President Barack Obama tells the American people that, by joining together, we can move past the tough debates and help to create jobs and grow the economy in the new year.
While 2011 was a year that fell between national, state, and county elections, it was nonetheless a higly active one, and a very successful one for Doña Ana County Democrats. Local leaders played important roles on the New Mexico stage and proved highly effective in their efforts. New County Party leadership including Chair Christy French and Vice Chair Bill Gomez were elected in April, and the party was active on dozens of new fronts, from public visibility at community events and launching our new web site, to our effective fundraising efforts, new voter registration, and candidate recruitment. Locally, progressives swept the Las Cruces municipal election.
On the statewide stage, it was a successful and busy year for Doña Ana County’s delegation in Santa Fe. Our legislators were successfully engaged in protecting public education and on other key issues. Our delegation worked successfully to protect New Mexico’s electorate against voter suppression efforts by Republicans in the Roundhouse, and they blocked the Governor’s attempts to turn back environmental protection, and stopped her divisive Arizona style anti-immigrant initiatives in Santa Fe.
State Representative Mary Helen Garcia chaired the effort to remap the legislature, a Constitutional requirement, opening up the process to citizen participation throughout New Mexico. Garcia and co-chair Senator Linda Lopez held public hearings and took public testimony from every corner of the state, including here in Doña Ana County. Garcia successfully pushed a final map through the State House.
State Representative Joseph Cervantes was elected to chair the key House Judicial Committee handling dozens of state laws, and working to streamline the state’s legal system. State Representative Joni Gutierrez introduced legislation to protect low income and elderly renters. State Representative Antonio Lujan introduced legislation to ban texting while driving. In September he spoke out in favor of the protection of wolves in New Mexico’s wild areas. State Senators Mary Jane Garcia and Cynthia Nava were key leaders on education issues. State Senator Mary Kay Papen chaired the behavioral health sub-committee and played a key role in financial oversight, while State Senator Steve Fischmann led efforts to protect consumers, and backed utility reform in the state.
Southern New Mexico’s representatives in the State House successfully blocked an inequitable and unfair Congressional map proposed in the special legislative session last fall. As the remap went to court for resolution, several members of the Doña Ana County Democratic Party, including former State Representative J. Paul Taylor, joined as plaintiffs in the suit, led by New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to protect minority voting rights in southern New Mexico. New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District has the largest population of Hispanic voters of the state’s three congressional districts.
Members of the Doña Ana County Democratic Party played important rolls in the non-partisan Las Cruces municipal campaigns last fall that resulted in a “progressive sweep” in November. Mayor Ken Miyagishima, Councillors Miguel Silva, and Nathan Small were re-elected by huge margins, and newly elected Councillor Gregory Z. Smith captured the remaining office that had previously alluded progressive representation. Speaking to the Dennis Chavez Club in December Councillor Smith promised an active and responsive office for constituents throughout the city, and promised to work to “build for the future, while respecting the great traditions of our past.”
Going into the next county election, Mary Rosner, a local attorney with a background in labor law, announced her candidacy for District Judge, while County Clerk Lynn Ellins and Treasurer David Gutierrez prepared re-election efforts. Democrats will also contest other County offices, including three County Commission seats in the fall.
On the state and district levels, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich made numerous appearances in Doña Ana County as they ramp up for the 2012 contest to replace Senator Jeff Bingaman. Evelyn Madrid Erhard of Mesilla and Frank McKinnon of Roswell promised a principled campaign for the right to challenge the Tea-Party-backed Republican incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District.
The Doña Ana County Democratic Party was invited to participate in welcoming President Obama to our region when he presented a major policy address in immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso in May. Among the other successes of the past year, the Doña Ana County Democratic Party brought large, enthusiastic and visible contingents to the Las Cruces July 4 Electric Light Parade, Southern New Mexico Pride, and the Whole Enchilada Festival, among other public events. The Party also hosted a highly successful Labor Day Breakfast that featured the U.S. Senate candidates Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich in September, and worked tirelessly, along with Obama for America, to register new voters in southern New Mexico with great success. Doña Ana County Democrats also launched a new active and high-traffic web site, and moved into social media for the first time.
