Fixing Our Government

Never get tired of these skies

Historians will argue about when our unusual democracy, dominated by only two parties, started to fall apart.  But it’s certain that the seemingly ever-increasing polarization within those parties began decades ago.  As insiders took control of their primary processes, moderate voices were muffled.  For the most part, as parties have become more extreme, voters with middle-of-the-road positions have been abandoned.

Reforming our democracy is the motivating force behind my candidacy.  It’s a hugely complex topic, but I’d like to think that most of us can agree on three general principles:

Taking Boundary Setting Away From Politicians

Mapmaking for political jurisdictions has been primarily controlled by legislators since the first one one was established.  It has been viewed a basic political right.  Computerization of voter and demographic data have refined this process and made it exquisitely precise.  Unfair maps are a main reason millions of Americans feel disenfranchised.  In most cases, they are.

Magic was the stallion in a wild horse band in NM.

Fortunately the problems generated by excessive gerrymandering are being addressed successfully across the nation.  Twenty one states use some form of nonpartisan or bipartisan redistricting commission to establish the maps for political jurisdictions. Efforts to do this are underway across the country including New Mexico.  I have been involved in several of them.

The 2020 Census is right around the corner.  The time is now to tackle this vital issue.  We need  a democracy in which the voters pick their elected officials rather than the other way around.

Open Primaries

In our current sorry state of affairs, the primary election is often the only opportunity for voters to weigh in as the winner of the primary is frequently unopposed in the general election.  Party primaries are increasingly dominated by insiders with extreme views.  Moderate voices within our parties have almost no influence.  

It’s even worse for those of us who choose not to affiliate ourselves with a party.  Our tax dollars pay for the parties to have their private elections.  And when the general election rolls around we regularly don’t even have a choice of candidates. (New Mexico has the highest percentage of unopposed state races in its general elections in the nation!)

Instead of a vibrant dialogue we have a keenly partisan process that limits participation and disenfranchises an ever-increasing percentage of the electorate.  There are many ways to remedy this inequity.  I favor the “top-two” mechanism that several states have adopted; but other proposals are worthy of consideration.

Ballot access

Over the past two centuries the Democratic and Republican Parties and their respective predecessors have used their power to unfairly exclude other parties, as well as independent and unaffiliated candidates.  New Mexico has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation according to Richard Winger the long-time publisher of Ballot Access News(I have quoted several excerpts from his 2014 Declaration  In Support Of Plaintiffs' Motion For Summary Judgment in the Parker v. Duran case in the US District Court for NM, below.)

As an unaligned (or nonpartisan) candidate, I will not be able to participate in the primary process.  Partisan candidates were able to begin their campaigns in October by circulating nominating petitions.  I won’t be able to begin that process until March when the petition for the general election will be published by the Secretary of State.  My signature requirements won’t be certain until then, but my estimate is that I will have to collect over 400 signatures.  I would only need 75 if I were a Democrat and only 35 if I were a Republican!  What’s right about that?

My supporters and I are punished for not being partisans.  I will work hard to even the playing field for  ALL voters and for ALL candidates if I am elected.

7. In the 37 years since New Mexico created independent candidate procedures, only fifteen legislative independent candidates have qualified for the ballot. There have been 1,638 legislative elections in New Mexico since 1977 (not counting special legislative elections), so fifteen independent candidates in 1,638 elections is an even sparser record of independent candidate activity

8. During the last four years, New Mexico voters have had fewer independent and minor party candidates for federal and state office on their general election ballots than the voters of any other state except for Nebraska.  It is not surprising that Nebraska has fewer such candidates because Nebraska has a non-partisan legislature, so there are never any minor party or independent candidates for the Nebraska legislature.  

The Inequity of The Boundary of District 50 and the Need to Redraw it

Scholars and good government activists agree that political boundaries should be set around communities of interest (a longstanding legal and demographic term used to define people who share the same values) to the extent possible — of course no communities are homogeneous.  Natural features such as wide rivers and mountain ranges should also be considered.

District 50 used to be an agricultural and farming constituency in the center of our state.  It encompassed a broad geographic area known as The Estancia Valley.  It was shamefully redrawn after the last census to make it a safe Democratic district.  This was accomplished by adding the suburban Santa Fe community of Eldorado to it and taking out a great deal of the Estancia Valley (including the city of Estancia itself!).  It now extends over a hundred miles in length and includes 4,300 voters in Valencia County, primarily in the city of Rio Communities.  Those voters define geographic disenfranchisement — they are separated from the rest of the District by the Manzano Mountains with no roads directly connecting them to the rest of the District. Those people live in the Rio Grande Corridor and are part of the Belen metropolitan area.

It is time to stand up and make sure that whoever is setting the boundaries of this jurisdiction in the upcoming redistricting process adheres to the community of interest and natural feature principles.

Some Thoughts on Getting Along

All of us are close to people with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  In my circle of friends and in my family, that’s pretty much the lay of the land.  It’s too bad our politics are so divisive and try to cubbyhole candidates into narrow points of view.  The pledge-signing, my-way-or-the-highway approach to leadership creates a winner-take-all environment that leaves anyone who has doesn’t fully agree with a bad taste in their mouth.  I don’t see people with whom I disagree as disloyal and I think it is bullying to try to force folks to adopt my positions.  

Justice Ginsberg was right when she said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”  Her deep friendship with Justice Scalia exemplified that statement. So did Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy’s multi-decade bond.  Ditto Ronald Reagan’s friendship with Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill.  Why has that kind of affection among politicians who have starkly different values all but disappeared today?

When I’m weighing someone’s ability to be counted on to lend a hand, I look for their integrity and their reliability.  I don’t care about their politics. I don’t expect voters to ignore my positions, but I urge them to look at the person behind them.  The easiest thing in the world is to sign-off on a party platform.  I’ve never liked doing things the easy way.

Just to Get These Out of the Way

Taxes

I am a true fiscal conservative who worries that governments are often imprudent with their spending.  I am sickened by the debt levels of our Federal government.  I also value good government and believe in properly supporting the provision of government services.  I will not sign any pledges with respect to taxes and will consider fiscal issues on a case-by-case basis keeping in mind the limited resources of our state and the limited capacities of its taxpayers.

Healthcare

I’m pleased that there is increasing recognition that we all share the cost of each other’s care at a fundamental level and that we all benefit when we are as healthy as possible.  I have the extraordinary good fortune to have recovered from a grave medical condition.  I don’t think people’s health status should affect their access to care.

Environment

I believe global warming is real and that it is mostly caused by human activity.  I am heartened by the amazing progress we are making in ensuring that our air and our water are less and less polluted.  Taking care of our planet and enhancing the economic prospects of our communities, our states and our nation are fully compatible.

Guns

I own and use both long and short guns.  I am deeply saddened by the unbelievable suffering mass shootings inflict on families and communities.  I am not going to sponsor any legislation with respect to firearms.  Nor am I going to sign any pledges about them.  If I am asked to vote on legislation on guns, I will listen to the positions of both opponents and supporters and act in what I believe to be the best interests of my constituents.

Religion

I have a spiritual life that helps me in many ways.  I am not a member of any religious faith or denomination.  I don’t take peoples’ religious beliefs (or lack of them) into account when I interact with them.  I have a deep conviction about the value of ensuring that our governments do not intrude into matters of faith.

Abortion

I understand why some people believe that life begins at conception while others believe it begins at birth.  I don’t think governments should be involved with these deeply personal and private family matters.

Privacy
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