New Democratic Party Chair Has Big Plans

Jessica Velasquez, elected last weekend as the chair for the statewide Democratic Party, is familiar with issues of importance both to rural and to progressive Democrats, and promises during her two-year term that, “No matter what shade of ‘blue’ you are as a Democrat, there will be a seat for you at the table.”

Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Velasquez moved to New Mexico over 20 years ago after earning her undergraduate degree at Penn State, earned her teaching credentials and a masters at UNM, and today lives the East Mountains.  Velasquez formerly chaired Ward 22A and in 2020 ran for the state House of Representatives in District 22.  Prior to her candidacy, she explained, she was a public school teacher and “volunteered to knock doors and make phone calls around my teaching schedule (and my schedule as a working mom with small kids in the house!) Like so many, I was moved to greater political commitment during the 2016 Presidential election cycle, and in the wave of activism that followed.”

Because of her rural roots, she is aware that, “Issues like internet and healthcare access, water conservation, and rural economic revitalization tend to cut across Party lines which offers us an opportunity for communicating with voters about the issues that are most important to them.” She intends to form stronger relationships with elected Democratic officeholders across New Mexico, and in partnership with the Rural Caucus, to “identify key issues, challenges, and areas of opportunity in our rural communities. We’ll invite Democratic officeholders at every level to join the Rural Caucus to foster better working relationships and communication between rural New Mexicans and those we elect to represent us.”

She has appealed to rural voters already, attending “every County meeting that was held across our state,” and she has personally spoken with hundreds of rural State Central Committee (SCC) members. “I understand Democrats in rural New Mexico feel abandoned and ignored,” she said.  “By collaborating with our rural County Parties, the Rural Caucus, allied organizations, tribes, pueblos, land grant and acequia communities, and elected office-holders from rural New Mexico, DPNM can bridge the rural-urban divide and rebuild Democratic participation in rural communities.

Velasquez has established goals of registering more voters, recruiting and training candidates to run for offices across the state, especially in rural communities at the local level.  “When communicating with voters, we will highlight the policy and legislative work that supports rural revitalization and addresses economic development, internet and healthcare access, and other rural issues. When we show results, we strengthen our relationship with rural voters and see better outcomes on Election Day.”

“Together, we will create a 33 County Strategic Plan based on the individual needs and goals of each community, and which will support rural county parties to organize local Democrats, team up with allied groups, communicate with voters, drive voter turnout, and win more elections.”

Simultaneously, Velasquez is working closely with the Adelante Progressive Caucus, and said, “We have incredible progressive Democrats already hard at work in our Party,and we have many new progressive SCC members who joined us in this past election too. The Adelante Progressive Caucus is a vibrant, effective organization and [its] Chair Cheryl Harris and I are discussing how to build engagement and participation even more.”  She also credits the work of the state party’s Platform and Resolutions Committee under outgoing committee chair Sharla Parsons, which shaped the party platform, known to be fairminded and progressive.

Velasquez aims to “make sure DPNM is an inclusive and effective organization that continues to elect Democrats who champion our core values.”  

Much will have changed by this time next year, as we are likely to be able to travel again, engage face-to-face with voters, volunteers and party activists.  “This will allow us to continue to build enthusiasm among Democrats about registering to vote, getting involved, and running for office, and we will use that enthusiasm to elect another incredible slate of leaders in 2022,” Velasquez predicted.

As state party chair, Velasquez has made winning elections her number one goal, explaining that “Electing bold Democratic leaders to local, state, and federal office means that our Democratic values and platform can transform public policy and law. To win elections, I will lead efforts to:

  • Recruit, train and retain our own homegrown political talent to build our bench of candidates and campaign staff.
  • Field Democratic candidates in races across New Mexico and give candidates the support they need to win.
  • Drive new voter registration and turnout in every community.
  • Build effective party organization at the state and county level to expand our Democratic base and engage voters.
  • Fight for fair redistricting that better represents our communities.”

Finally, she’s already leading the party to elect a strong Democrat—Melanie Stansbury– in CD1 on June. “In November, we’ll elect local officials across the state,” she vowed, and “In 2022, we’ll re-elect our incredible Governor and statewide officials, and take back CD2.”