Bloggers Note: Here's my latest View from Just Outside the Roundhouse
Primary Election Upon Us, Finally
Yup, it’s that time again. May 10 is the first day of voting for the June 7th Primary. Initially you can vote only at the County Clerk’s annex at 15th and Lomas or by absentee ballot (call 243-8683 to request one). Early voting starts in earnest on May 21 at locations around town and will continue through June 4. Check the clerk’s website for early voting locations.
The last day to register is May 10. You can now do it on line at http://www.sos.state.nm.us/. If you don’t register as either a Democrat or a Republican you are ineligible to vote in the primary.
It could be different, you know, and many of us have been pushing to change this system, which discourages many, many, many (as the Donald would say) voters. Those who decline to state a party (DTS) now compose 22% of registered voters in NM. Many of them are young people; more are simply turned off by partisan politics. Yet their voices (all 220,000 of them) are silenced in primaries, which-- since most districts are not competitive-- are often decisive. And why set an artificial deadline for registration, about a month before the actual election? Lots of people don’t tune in until the field is defined and the day approaches. Should they be disenfranchised? Only if you want to restrict the electorate, in my opinion. NM should have same-day registration like many other states.
But never mind, we have to play by the rules we’ve got now.
Here are a few of the candidates I feel strongly about.
Cynthia Hall is running for the PRC in the district that covers much of ABQ. She will be one of the best, most experienced commissioners ever. A former PRC lawyer, she knows the issues. A former grassroots organizer for open space, she has not lost touch. An alternative energy and environmental advocate…. need I go on? After diligently working to become a publicly financed candidate, she was disqualified by Brad Winter (the SOS who replaced Dianna Duran) for a $50 error—something that could have been remedied. (Simultaneously, Winter negotiated with Republican lawyers for state senate candidate Sandra Jeff (D), who had not paid $1,000 in back fines. He allowed her on the ballot and reduced her fine to $100.) Much to her credit, Cynthia is truckin’ right along. Contribute here http://cynthiaforprc.com/.
Roman Montoya is running for Bernalillo County Clerk, and boy, are we lucky he is…He’s a current deputy for Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and cut from the same cloth. I first met him at a conference when he described the office’s plan to facilitate and encourage—not discourage—voter turnout. He’s innovative and committed to an inclusive view of democracy! http://www.romanmontoya.com/
Adrian Pedroza is a progressive running for County Commission District 2, mostly in the South Valley. More and more, as power descends to the local level—important decisions (like whether to go forward with Santolina) are being made on the County Commission. The son of immigrants, Adrian knows the community from his work with the non-profit Partnership for Community Action. He has an MBA, business experience, and has been recognized by the White House as part of a new generation of Hispanic leaders. Pure and simple…. Adrian gives me hope for the future. Help him if you can.
Nancy Bearce, who is running for County Treasurer will clean up the embarrassing state of affairs in that office and use her experience in state government and insurance to put us on a better path. She testified before my committee in SF about state insurance matters and often, I thought she was the only adult in the room. https://www.facebook.com/Nancy4CoTreasurer/
Raul Torrez is running for District Attorney. I’m impressed by his credentials as a federal prosecutor and his vision for a new day in criminal justice. Check him out at http://www.raultorrez.com/
Sen. Mimi Stewart is a progressive beacon in the NM State Senate. She is fearless, courageous and savvy. We need to keep her there in Senate District 17 and not regress to the district’s former senator, erstwhile Republican Shannon Robinson. His zigzag path is risky in many ways. Mimi is looking for volunteers. http://mimistewart.org/contact/
Liz Thompson, is the best bet for a Democratic victory in the fall in this swing District 24 in the mid-heights and she may be the key to taking back the NM House. Liz was on her way to becoming one of the House’s best health advocates before she was ousted by Conrad James (who is not running) in 2014. This district flips between Ds and Rs. Ds take it in general election years, usually. http://www.lizthomson.org/
Even thought Senate District 39 is up north, I can’t help but put a plug in for Liz Stefanics, who is running for the seat held for 18 years by Sen. Phil Griego, and now held by a Republican appointee. Liz held this seat before-- from 1993 -1996 and was one of the state’s earliest progressive office holders. Her term on the SF County Commission is now ending. Tell your friends in the rural areas around Santa Fe. http://lizstefanics4newmexicosenate39.com/
NM Human Services Department Off the Rails?
The state’s largest department, charged with helping its most vulnerable citizens with health insurance (Medicaid) and emergency food aid (SNAP, or food stamps) seems to have gone completely off the rails. The Center for Law and Poverty is calling for the court to put the Department into receivership as a result of the latest development— department supervisors directing caseworkers to inflate the assets of food stamp applicants so they couldn’t get emergency benefits. The department was already out of compliance with other court orders over delays in the federal food stamp program. Whoa. Maybe the Center is right. I say that with a heavy heart because there are good people in Human Services, trying to make a difference. I was an early admirer of Centennial Care for it’s emphasis on care coordination and primary care, but now I’ve lost faith.
In spite of the current leadership, there’s been a messy buildup, as a result of the previous Secretary, including the de-construction of the state’s behavioral health system and its misguided audit to find fraud and replace the state’s providers with Arizona companies. We know how that worked out: the AG found no intentional fraud, many of the NM providers folded, and the Arizona companies left town. I’d be surprised if the state was not headed for more court action on this.
Now the Department is in the process of cutting Medicaid, as instructed by the legislature. It will be cutting $419 million from the program—and the state’s hard-pressed economy. There’s been no consideration of the revenue enhancements many other states are using to pay for the expanded program we need to serve new recipients (the feds are paying for over 90% of it, but we can’t come up with $89 million for the rest). And no talk of better bargaining for outrageously priced prescription drugs. Instead the department is cutting provider rates to the tune of $26-30 million—a cut that will affect UNM hospital the hardest and make the state’s slim roster of doctors and other providers (especially in rural areas) wonder if it’s really worth it. And there’s more to come—benefit and eligibility reductions are next up.
Have a great Spring and try to enjoy the Presidential race. It’s scary but historic.