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!”