Cracks in the progressive wall

In this week's Intelligencer, local elections’ direct impact, Virginia elects their first Hispanic AG, redistricting takes another step forward, PNM's merger hits a roadblock, and COVID mandates take a step back in popularity.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Anti-Leftist national trend found in New Mexico local elections

The 2021 elections were held on Tuesday, and while nationally there was a clear repudiation of progressive politicians, New Mexico wasn't as clear in its swing back from those progressive policies – however, the results did paint a picture of New Mexicans frustrated with the status quo in some key down ballot elections in Albuquerque City Council and APS School Board.


Big City Mayor: The incumbent Tim Keller was never a popular mayor and was vulnerable because of the accelerating violent crime and homelessness crisis. But Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ promising bid to unseat Keller deteriorated once the petition forgery scandal broke. From then on, the campaign never recovered and Keller to his credit ran a solid – if uninspiring – reelection campaign.

Unfortunately, citizens of Albuquerque were robbed of a meaningful campaign and were not given inspiring leadership options; voters were essentially picking a mayor who they believe was the "best worst option" and in that sense Keller cruised to another four years.

Voters also strongly voted down$50 million bond proposal for a professional soccer stadium 65% to 35%.  Albuquerque turnout stood at about 30%, which is the best turnout for a mayoral election in 20 years when 38% of the voters turned out in 2001.

City Council shakeup: It was the down ballot races, beginning with city council, that showed voters in Albuquerque wanted a shift from the recent progressive push. In District 1, Keller's handpicked progressive appointee lost to challenger Louie Sanchez, a retired Albuquerque Police Department officer and insurance agent. In District 5 City Councilor Cynthia Borrego lost to Dan Lewis, who held the seat from 2009 to 2017. Races in District 7 and District 9 will be going into runoffs to be held on December 7th.

School board shift: Conservatives' biggest win Tuesday night was in the APS school board elections: three of four races were won by a slate of candidates that were NOT union-endorsed; a major shift from previous elections where Albuquerque Teachers Federation-selected candidates were the guaranteed winners. 

Santa Fe

City Different will stay the same: Similar to the dynamics of the Keller campaign, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber cruised to reelection with 55% of the vote with a similar turnout figure of 30%. As in Albuquerque, while the incumbent was rather unpopular (Hispanic fallout, union issues, and veterans groups to just name a vulnerabilities), the opposition was fragmented and unable to coalesce behind a united front or under a clear alternative message.

Down ballot races results were as expected with one notable exception: newcomer and businessman Lee Garcia at last count held a slim lead over District 3 incumbent Roman “Tiger” Abeyta. Most observers expected Abeyta (a longtime government employee) to be assured a second four-year term in District 3.

Las Cruces

The People’s Republic of Dona Ana County: The left-wing stranglehold on the City of Crosses and surrounding area remains firm as the progressive machine defeated all challengers to the status quo in the Las Cruces City Council and LCPS School Board races. Although the margins were small in these extremely low turnout elections, the numbers significantly increased from prior years.

In Hatch, Mayor Andy Nuñez lost his reelection bid for Hatch mayor.

The contrast to the Albuquerque conservative victories are obvious: without a well-financed and organized opposition movement the anti-socialists will continue to lose. And to make matters worse, in District 5 the progressives were handed a victory by the opposition who split the vote among three candidates.

2. Virginia elects Republican as state’s first Hispanic Attorney General


History made: Jason Miyares, won the 82nd District for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2015, becoming the first Cuban-American ever elected to the Virginia General Assembly and was a founding Member of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and previously served on the Virginia Latino Advisory Board. Now he is the VA Attorney General.

Big winners: Virginia voters also deposed Clinton family loyalist Terry McCauliffe as governor, choosing instead Glenn Youngkin. They also elected the first black Lt. Governor, a Marine who spoke strongly against anti-gun Red Flag laws.