Two local clubs affiliated with the Doña Ana County Democrats had successes of their own. The New Mexico State University College Democrats were re-chartered after a long absence under its new Chair, Miguel Sosa of Las Cruces, and the Doña Ana County Democratic Women held a successful spring community forum and presented a check for $800.00 to Casa de Peregrinos, a community food bank based in Doña Ana County, early in December for families in need.
In what had begun as a “rebuilding year” last spring with the election of new leadership for the Doña Ana County Democratic Party, Chair Christy French was able to report to members and supporters at the end of the year that the organization has just finished its most successful fundraising effort in County history, surpassing its own goals and topping every other Democratic Party organization in the state for the year, and achieving that stellar mark entirely on small donations. “The Doña Ana County Democratic Party now finds itself very well positioned to work to elect Democrats up and down the ticket in 2012,” Christy French said, “and we’re ready!”
The Associated Press reports that State District Judge James Hall issued a ruling in the Congressional remap case late Thursday that makes the fewest changes to the existing three districts. The new map had the support of Gov. Susana Martinez and Republicans and a group of Democrats that includes State Representative Brian Egolf of Santa Fe.
The Court considered two other plans in the case before making its ruling, one map passed by the Democratic Senate majority in the special session last fall, and another map proposed by the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) that would redraw boundaries to give Hispanics a stronger voice in the 2nd Congressional District.
The plan adopted by Hall shifts fewer than 25,000 New Mexicans into new districts. The full story is available in the Las Cruces Sun News.
2011 proved to be a banner year for the Democratic Party of Doña Ana County with our new commitment to reach voters using new technologies. In April we opened our digital “front door” when we launched our new Web site, and followed up by reaching out to voters and supporters on social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. So far the new outreach has been a great success for us, and for Democrats throughout New Mexico, as traffic has grown steadily.
To recap the year online, here’s our top eleven “most read” posts for 2011:
- Doña Ana County Democrats come out big for labor and to cheer on Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich
September 6, 2011: Nearly four hundred southern New Mexico Democrats and area Union activists joined together on Labor Day morning to celebrate the heritage of organized labor and to rally support for Doña Ana County Democratic candidates and officeholders. The event was keynoted by U.S. Senate candidates State Auditor Hector Balderas and Congressman Martin Heinrich. It was the first public event in New Mexico that has featured both candidates for the 2012 Democratic U.S Senate nomination together in the same venue.
- President Obama Delivers Key Immigration Reform Policy Speech
May 10, 2011: President Barack Obama presented a major policy address in immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso on Tuesday, May 10. In his remarks President Obama called for fixing the broken immigration system, providing a path to citizenship, and building the American economy.
- White House Hispanic Community Summit Opens Southern New Mexico DialogOctober 28, 2011: Senior members of the Obama Administration traveled to Las Cruces open a dialog with local southern New Mexico community leaders and engage with area citizens in a wide range of fields spanning education, immigration, health, and economic development.
- Democrats Release Report that Breaks Down Impact of GOP Medicare Plan on New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District
June 4, 2011: U.S. House of Representative Democrats have issued a report that shows the impact, nationally, district-by-district of the radical GOP attack on Medicare and Medicaid into a voucher system, often called the “Ryan Plan.” Were it to be enacted, the GOP plan would have an immediate and devastating impact on New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.
- Progressives Sweep Las Cruces Municipal Elections
November 9, 2011: Mayor Ken Miyagishima handily defeated both of his challengers, and two incumbent City Council progressives, Councillors Miguel Silva and Nathan Small, were easily re-elected in the Las Cruces municipal election on Tuesday, crushing their Tea Party-backed rivals by lopsided margins. Joining Tuesday’s rout over conservatives, Gregory Z. Smith, another progressive candidate, won his contest as well.
- Doña Ana County Democrats Speak Out against Steve Pearce vote for “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Plan
July 20, 2011: In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Doña Ana County Democratic Chair Christy French spoke out against Congressman Steve Pearce’s (NM-2) vote on Tuesday in favor of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that would cost Doña Ana County, and other New Mexico citizens jobs, cripple public education, drastically slash Medicare and Social Security, escalate health care costs, and gut programs that protect our environment and natural areas.
