January 19, 2018

On Facebook, Doña Ana County Commissioner goes after activist’s mother

A southern New Mexico county commissioner appeared to take personal shots at the mother of a female activist and constituent on Facebook Wednesday night.

Screenshots from progressive activist Johana Bencomo show comments from Democratic Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez, saying Bencomo’s mother asked him for “wierd (sic) favors” from the commissioner.

John Vasquez

In a time of #MeToo and public discussions regarding treatment of women by men in positions of power, Vasquez may have put himself, the county commission and the state and local Democratic party in an unwanted spotlight.

Bencomo said Vasquez’s personal shots came after she commented on a post he made criticizing other politicians for endorsing candidates seeking election in 2018.

“I just simply asked a question,” Bencomo told NM Political Report.

The screenshot shows Bencomo asking, “Didn’t you endorse [Jeff] Apodaca for Governor?”

“I Endorsed your mom but it didn’t mean anything..if you want to keep this going.. Let’s start…,” Vasquez appeared to write.

The post in question cannot be found on Vasquez’s Facebook page and the commissioner did not reply to questions from NM Political Report about whether he made the comments or deleted the original post.

But the screenshots Bencomo posted show Vasquez doubling down on his comments about Bencomo’s mother. Other people weighed in, curious what Bencomo’s mother, who does not live in New Mexico, had to do with state races.

“What is Johana’s mom running for?!?! I thought she lived in Colorado,” one person commented.

“I thought so to (sic) but she sent me a private message asking for really wierd (sic) favors… I will have no part of it…,” Vasquez apparently wrote.

Bencomo appeared to push Vasquez for an explanation, calling the commissioner’s comments “insanely inappropriate.”

The screenshots show Vasquez firing back at Bencomo with, “Your (sic) inappropriate… You should talk to your family members and ask them to have some decency.”

The screenshots also show other users questioning the appropriateness of Vasquez’s comments.

Vasquez seemed to end the comments with, “They say you can take a girl out of the ghetto but…”

Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Richard Ellenberg issued a statement to NM Political Report regarding Vasquez’s social media behavior.

“Democrats expect elected officials to lead a professional and respectful dialogue at all times,” Ellenberg said on Friday. “Commissioner Vasquez’s comments are out of line and fall below this standard.”

Bencomo is a community organizer with the progressive activist group NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé, or CAFé, and admits the groups relationship with Vasquez has been contentious at times. But, Bencomo said, her question about Vasquez’s possible endorsement of Apodaca came from her role as a constituent and not as an activist or organizer.

“The childish, ridiculous type of behavior and comments that he’s making, they’re kind of infuriating,” Bencomo told NM Political Report. “It’s embarrassing that he’s an elected official in our community.”

But Bencomo is not the first person to feel the brunt of Vasquez’s sharp comments.

Not the first time

Sarah Silva, who has since left CAFé, still has a hard time recounting her experiences with Vasquez while she was the group’s director.

“I’ve seen him systematically use tactics that dehumanize and demean women and also men,” Silva said.

Silva said as a candidate and county commission candidate in 2016, Vasquez made “suggestive comments” to Silva’s staff.

“At that time we had made a rule that no one could be left alone with him,” Silva said.

Like Bencomo, Silva once tried to contact Vasquez as a constituent and not an activist after Vasquez and three other commissioners agreed to dismiss the former county manager.

Silva said she tried to call his mobile phone, but could not leave a message as his voice mail box was full, something NM Political Report also encountered when seeking comment on this story. So, Silva sent him a text.

“I told him I was disappointed in his vote,” Silva said.

Documented by screenshots, Silva shared what followed on Facebook.

The screenshot shows Silva’s text to a “John” expressing her “disappointment” with his vote to terminate the county manager’s contract, adding that it showed Vasquez’s “short sightedness and lack of vision,”

“I don’t think your (sic) capable of talking about Vision,” the reply read.

A subsequent screenshot shows six missed phone calls from a number matching Vasquez’s publicly listed mobile phone within eight minutes.

Another screenshot from Silva shows a series of text messages from “John” accusing Silva of not answering her phone because “there’s no media to give you attention.”

NM Political Report also attempted to reach Vasquez by text message and Facebook message throughout Friday, but did not receive a response.

Vasquez praised Apodaca, who is from Doña Ana County, on his Facebook page, calling him the “People’s Champion.” In reply to Bencomo’s post, Vasquez also called Apodaca “the best choice for Governor..”

NM Political Report reached out to the Apodaca campaign. We will update this story with their response when we receive it.