology Champion for his pioneer work in developing "Texas Online," one of the top state government websites in the United States, launching the "Texas Technology Immersion Program," a program designed to provide laptops for every Texas public school student, and creating E-Vets, an innovative one-stop shop for Texas veterans to locate key federal, state, and local veteran-related programs.

His work on behalf of Texas school children has been honored by various Texas advocacy groups. Upon completion of the 78th Legislative Session, Shapleigh was named the Texas Classroom Advocate of the Year by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Additionally, the Child Crisis Centers of Texas presented Senator Shapleigh with the Texas Advocate for Children Award, and the Texas Equity Center named Senator Shapleigh a "Champion For School Children." In 2006, Shapleigh was awarded the Education Leadership Award through the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC).

Additionally, the American Cancer Society presented Senator Shapleigh with the Texas Advocacy Award, and the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) named him a Public Interest Champion in 2005. The Texas Guardianship Association gave him 2005's Visionary Award for his work in reforming adult protective services in Texas, and he also received the Legislator of Excellence Award from the Texas Independent Living Council for his part in protecting and advancing the rights of Texans with disabilities. Senator Shapleigh was also named the "Conscience of the Senate" by Texas Monthly magazine due to the commitment and integrity he displayed during the 2005 legislative session.

Local honors stem from Senator Shapleigh's commitment to his community. He was awarded the Conquistador Award by the El Paso City Council and named El Pasoan of the Year by El Paso Inc. for his work in bringing a four-year medical school to the community. El Paso Mental Health & Mental Retardation awarded Senator Shapleigh the Mental Health Hero Award 2008. That same year, he received the Public Official of the Year award from the National Association of Social Workers Texas Chapter, El Paso Branch. In 2006, he was named the Legislator of the Year by the El Paso Municipal Police Association. The Black El Paso Democrats named him Humanitarian of the Year in 2004, and he was also inducted into the El Paso Democratic Party's Hall of Fame. Finally, the El Paso Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women honored Senator Shapleigh with the Hannah Solomon Award and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce inducted him into their Technology Hall of Fame.

Political future[edit]

He announced on October 16, 2009 that he will not run for re-election in 2010. When asked if he will run for another office he indicated that he is undecided, though suggested he will not run for Congress.[22] State Senator Juan Hinojosa suggested that Shapleigh might run for governor.[23]


Election history[edit]

Election history of District 29 from 1992.[24]

Most recent election[edit]


Texas general election, 2006: Senate District 29[25]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Donald R. “Dee” Margo 36,127 41.21 +41.21
Democratic Eliot Shapleigh (Incumbent) 51,531 58.79 -41.21
Majority 15,404 17.57 -82.43
Turnout 87,658 +19.74
Democratic hold

Previous elections[edit]


Texas general election, 2002: Senate District 29[26]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Eliot Shapleigh (Incumbent) 73,205 100.00 0.00
Majority 73,205 100.00 0.00
Turnout 73,205 -27.55
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 2000: Senate District 29[27]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Eliot Shapleigh (Incumbent) 101,045 100.00 +26.28
Majority 101,045 100.00 +52.55
Turnout 101,045 -17.11
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1996: Senate District 29[28]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Randy Berry 32,029 26.28 +26.28
Democratic Eliot Shapleigh 89,868 73.72 -26.28
Majority 57,839 47.45 -52.55
Turnout 121,897 +89.85
Democratic hold
Democratic primary runoff, 1996: Senate District 29[29]
Candidate Votes % ±
Eliot Shapleigh 24,666 61.82 [30]+26.30
Hector Villa 15,235 38.18 +18.70
Majority 9,431 23.64
Turnout 39,901
Democratic primary, 1996: Senate District 29[31]
Candidate Votes % ±
Ray Mancera 8,672 17.38
Rene Nunez 5,758 11.54
Eliot Shapleigh 17,723 35.52
Marie Tarvin-Garland 8,017 16.07
Hector Villa 9,722 19.49
Turnout 49,892


  1. ^ http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/21320614/detail.html
  2. ^ "Hunt: 'What happened, what we need to do'". El Paso Inc. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  3. ^ "Judge Is Out to Jail Any Budget Makers Who Shortchange El Paso in Texas Capital". The New York Times. 1994-06-10. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  4. ^ "Court case improved EP road funding" (PDF). El Paso Times. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  5. ^ "Bordering the Future". Texas Comptroller John Sharp. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  6. ^ "Senate Bill 1368, 81st Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  7. ^ "Senate Bill 962, 80th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  8. ^ "Senate Bill 1479, 79th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  9. ^ "Senate Bill 652, 78th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  10. ^ "Senate Bill 749, 77th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  11. ^ "Senate Bill 974, 76th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  12. ^ "Texas Online". State of Texas. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  13. ^ "Texas Online Press Kit". State of Texas. Archived from the original on July 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  14. ^ "Senate Bill 758, 75th Legislative Session". Texas Legislature Online. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  15. ^ "Shapleigh.org". Senator Eliot Shapleigh. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  16. ^ "Spotlight: El Paso Medical School". Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  17. ^ "Tech's El Paso medical school accepts first class". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  18. ^ "Community Scholars website". Community Scholars. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  19. ^ "Asarco announcement: El Paso smelter will not reopen". Newspaper Tree. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  20. ^ "EPA letters to Asarco, TCEQ, assert aged equipment and possible enforcement actions". Newspaper Tree. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  21. ^ "Asarco, feds and state propose $52 million cleanup agreement for El Paso and Amarillo". Newspaper Tree. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  22. ^ http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/21320614/detail.html
  23. ^ http://www.riograndeguardian.com/rggnews_story.asp?story_no=20
  24. ^ Uncontested primary elections are not shown.
  25. ^ "2006 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  26. ^ "2002 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  27. ^ "2000 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  28. ^ "1996 General Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  29. ^ "1996 Democratic Party Primary Runoff Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 
  30. ^ Change from Primary Election
  31. ^ "1996 Democratic Party Primary Election". Office of the Secretary of State (Texas). Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 2007-01-05. 

External links[edit]

Texas Senate
Preceded by
Peggy Rosson
Texas State Senator
from District 29 (El Paso)

Succeeded by
José R. Rodríguez