- Doña Ana County to GOP: Jobs Not Cuts!
August 2, 2011: Local Doña Ana County residents have launched an informational picketing campaign outside the Las Cruces offices of Congressman Steve Pearce. The group, organized by the American Dream Movement, hopes to deliver one message to Republicans in Congress, and Pearce, the leader of the so-called “Tea Party” Caucus: Doña Ana County wants jobs, not cuts!
- We Back Fairness for Judge Murphy
May 23, 2011: By Christy French, Chair. “As fellow citizens and neighbors in Doña Ana County, we find it necessary to speak out publicly in defense of Judge Mike Murphy. We believe Judge Murphy, a distinguished member of the judiciary, is an innocent man, unjustly accused and, most regrettably, tried and convicted on blogs and in newspapers throughout our state.”
- Doña Ana County Democrats Elect New Leadership
April 22, 2011: The Doña Ana County Democratic Party has elected its new leadership team. Christy French was elected County Chair and Bill Gomez was elected as County Vice Chair. Both French and Gomez were elected unanimously at the County Convention held at Beverly Hills Hall in Las Cruces.
- Farewell to a Great Spirit, Barbara Wold
December 19, 2011: The Democratic Party of Doña Ana County is deeply saddened by the loss of Barbara Wold of Democracy for New Mexico. Barbara was a friend to many of us, and an inspiration and leader for all of us in the state of New Mexico, and beyond. We will remember her always and try, as best we can, to carry on her progressive vision and her message of decency and justice for all of us. Her spirit, her clarity, and her voice will be greatly missed.
- Doña Ana County Democrats Statement on the Republican Vote to Raise Taxes
December 20, 2011: With only eleven days to go until 160 million Americans are hit with an unnecessary tax hike, and the millions more unemployed Americans lose their financial lifeline, House Republicans, including Congressman Steve Pearce, have once again turned their backs on working families here in New Mexico and throughout the nation and voted against extending the payroll tax cut for the middle class.
As we ring in the New Year, Democrats are proud to say that we had a very productive year for protecting the health of all Americans, especially those who are least able to help themselves. From strengthening Medicare to expanding access to preventive services to holding insurance companies accountable – young adults, families, and seniors have begun to see benefits from the health care law that took effect in 2010.
Here are eight important ways that you or your family might have benefited from the health law in 2011:
- Making Sure More Americans Have Health Coverage – 2.5 million more young adults have health insurance coverage thanks to a provision in the health law allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. This means more young adults in this country can now go on and live their lives with less worry about visiting their doctor when they get sick, or facing catastrophic medical bills if they are in an accident.Families around the country are benefitting from this part of the law, including families like the Houghs, whose daughter Natalie was diagnosed with a rare heart condition after suffering cardiac arrest at school. Her condition requires a lifetime of medication and care. Now, thanks to the health care law, Natalie can stay on her family’s plan and has started college. And by the time she turns 26 it will be illegal for a plan to deny coverage to anyone, regardless of their health, and Natalie will have access to a choice of quality, affordable health plans.
- Shedding Light on Insurance Companies – Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies in too many states were able to raise their rates without explaining their actions. But now, insurers who want to hike their rates by 10%or more have to explain and justify those increases in writing. Experts will scrutinize those explanations and, in many cases, can tell the insurer to reduce their price.As a result of this law, over the last year, 42 states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have stiffened their oversight of proposed health insurance rate increases. And results are beginning to come in. For example, Connecticut’s Insurance Department rejected a 20% rate hike by one insurer. And Oregon chopped the rate increase by one of its largest insurers almost in half, saving money for 60,000 people.
- Giving You More Value for Your Dollar – A new consumer protection took effect in 2011 called the 80 / 20 rule. It makes sure that at least 80%of your premium dollars are being spent on health care and improving your care – not on advertising and executive salaries. If your insurer fails this test, you get a rebate, starting this summer. This rule makes sure that you get your money’s worth from your health insurance company.
