By Jen Lewis
Unlike many Democrats, Daniel (Danny) Leiva remembers precisely the moment he decided to enter the political world: It happened the day he and his friends were eating Chinese take-out at home and heard about children living in cages, separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Leiva, the vice chair of the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC), agreed with his friends there and then that something should be—must be—done, but initially assumed someone else would be doing that something. His friends thought otherwise and tasked him with getting involved on their behalf.
The rest constitutes early chapters of what is likely to be a long history of party and political involvement by a young man whose undergraduate degree is in business, whose interests straddle technology and law, and whose skills include language translation as well as I.T. management.
The year Leiva decided to “do something,” he was voted on to the State Central Committee (SCC), became a precinct chair, and started volunteering as a technical helper producing The Blue Review. His connections with his aunt, Iris Calderon, with soon-to-be city councilor Lan Sena; and with DPBC leaders Karlyne Nordholm and Ivan Peifer drew him into both professional and political work. Before long, the Andrew Yang supporter became a delegate to the national Democratic Party’s convention, supporting Joe Biden.
“The values of my friend group are definitely progressive,” Leiva said, “but they were registered as Independent.” He showed them how to switch party affiliation to Democrat, and they have voted for him in leadership, as have Leiva’s numerous family members.
Now, Leiva continues as the tech producer for The Blue Review and is attending his first DPBC executive committee meetings with his female counterpart, Marsella Duarte (to be interviewed here next week), works part-time for Calderon filling out paperwork and translating for Spanish-speakers while looking for a full-time job.
Despite their original registration, Leiva believes the values of his friends are in sync with the Democratic party, as are those of the Bernie Sanders faction of the national party. Leiva believes that, though Biden is now president, the ideals of his opponents in the primary have not disappeared but, instead, continue to shape national policy. For example, Leiva points to Yang’s support of internet infrastructure that Biden has included in his infrastructure plan. The ideas and ideals that emerged in the primaries live on, Leiva said. And it is those ideas, along with personal goals, that have moved him to his current level of political involvement.
“As vice chair, I work with Flora (Lucero,) and under the good leadership she offers, we can accomplish a lot.” Even so, Leiva is also motivated by his own goals, especially those involved with welcoming young people, especially young people of color, into the party. Although he has been vice chair only a couple of weeks, he’s already received phone calls requesting his help for bilingual access to voting materials. He’s made it his business to fulfill those requests immediately, keeping the commitment made on the day he first realized he needed to work with DPBC.