Meanwhile: In Ohio, Republican Mike Carey defeated a Biden-backed incumbent for the 15th Congressional District. In Buffalo, New York’s mayoral race, an open socialist and AOC-backed candidate was defeated in a shocking write-in effort by moderate Democrat Bryan Brown – Brown had lost to the socialist in the Democratic Party primary. In Minnesota, Minneapolis voters (birthplace of the "Defund the Police" movement) resoundingly rejected a proposal that would have removed the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter and replaced it with a "public-health oriented" Department of Public Safety.

Big picture: In New Mexico, cracks in the progressive wall began to show. But nationally, the pendulum clearly swung to right as many political observers expected, but the breadth and depth of the swing still caught many by surprise. The anti-incumbency mood was much stronger than anticipated, including a New Jersey governor's race where the Democratic incumbent almost lost, a truck driver who spent only $153 on his campaign on the verge of defeating one of New Jersey’s most feared political kingpins, and Republicans in Texas flipping a +14 Biden Texas House seat that is 73% Hispanic.

The Democrats fears are coming to fruition: the results might be a harbinger of a red wave in 2022.

3. Left-wing gerrymander maps move forward


Details: The Citizen Redistricting Committee submitted its recommended redistricting map options to the state legislature, which will either choose one during a December special session or make up its own map. The purpose of this new committee is to supposedly “temper partisan” gerrymandering, but the process has been hijacked by the same well-funded and fully staffed Left-wing political organizations that are unofficial surrogates of the state Democrats.

Why it matters: The way maps are drawn determine who gets the power to determine the fate of New Mexico. Recently, the Center for Civic Policy was caught paying cash to people to testify in favor of the “People’s Map”, which could turn the traditionally conservative second congressional district into a permanently Democrat seat.

The big picture: With an essential Democrat monopoly on state control, we should expect no accountability, nor a fair fight. It is likely that the worse case scenario maps will be approved, favoring the Left. If that happens, it seems that Republicans will need to get serious about Hispanic engagement, something that the GOP should have been doing for decades.

4. PRC hearing examiner rejects PNM merger

Details: On Monday, the Public Regulation Commission hearing examiner reviewing the potential merger between PNM Resources and Connecticut-based energy giant Avangrid (which itself is a subsidiary of Spanish power giant Iberdrola) recommended that the five PRC commissioners reject the proposed deal

Background: Ashley Schannauer, the hearing examiner, wrote that the "potential harms outweigh the promised benefits" – which is quite a shift in momentum given that just two months the merger appeared to be heading towards approval. Schannauer added that the deal "will require protections that are adequate to prevent the diminishment of service, the potential slowing of the development of New Mexico's renewable energy resources and higher prices for PNM's customers." These concerns are related to the fact that Avangrid owns four electric utilities in the Northeast, three of which fare poorly in terms of service.

What's next: The full PRC must still rule on the merger. PNM Communications Director Ray Sandoval said in a statement that the company is reviewing the recommendation. "We remain hopeful that the numerous benefits of this merger are realized in the Commission's final decision," he said.

5. Universities choose money over staff and students’ autonomy


The policy: Although workers are rebelling against employer mandated COVID vaccines and a new NBC poll shows a majority of Americans are also opposed to requiring them, New Mexico State University announced it will require all of its employees – over 7,500 of them – to be fully vaccinated by December 8th.

What they’re saying: In an official statement, NMSU is citing compliance with President Biden’s executive order 14042, which requires federal contractors to get the jab. “The NMSU system maintains millions of dollars in federal contracts that support research and development in a broad range of disciplines,” said NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu.

The big picture: Federal money always comes with strings attached. As a recipient of federal monies, NMSU (and most American universities and colleges) is well aware of who is pulling the strings. Even though studies show the vaccine does not significantly stop the spread of the Coronavirus and expensive gimmicks like lotteries for getting the shot do not work, the Biden administration continues to choose politics over science.