- Expanding Access to Free Preventive Care and Services – Under the Affordable Care Act, you and your family may be eligible for free preventive services. You may now have access to free preventive services such as:
- Blood pressure readings, cholesterol tests, and nutrition counseling
- Many cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies
- Flu and pneumonia shots
- Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, hepatitis, and meningitis
- Strengthening Medicare – Millions of Americans are enjoying improved Medicare coverage at a lower cost. Medicare’s premiums have remained stable and the Part B deductible will drop in 2012. Medicare beneficiaries now have access to free preventive measures like physicals, flu shots, tobacco cessation programs, mammograms, and colonoscopies. And Medicare will cover an annual wellness visit with no charge to seniors.And thanks to the health law, the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole is starting to close. Through the end of October, 2.65 million people with Medicare have received discounts on brand name drugs in the donut hole. These discounts have saved seniors and people with disabilities a total of $1.5 billion on prescriptions – averaging about $569 per person.
- Putting More Doctors in Your Community – The number of doctors, nurses, and health care professionals in the National Health Service Corps has nearly tripled in the last three years. For the first time in its forty year history, the National Health Service Corps can count more than 10,000 members in its ranks.
- Improving Patient Safety – In April 2011 the Partnership for Patients launched. This is a national partnership that will help save 60,000 lives in the next three years by preventing medical errors. The Partnership for Patients also has the potential to save up to $50 billion in Medicare over the next 10 years. More than 6,500 partners, including over 2,900 hospitals as well as physicians and nurses groups, consumer groups, and employers, have pledged their commitment to the Partnership for Patients.This will help patients across the country, including patient advocate Sorrel King. In 2001, Sorrel’s 18-month old daughter Josie accidentally suffered burns requiring a hospital stay. At first, Josie was getting better. However, after a series of unintentional but totally preventable mistakes and complications, Josie died. She became one of 44,000 to 98,000 Americans who die every year from preventable medical errors.
- Cracking Down on Health Care Fraud – The Affordable Care Act has given us strong tools to fight fraud. In 2011, the Department of Justice recovered more than $5.6 billion in fraud government-wide. Of the $5.6 billion, $2.9 billion was in health care fraud alone. Providers now have to go through tougher screening procedures before they can start billing Medicare. And we’ve given investigators new tools that allow them to analyze data in order to identify and stop suspicious payments before they go out. As part of the law, we also released new rules that will give states the flexibility to recover improper Medicaid payments, saving more than $2 billion over the next five years, with nearly $1 billion going back to the states.
Want to learn more? Get the facts about health reform at HealthCare.gov
Laid off factory worker recalls Mitt Romney the job killer. There’s more at ABC News.
A new PEW Hispanic Center survey shows President Obama with a commanding lead among Hispanic voters. There’s more at the Washington Post.
Obama Administration wins record demand for U.S. Bonds as world markets seek low-risk investments. There’s more at Bloomberg News.
New polling shows voters trust Democrats more on tax policy. There’s more at The Hill.
Latest Iowa Republican polling shows Paul and Romney on top with Gingrich falling and Santorum gaining. There’s more at CNN.
Mitt Romney could still lose the Republican nomination. Chris Cillizza has “The Fix.” Read it at the Washington Post.
Desperate Republicans roll out religious appeals in Iowa. There’s more at the New York Times.
Another conspiracy theory from Ron Paul: U.S, Canada, and Mexico will merge. There’s more at TPM.
Fact Check: Ron Paul personally defended racist newsletters. There’s more at ThinkProgress.
“Libertarian” Ron Paul embraces the fever swamp touting support from an endorser who calls for the death penalty for gays. There’s more at TPM.
Texas Governor Rick Perry resorts to extremism in desperate effort to restart floundering campaign. There’s more at TPM.
Rick Perry promises to defy Supreme Court. There’s more at ThinkProgress.
Rick Perry trots out Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Iowa. There’s more at TPM.
Congress gets richer as incomes of working people fall. There’s more at the Daily Kos.
Donald Trump crawls back out into view with another false racist attack. There’s more at TPM.
Republicans want to take us back to the economic abuses and Wall Street casino that crashed our economy. We can’t let that happen. Check out this animated short about how Wall Street reform, passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama, is protecting consumers today.