Jaime O. Perez knows his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes is a long shot, at best.
He also knows running as a Republican _ leaving behind the support of longtime Democratic friends _ will make things all the more difficult.
So Perez, chief of staff to El Paso County's embattled county judge, decided to start small and fill in his campaign war chest $11.99 at a time. The oddly specific figure, he figures, gives supporters a chance to help prop up his fledgling campaign and get a tasty Mexican holiday treat at the same time: a dozen, made-from-scratch tamales.
"My sister makes them really well," Perez said from his family's east El Paso restaurant and makeshift campaign headquarters where friends and relatives recently wrapped nearly 100 dozen tamales.
Perez, who says he plans to file for the March primary early next year, said he knows that selling tamales _ a corn dough and meat or sweet filling wrapped in a corn husk _ may not get him the kind of campaign treasury he needs to win a seat in Congress. But that's not entirely the point.
"I'm putting a signal out there that you don't have to be rich to participate," Perez said.
Perez said his novel fundraising plan has received support from his one-time Democratic allies in El Paso, many of whom he has been friends with for decades.
"Republicans are aware and Democrats are laughing with me in a good-natured way," Perez said.
Mike Moore, chairman of the El Paso Republican Party, said the party knows about Perez's "imaginative" fundraising efforts but can't give him its support because Tim Besco, a registered nurse and fellow Republican hopeful, is also planning a run for Reyes's seat.
"People raise money in a lot of different ways," Moore said. "That's his approach. He's trying to do a very grass-roots approach. People do a lot of different things and raising money, especially in a local campaign like this, is tough."