March 11, 2018
By Laura E. Sanchez-Rivét
Yesterday, Democrats held their State Pre-Primary Convention at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Not surprisingly, the convention mirrored much of the wave sweeping our country in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump: Women handily stepped up as candidates for many major offices. The purpose of the pre-primary convention is to determine the Democratic Party’s nominees for statewide and federal offices. The convention is important because candidates must receive at least 20% of delegate votes to get on the primary ballot in June, and the total delegates each candidate receives determines their ballot order. If a candidate does not receive at least 20%, he or she must obtain more petition signatures to get on the ballot. But the convention is more than just delegate votes, it’s an important demonstration of a candidates’ organizational support. It is an opportunity for candidates to show the party faithful that they have what it takes to win in November. With the women seeking delegate votes and delivering speeches at yesterday’s convention, New Mexico’s future looks very bright.
For those who live in Albuquerque, as I do, many Democrats are familiar with the high profile Governor and Congressional District 1 races. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-District 1) is running for New Mexico Governor, thereby vacating her congressional seat. In the race for delegates, Lujan Grisham received 67%, with her two male opponents Jeff Apodaca and Joseph Cervantes coming in with 21% and 10% respectively.
In the federal races, six candidates are vying for Lujan Grisham’s open seat in Congressional District 1. Among these six candidates, two female candidates demonstrated they have broad support from delegates and each had her own supporters in full force at the convention: former Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland and former ENLACE Executive Director and Law Professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. In a six way race, these two women were the only two candidates to cross the 20% threshold with Haaland receiving 35% and Sedillo Lopez receiving 25%.
Congressional District 2 in Southern New Mexico is also an open seat, since incumbent Congressman Steve Pearce (R) is running for Governor as the Republican nominee. In that seat, two women are vying against each other: Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces and Madeline Hildebrandt of Socorro. Both are newcomers to being candidates, although Torres Small is not new to Congress, having most recently been a staffer for Senator Tom Udall. In the delegate hunt, Torres Small received 66% and Hildebrandt received 34%.
Also running for statewide office is incumbent Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and delivered a rousing speech in which she talked about her commitment to protecting New Mexico voters’ personal information from Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Her refusal to comply brought her national media attention last year, an issue which she has been committed to since her time as Bernalillo County Clerk.
Another statewide candidate was Stephanie Garcia Richard for Land Commissioner. A current state representative giving up her legislative seat for the statewide post, Garcia Richard had a memorable video that was well received by delegates, followed by a strong speech. Garcia Richard topped her male competitors for State Land Commissioner receiving 44% of the delegates, with Garrett VeneKlasen receiving 39% and George Muñoz received 17%.
Perhaps nowhere is it more clear that women are stepping up than in the seats to fill New Mexico’s Court of Appeals. Kristina Bogardus is running for Position 1, Jacqueline Medina for Position 2, Briana Zamora for Position 3, Megan Duffy for Position 4 and Jennifer Attrep is running for Position 5. For me, as an attorney, to see so many talented, accomplished women running for the Court of Appeals is truly inspiring.
Yesterday’s convention was filled with excitement, energy, great turnout, inspiring speeches and videos, and many strong female candidates. Regardless of how delegates voted, one thing was clear: delegates heard from a diverse, articulate, and inspiring group of female candidates who have shown they are a force to be reckoned with in New Mexico politics. Their voices will continue to be heard on issues important to New Mexico families, whether these inspiring women are the Democratic nominee in June and elected in November or not. And for that, those of us who are Democrats can be very proud of our field of candidates!
Laura E. Sanchez-Rivét is an Attorney and regular panelist on New Mexico in Focus on New Mexico PBS/KNME, and is a former Executive Director of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. She is currently a Partner at Cuddy & McCarthy, LLP, a majority women-owned business. Laura is originally from Deming.