I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
ABQ progressives flex their muscles
ALBUQUERQUE — The upending of three veteran state lawmakers Tuesday night revealed the muscle progressives wield in and around Albuquerque. But it also could point to a shift in the ongoing struggle for dominance between the Democrats’ liberal and moderate wings, one political scientist says.
The list of defeated reads like a who’s who of veteran legislators: Sen. James Taylor in District 14, knocked off by former Albuquerque city councilor Eric Griego; 20-year incumbent state Sen. Shannon Robinson in District 17, taken out by first-time candidate Tim Keller; and 22-year veteran House Rep. Dan Silva, toppled by union organizer Eleanor Chavez.
"It’s a big win for the progressive wing of the Democratic party," former state Democratic party chairman John Wertheim said Tuesday night on KANW radio.
The immediate effect, some said, would be extra firepower in the upcoming 2009 legislative session for advocates who have unsuccessfully pushed for state’s ethics and campaign finance reform.
"The same wasn’t true of the Democratic party," Atkeson said. "But the Democratic party may be catching up to the Republican party."
In other words, Democratic activists are becoming much more liberal and the candidates they elect generally reflect their positions, she said.
"The difference, I think, is that I had the support early on of the neighborhood associations and local activists because I do a lot of volunteer work in the neighborhood," Keller said. "I’m new to politics but not to work in the neighborhood."
"To me, being progressive gets back to being proactive and trying new ideas. And it plays out nationally also—we’re seeing a desire for change play out nationally, and I think it applies to these local races also. Our three campaigns had a similar overall point: people are tired of being last in categories we care about, such as child poverty, domestic violence, education."
"The incumbent has the advantage .. (but) the thing about primaries, you are in a very small setting," Atkeson said. "You can influence that election if you can get those voters to the polls. You have to give voters a reason to vote against the incumbents. If you give them a good reason, they can be mobilized. They did that."
The voters sent a strong message that they want legislators who represent working people, not powerful corporate interest. The victories we saw tonight in Albuquerque against incumbents are really significant, and should be seen as a signal to those who hold office that voters in this state are tired of all the talk. They want real action on the issues they keep telling us are important, such as health care, campaign finance reform, not to mention the need to fix our public schools. The message is clear: as a legislative body we’d better step up and stop giving the voters a bunch of window dressing.
Chavez, who is director of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199 NM, was more direct about why she beat Silva. Silva, a powerful lawmaker, chairs the state House’s Transportation Committee: “We simply needed to knock Silva out because he doesn’t represent our community.”
I would knock on doors and the support was just amazing. One woman just looked at me and said, “you go girl.” Another woman told me I was brave. Then an elderly man told me I made him feel very important when I asked him for his vote and asked to put my sign in his yard. I couldn’t help but think as I walked away from his house that…no, “you make me feel important by accepting my sign in your yard.”
Keller, a business planning consultant with a background in non-profit management and community activism, was a first-time candidate who set his sights on an incumbent plagued by scandal over his diversion of state money to a rugby team he sponsors at UNM, plus more than 30 misdemeanor traffic and parking violations over the past decade.
But Keller said something else was at work, too.
It’s very clear to me that the residents of my district want a responsive and proactive leader who is out there trying new things and challenging the status quo. I do want to say that Shannon worked extremely hard, we both ran a strong grassroots campaign. But the difference, I think, is that I had the support early on of the neighborhood associations and local activists because I do a lot of volunteer work in the neighborhood. I’m new to politics but not to work in the neighborhood. So I had a really good base going into the campaign. This is why my campaign was truly the "grassroots" effort of the two."