Written by Heather Brewer on behalf of the Brava Editorial Board
More than a month after the Democratic Party of New Mexico held its statutorily mandated Pre-Primary Convention to select candidates for the June primary ballot, an unprecedented number of candidates who failed to earn the votes to make that ballot is sticking around.
In the past, most candidates who missed that needed 20-percent threshold conceded, shook hands with the winner and went to work supporting their communities in other ways.
It was a gentlemanly process, to say the least. But this year, the gentlemen aren’t having it.
Indeed every member of the “Sore Losers Caucus” is a man. And, almost without exception, the highest pre-primary voter-getter in the race they refuse to leave? A woman.
Women have cracked the code and are racking up wins in a system that the Good Old Boys designed. Archaic ward meetings and delegate selection aren’t the fool-proof protectors of back-room deals that they once were. Women—particularly women of color–are out organizing their male opponents. And the men aren’t happy about it.
Of course the men are within their rights to refuse to admit defeat. The law allows candidates who don’t make the ballot through the pre-primary process to jump through hoops, gather another several thousand signatures and get on the ballot. It seems gracious and democratic to have this work-around, but the additional signatures—and the short time in which to gather them—were actually designed to keep the losers off the ballot. (Remember that Happy Days episode in which they told the unpopular girl memorize the phone book to get into the cool kids club, assuming of course that she’d never be able to do it? Yeah, it was like that.)
But, with the help of paid canvassers, high-priced lawyers and the occasional million-dollar campaign loan from the candidate himself, these guys made the ballot. Indeed, several of them planned to be sore losers all along and started gathering extra signatures before they even lost the pre-primary.
In the governor’s race, Sen. Joe Cervantes got only 10 percent of the delegates’ votes. That’s half of what he needed to make the ballot. A million dollars of his own money later, he’s still on the ballot.
(Sure the most quixotic of quixotic candidates, Peter DeBenedittis, did drop out of the governor’s race after failing to earn even 2 percent of the delegates, but his last-minute endorsement of an almost-sore-loser hardly counts as statesmanship.)
In the first Congressional District, four sore losers are sticking around after two highly qualified women candidates, Deb Halaand and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, not only cracked 20 percent, but Halaand actually took 35 percent of all the delegates in the six-way race.
And then there’s Land Commissioner. Sen. George Muñoz missed the 20 percent mark, but can’t walk away even when Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard earned 44 percent of votes in the three-way race.
Politics is a game, when you come down to it. We know the rules, but from the outside it can be hard to know why the players are making certain moves.
Maybe Cervantes really wants to be Senate Majority Leader and is trying to flex his muscle. Maybe, all basic rules of math to the contrary, Pat Davis, Damon Martinez, Damian Lara and Paul Moya each thinks that that Halaand and Sedillo Lopez will split the vote and that he will be the one to come up the middle for the win. And maybe Muñoz really likes flying his personal plane and helicopter around the state for campaign appearances.
Or, maybe, the boys just don’t know what to do when the girls win.
We’ll see when the votes come in on June 5th how things play out for the “Sore Losers Caucus,” but I’m willing to bet that the percentages the candidates end up with on election night will mirror the pre-primary results.
The sore losers aren’t game-changers. Instead, hard-working, highly qualified and well-organized women are changing the game.
June 6th will be high time for the “Sore Losers Caucus” to put away their sour grapes and start working with the winners to ensure Democratic victories in November.