Controversial political figure and former presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon will make an appearance in New Mexico on Thursday in support of the Republican U.S. Senate candidate. UPDATE: Steve Bannon: Mick Rich is a ‘real populist’
Mick Rich’s campaign confirmed that Bannon will speak on behalf of his political group Citizens of the American Republic in Roswell, stumping for the Albuquerque construction contractor and political newcomer. The Rich campaign said the event is sponsored and paid for by Citizens of the American Republic and Rich will appear as a guest. Nick Gerard, a staffer with the Mick Rich campaign, said Bannon’s appearance is notable for both the campaign and the Republican Party. “A lot of people nationally kind of look at New Mexico and just assume it will forever and always be a Democratic state and that’s not the case on the ground,” Gerard said.
For New Mexico Democrats, the celebration and rallying didn’t stop after he primaries on Tuesday night. About 75 party officials, candidates and their supporters crammed into a back room of an iconic Albuquerque restaurant Wednesday morning to celebrate primary wins from late the night before. Democratic primary winners Deb Haaland and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham energized the crowd at Barelas Coffee House with talks about winning the general election in November. “We have the most incredible Democrats,” Lujan Grisham said. “I have to say this is one of the strongest tickets I’ve ever seen.”
Haaland, who is the Democratic candidate for the congressional seat Lujan Grisham currently holds, encouraged Democrats to take any criticism from Republicans with a grain of salt.
“You know all of this doesn’t have to be so serious, when we’re getting hit with this barrage of horrible things from the Republicans,” Haaland told the crowd.
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:
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.