By Jennie Lusk
One day shy of the anniversary of Joe Biden’s win, elections across New Mexico demonstrated support for Democrats–while the results of the 2020 presidential race were still in doubt in the minds of an increasingly dangerous Republican fringe nationwide.
Across our state, more than 115,000 Dems turned out to vote—20,000 more than in 2019. According to the Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM), much of that turnout came from early and absentee voting, methods Democrats have championed as convenient and simple ways to vote. Considering how the Republican in the Virginia governor’s race cried election fraud until his own narrow victory, we Democrats should be prepared to face opposition to inclusive voting in our own statewide elections in 2022. And we should be prepared to go on the offensive to counter manufactured claims of voter fraud.
The Bernalillo County results are worth celebrating and worth examining where they cause concern. Democrats didn’t take all the nonpartisan races here, and two city councilors face runoff races. The bottom line: Democrats are organizing, effectively, and elected Democrats can be trusted to make important changes, create policy based on facts rather than superstition, and make decisions based on the needs of constituents rather than corporations and on inclusion of diverse voices rather than, well, racism. Across the country, Democrats are facing opponents who not only disagree with us on policy but who do not believe in hard facts, science, rational debate or inclusion of diverse opinions. We need preparation and a steady mantra as we get ready for next November’s elections and work closely with the Democratic leaders we’ve just elected.
In Albuquerque, Tim Keller’s huge percentage of the 119,745 votes cast in the mayoral election clearly defeated one opponent’s embrace of Trump, anti-immigrant animus, and actual election fraud and his other opponent’s talk radio megaphone spouting hate. Keller’s 55% margin of victory in a three-way race was even wider than predicted and turn-out in the Albuquerque municipal race was the largest in 20 years.
Klarissa Pena’s unopposed return to Albuquerque City Council District 3 after service since 2013 is a satisfying endorsement of her consistent leadership and support for a Keller agenda.
In the Albuquerque Public Schools nonpartisan races for four of the board’s seven seats, we will need careful monitoring and determined activism by those of us who care about keeping public schools public. Only one candidate endorsed by teachers’ unions—Josie Dominguez—was elected in what could be a profound shift in the direction of the board.
In the Albuquerque City Council run-off elections, Dems must come together to defeat GOP candidates who benefitted from competition among our own candidates. We don’t have long before the December 7 runoffs to unite behind environmental consultant Tammy Fiebelkorn in the near Northeast Heights District 7, who won in a field of six candidates, and Rob Grilley, Jr. in the far east Central District 9, who won by fewer than 200 votes against fellow Democrat Byron Powdrell. Our candidates Lan Sena and Cynthia Borrrego lost in Districts 1 and 5, and the fair-mindedness of the city council is now at stake.
As DPBC begins to organize for the statewide mid-term elections next November, we have our work cut out for us with the general public. We are lucky that New Mexico has not seen the crazy shifts of the Republican fringe as yet, but we might need to prepare for it as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham persists in scientifically based COVID-19 policies and voters continue to embrace inclusive elections. This election day 2021, Q-Anon adherents gathered at Daley Plaza in Dallas to welcome the return of the late John-John Kennedy (JFK Jr) to run as a Trump’s vice president, piling elaborate superstition onto bizarre narratives that would embarrass any rational person.
Even though the new Republican governor of Virginia tried to distance himself, the Trumpites in what used to be the Grand Old Party used his slim victory as evidence they are gaining strength. This idea that Republicans are gaining momentum will become a familiar refrain in the coming months. As Democrats, we’re actually talking to voters, actually passing and implementing policies that will protect health and prepare young people for a future, actually taking steps to address the documented dangers of climate change. Democrats should prepare our own reality-based mantra: Our party can be trusted to work for important changes, to make policy based on facts, to answer the needs of constituents over corporations, to include and represent the diverse voices of the people of New Mexico, as well as across the country.