By Susannah Abbey
Following the exciting news of Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s nomination to the post of Secretary of the Interior, a new question arose: how do we find a great Democrat to fill her seat? The answer lies in our Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM) State Central Committee (SCC).
The SCC is composed of local elected members representing congressional districts in each county and headed by the DPNM State Chair. The group decides on party rule changes, elects state party officers and members of standing committees, and nominates candidates for federal vacancies.
Within 10 days of Rep. Haaland’s resignation, the New Mexico Secretary of State will announce a special election to occur 77-91 days from the date of the vacancy. This is where the SCC comes in. Candidates wishing to run for U.S. Representative to Congressional District 1 fill out declarations of candidacy. DPNM will conduct an election with SCC CD1 members. They will vote by non-secret ballot for a nominee from among the declared candidates (although there is also an option to nominate from the floor). The Democratic Party of New Mexico then submits its official nominating letter. its official nomination letter to the Secretary of State no less than 56 days from the date of the vacancy.
So how does our SCC decide on a nominee? Far from the smoky back-room theater of old party politics, where a governor might seat someone without an election, DPNM’s procedure is open to participation by any qualified registered Democrat. In Bernalillo County, County Central Committee (CCC) members from every precinct are elected to represent Democrats in their precinct for a two-year term, and anyone residing in the precinct can run for a position or vote for the CCC member of their choice. The CCC members in turn vote for SCC members, and those Bernalillo County SCC members who represent precincts in CD-1 (along with SCC CD1 representatives from Torrance, Santa Fe, Sandoval and Valencia counties) will choose the nominee to fill the CD-1 vacancy.
So, who are the SCC members choosing the Democratic nominee? That all depends on timing. DPNM must submit its nominee at least 56 days before the General Election The tricky part is that this year, Bernalillo County’s Central Committee meets on March 13 to elect its new SCC members.
Let’s say that Rep. Haaland is confirmed, and can resign, by January 29. The SCC must submit its nominee between February 19 and March 5, depending on the date of the General Election but the nominee can be decided sooner than that. If the SCC holds its vote prior to March 13, the current State Central Committee members will decide. If it happens after March 13, the new SCC members will cast votes.
“One of my goals is we make this accessible to people,” says Flora Lucero, Bernalillo County Chair. She and her team are organizing Zoom meetings to be held between February 13 and March 7 for residents of each of the county’s 64 wards and 607 precincts. Any registered Democrat can attend and vote for Ward Chair, Precinct Chairs, and additional CCC members.
These CCC members will, in turn, vote for SCC members on March 13.
Lucero encourages everyone to get involved. Citizens can run for Ward Chair, Precinct Chair, or additional CCC positions, lobby their CCC or SCC members, or volunteer for specific campaigns.
“There is an obligation for Democrats to be part of something besides just voting (in primary and general elections),” says Lucero. “Anybody can run for County Central Committee.
We are beyond time for armchair democrats. We’ve seen what putting democracy on autopilot does.”
Lucero has released information about how to register for Ward meetings. See “Calling All Democrats” in this issue and “DPBC Call” in today’s community announcement section. Lucero’s team is currently working to design virtual ballots and to ensure the Zoom meetings run as smoothly as possible.