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Texas candidate for municipal judgeship dies of COVID-19 days before runoff election

An El Paso attorney running for a municipal judgeship has died following a battle against COVID-19 just days before the race heads to a runoff election.

Lillian Blancas, 47, died on Monday after being hospitalized for a second time in early November, The El Paso Times reported.

Blancas, an attorney who served as El Paso County Magistrate Judge, finished first in the three-way election on Nov. 3 for the El Paso Municipal Court judicial seat with roughly 40 percent of the vote.

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The runoff was scheduled for Dec. 12 between Blancas and associate judge Enrique Alonso Holguin because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.

“I am just in shock,” Holguin told the newspaper. “We in the legal community knew she was not doing well for a while. We had a prayer group for her last week. She was my friend. She wasn’t my political opponent. She was my friend. I am just sad, first and foremost. I am still numb. I am just very, very sad right now."

If she wins the election posthumously, Deputy City Clerk John Glendon told the newspaper that the El Paso City Council will vote to appoint a candidate.

Blancas worked as a part-time criminal law magistrate judge, as well as being a practicing private lawyer for her own firm.  

Heather Hall, an attorney who previously worked with Blancas at the Public Defender’s Office, told El Paso Matters that Blancas first became ill with the virus in late October and was hospitalized for a few weeks. However, her condition worsened after she returned home. 

“She was brilliant, hilarious, kind and generous. And she was one of those attorneys that you would go to if you had questions about the law or about how to handle a case correctly,” Hall said.

There have been more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and 22,808 related fatalities in the state of Texas since the onset of the pandemic, according to data from the state health department.