The chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his handling of recent claims of sexual harassment against a Doña Ana County Commissioner and a former New Mexico Federation of Labor president Jon Hendry. The labor organization is a key ally of Democrats in the state. Ellenberg announced his resignation with a letter to the party’s state central committee. “I regret the way in which I have managed complaints of survivors who have come forward about sexual harassment, and take full responsibility to continue to learn and grow so that I can be an advocate and ally in the future,” Ellenberg wrote. Last month, the state party’s vice chairwoman wrote a pointed letter to Ellenberg about how he dealt with her accusations of sexual harassment against former Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez.
Delegates for the Democratic Party of New Mexico chose their preferred candidates for statewide and federal races Saturday afternoon at the state pre-primary convention. But before candidates finished their stump speeches, a brief protest and an alliance between two gubernatorial candidates caused some excitement. The Democratic convention showed higher numbers of both the number of candidates and convention attendees than the recent Republican and Libertarian state parties. Six state and federal candidates emerged from contested races as party favorites for the Democratic primary election in June. While he denied rumors that he was dropping out, gubernatorial candidate Peter DeBenedittis used his speech to encourage delegates to cast votes for another candidate in the race, Jeff Apodaca.
A Doña Ana County Commissioner mired in controversy over the past several weeks announced his resignation on Thursday. John Vasquez faced public criticism over social media posts and a sexual harassment allegation by a state Democratic Party leader in recent weeks. In a letter to Doña Ana County Commission chairman Benjamin Rawson, Vasquez said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and wants to focus on his health, family and marriage. His marriage in particular, Vasquez said, suffered from what he said was a false allegation from the Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice-Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra. “I am amazed and disappointed how people like Neomi Martinez-Parra can make completely unsubstantiated claims,” Vasquez wrote.
Some Democratic elected officials from New Mexico and the party’s state chair called for a member of their party to step down as a Doña Ana County Commissioner on Thursday after allegations of sexual misconduct. A day after the Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra criticized party chair Richard Ellenberg for not doing enough to address Martinez-Parra’s allegations against Vasquez, Ellenberg issued an apology and called for Vasquez to resign. “While I can’t force his hand, I am calling on John Vasquez to resign from the County Commission and the County Central Committee, and I will repeat that call as often as is necessary until we are successful,” Ellenberg wrote in a statement Thursday. Following Ellenberg’s statement, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps.
A Democratic county commissioner from southern New Mexico is in more hot water and may have pulled the state party in with him. The Democratic Party of New Mexico’s vice chairwoman said the head of the party encouraged her to stay quiet after she was allegedly sexually harassed by the Doña Ana County Commissioner. DPNM Vice Chairwoman Neomi Martinez-Parra sent a letter to state party Chair Richard Ellenberg on Monday asking that he take “corrective action” against Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez for “inappropriate sexual misconduct.”
In her letter, Martinez-Parra said she previously alerted Ellenberg of her interaction with Vasquez. She also said the chairman implied she should stay quiet as long as the party could convince Vasquez to step down from a local Democratic veterans group. “Furthermore, you and I discussed these issues prior to Mr. Vasquez resigning as the DPNM Veteran’s Caucus Chair,” Martinez-Parra wrote.
SANTA FE—It was a political nerd’s dream. Dozens of people aiming for state office filed through the elevator doors into the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday to navigate the three-stage process of declaring their candidacy. The day offered a rare early opportunity for candidates and their staff to interact with one another—which included a lot of smiles and polite handshakes, even across party lines. The process was straightforward—there were three stations to verify and confirm paperwork and petition signatures—and took about 20 minutes for most candidates. Here are my notes from the field: 9:05 a.m. I’m running late, because I’m from New Mexico.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.
Democratic candidates enjoyed a good night nationwide and in New Mexico on Tuesday. In New Mexico, three Democrats won three city council elections in Las Cruces. In one case, they flipped a Republican city council seat to Democratic. Gabe Vasquez, Gill Sorg and Yvonne Flores, all of whom ran on progressive platforms, won Tuesday night according to unofficial numbers. The races are officially nonpartisan, but party lines were evident in the campaigns.
Albuquerque mayoral candidates have about a week to file their next campaign finance reports. For most, it will be their first reports filed this election. While many of the candidates speak highly of public financing, only one has qualified for it. New Mexico Democrats, for example, have pushed for more publicly financed races and campaigns since at least 2008, when the party added language to their state platform that says“all political campaigns should be publicly financed.”
The Albuquerque mayoral race is nonpartisan, so none of the candidates will be identified with any specific political party on the ballot. Related: Privately-funded ABQ mayoral candidates ready for first reporting deadline
Mayoral candidates Deanna Archuleta and Brian Colón are both prominent Democrats running for mayor who both opted to use private funds for their campaigns.
On Thanksgiving, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called on President Barack Obama to reroute the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and condemned the response by police to protests. Native Americans and others have protested pipeline over recent weeks over a fear that it would imperil the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s only water source. The pipeline’s path was already moved once, from near Bismarck. Part of the reason was the risk to the city’s water supply. Update: Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters
“Today is Thanksgiving and I cannot help but reflect on our history in these United States and how often it has not lived up to the rosy picture of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal in friendly company that I saw in textbooks as a child,” Heinrich said in a statement.