Dems now control NM politics
November 14, 2018
SANTA ROSA — There may have been mixed results nationally, with the Democrats winning the House and the Republicans increasing their majority in the Senate, but here in New Mexico, an indisputably blue tidal wave overtook the midterm elections.
I know it’s due at least in part to Susana Martinez’ unpopularity these days, but if I were a New Mexico Republican, I’d blame it on President Trump. He made this election all about him, and New Mexicans rejected both his agenda and his divisive tactics by taking it out on the Republicans who dared to run for statewide offices.
Here’s the new political landscape for New Mexico: Democrats now occupy every statewide position, including the judicial offices, while increasing their majorities in both legislative chambers. For the first time in eight years, the Democrats control all of Santa Fe.
Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham is leading a takeover that will result in a greater move toward renewable energy, a whole new approach to public education, and a brand new source of revenue for the state, with the probable legalization of recreational marijuana.
Then there’s our Washington D.C. delegation. Come January, they’re all Democrats, and New Mexico’s two new representatives reflect not just a blue wave but a pink one as well. It’s been a record-setting election year for women, particularly women of color, and New Mexico just contributed to that.
We now have Debra Haaland representing the Albuquerque area and Xochitl Torres Small representing southern New Mexico.
Haaland is a fixture in state party politics, having served as chair of the state Democratic Party for two years, which makes Torres Small the newest of the political newcomers on the political stage. She worked for Sen. Tom Udall as a field representative for about three years, and her husband, Nathan Small, is a state representative who just won his second term in office, so her political experience is quite limited. But her southern New Mexico roots run deep, and that obviously paid off in her election.
A significant part of her background is as a graduate from the United World College (UWC) in Swaziland. The UWC is a collection of 17 colleges scattered around the world, with its only U.S. campus in northeastern New Mexico, just outside Las Vegas in Montezuma.
I have personal ties to the UWC, but I’ll get back into that another time. For now I’ll just point out that UWC is an incredible exercise in diversity, and it draws in some of the best and brightest young people from all around the world. The New Mexico campus, for example, includes more than 200 students, ages 17-19, from about 75 different countries. As a UWC article about Torres Small put it, it’s hard to be dogmatic when you’re in such a diverse environment.
Such experiences led Torres Small to downplay her party affiliation for a more nonpartisan approach to problem-solving. “Good ideas don’t come with a party label,” Torres Small emphasized in her run for Congress.
Such an approach may be her best shot for holding on to the Second Congressional District seat for more than two years. This has mostly been a GOP seat through the years, and I expect Republicans will pull out all stops to win it back in 2020. They could do it, too, if Trump doesn’t push the party over a cliff by then.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: