Thursday, September 09, 2010

Running Scared: Even Veteran Roundhouse Dems Watch Their Backs, Plus: The Berry Beat; His Poll Results, And: Yet More Spanish Identity Debate 

Rep. Stewart
No Democratic incumbent with opposition can rest easy in a year when the voters have their pitchforks sharpened. That even applies to seemingly entrenched Democratic State House Dems Mimi Stewart and Al Park. They are odds-on favorites to get their Santa Fe passports stamped November 2, but they can't take it for granted.

Stewart, 63, and in the Legislature since '95, sent out this revealing email pitch to her supporters this week

I'm weary of the gloom-and-doom predictions and much prefer to work smartly and with conviction to turn out our supporters....

I have a Republican general election opponent and represent a swing district. I am running against a Tea Party supporter and young evangelical leader at Calvary Chapel. No one can underestimate Republican challengers this year...

Stewart's foe is 33 year old Marie Antoinette Baca who is an unknown and who has not raised any money. The ABQ mid-Heights district has 47% Dems, 30% Republicans and 19% independents. It is somewhat of a swing district, as Stewart asserts, but she has not had a close election there since the 90's. The incumbent only had about $3,000 in the bank in July. She has been raising more. Campaign reports will be made public Monday.

A defeat of Stewart, a longtime school teacher and leading liberal light, would be a fluke, but when you see pitchforks all about you it's not a bad idea to run scared.

Rep. Park
As for Al Park, the 40 year old chairman of House Judiciary, he may be making his last run for the Roundhouse. That's not necessarily because he will be defeated by civil engineer Larry Kennedy, 49, but because he is eyeing a run in 2012 for the NM Public Regulation Commission.

Park won the swing ABQ NE and SE Heights seat in 2000. He once played with running for attorney general. While doing so he raised major bucks. He has a campaign kitty bursting with $279,000 in cash. With that kind of dough, he should be able to fend off newcomer Kennedy. But polling in the district shows the Republican, who has been walking door-to-door, is doing quite well. The district is 50% Dem and 26% R, but has 20% independents. The area used to swing back and forth before Park gained a firm grip.

Al tells us he will not be outspent and recognizes this is a volatile political climate. However, he says his early August polling showed him to be in good shape. The lawmaker is not taking any chances, however. We spoke to him late Wednesday as he just completed another round of door-knocking in the district.

While the Stewart and Park contests are by no means at the top of the list of seats that are likely to flip, they may be telling us something about the anti-incumbent mood in our state. It seems to be selective, impacting the Governor's race and the Legislature--the politicians who deal with the state budget--while not impacting much the statewide offices like Attorney General or Treasurer or the congressional races.


We gave you the top four legislative races to watch recently, but also keep an eye on the Rio Rancho contest featuring Republican Tim Lewis vs. Dem incumbent Jack Thomas.

Dems think they have a good candidate in Stephanie Richard who is seeking to oust longtime GOP incumbent Jeannette Wallace in Los Alamos, but top R's say polling shows the 76 year old Wallace is performing well.


Southern Dem Congressman Harry Teague follows up his opening ad which showcased him as an affable good ol' boy with an attack ad on Republican challenger Steve Pearce. Teague accuses Pearce of opposing increases in healthcare for veterans and a $1500 pay bonus for troops when Pearce held the seat Teague took over in 2009. The ad then faults Pearce for taking $46,000 in congressional pay raises.

The southern district is home to a large veterans' population. Teague has been currying their favor from his position on the House Veterans' Committee. Pearce is a Vietnam War veteran who flew cargo missions into the combat zone.

Pearce has yet to buy TV time. He told KOB-TV he plans to go up in a week or two, but Dem political operatives were saying late Wednesday that Pearce appeared to be working to move up that timetable. Harry's hit piece may make Steve move even faster.


It's not surprising that ABQ Mayor RJ Berry scores a 63% approval rating in the late August ABQ Journal poll. That's because not much of anything has happened since he became mayor December 1. His first budget trimmed city worker salaries a couple of percent, he announced that persons jailed in ABQ would have their immigration status checked (a policy that was already essentially in effect) and he has toyed with--but not bought into--the idea of building a $400 million events center in Downtown ABQ.

Berry is the first Republican mayor in the city in a quarter century. He sports an affable personality and fits the times. It has been an intensive period of on the job training for Berry, a former state legislator who came to the 11th floor with little executive experience. But when there is no money coming in, you don't need a lot of vision, you need management and Berry is seen as an effective caretaker.

His relationship with the city council has had some bumps but has not yet deteriorated to the point of uncivility as it has with past mayors. There are concerns about the number of police involved shootings this year, but it remains to be seen whether this is an anomaly or a trend. Berry's public safety director, Darren White, is well known in political circles for being a lightning rod, but so far he has not started any fires that have gotten out of control.

Berry's Hispanic support is a less lofty 57%. The big show he made on immigration policy was unnecessary, but if enforcement of the rule remains the same as it did under Mayor Chavez, he should not have it blow up on him. Democrats--Hispanic and otherwise--have not had to go to the mat with Berry because we are in a period where there is no agenda.

Potential potholes for Berry include losing support on the city council where he seems to have a five to four majority on the big issues and approving that potential boondoggle of an events center. Berry's modest budget cutting is seen as necessary after the spending build up in the long bull market, but he could face more severe challenges if city revenues don't rebound. If the recession drags on Berry will also come under pressure to do a better job of attracting jobs to the city. We have had nothing significant come in here for a couple of years.

After the boisterous Mayor Chavez, laid-back Berry is the beneficiary of reduced expectations. He has met those and then some.


There are rumblings that the Berry administration in future months may look at proposals to privatize certain city services, something Republicans are fond of but the city unions are sure to look at sceptically.

One department that might be ripe for privatization, however, is the city economic development department. Its job is to attract private industry to the city. Why not start any privatization experiment there? It would seem a natural fit.


She drew 400 at a GOP rally in Taos a couple of weeks ago and now the Las Vegas Optic reports GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez attracted 500 to a Sunday rally in Vegas.

Dems have to separate the ethnicity from the ideas. Do they have time? Do they know how?


We're back with more of our Great Reader Debate on Spanish identity. That's because we found an email we discarded from University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Laura Gomez, who also published a book on the subject at hand. Here she is:

Dear Joe, Thanks to you for running so many letters from your readers on identity issues for New Mexico Hispanics. And thanks to National Hispanic Cultural Center executive director head Estevan Rael-Galvez for having the courage to raise these issues. As he noted, this is a continuing conversation, not something we will resolve definitively.

In my 2007 book
Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican America Race, I take on this topic, looking at New Mexico history from 1846 (when the U.S. invaded) to 1912 (when New Mexico was admitted to statehood, after several failed attempts). I sympathize with Rael-Galvez whose Albi interview and subsequent letter-to-the-editor hints at the nuances of this issue and the difficulty of addressing it in our sound-byte culture. Even in a 240-page book, I was not able to fully explore the complexity of the origins of the Spanish myth--as a response to intense anti-Mexican racism during the first decades of the U.S. period--and its continuing hold on the popular imagination.

I have given more than 50 public talks and lectures on Manifest Destines... While my audiences of perhaps thousands of New Mexicans are in no sense a random sample of the population, I have been surprised that I have not, overall, generated more heat from people who are hostile to my claims. In contrast, I have frequently encountered New Mexicans (of all backgrounds) who are receptive to the complexity of the historical context and who often point out how these very dynamics played out in their own families (whether biological or via marriage).

These many one-on-one conversations over the past three years have convinced me that we often seem to have two different conversations going on about our ethno-racial roots in New Mexico, one public and one private. In private, we tend to have a much more nuanced conversations about the many strands of our rich heritage prior to becoming part of the U.S. (Spanish to be sure, but also Pueblo Indian, Navajo, Apache, Comanche, and Mexican--to name just the major influences). And yet for a variety of interesting reasons, our public conversations are often reduced to "the tri-cultural myth" reductionist view that we were separate communities of "Spaniards, Anglos, and [undifferentiated] Indians."

And so I applaud you--and Estevan Rael-Galvez--for helping bring this conversation into the public sphere.

Best wishes,
Laura E. Gómez, J.D., Ph.D.
President, Law & Society Association
Professor of Law & American Studies UNM School of Law

Thanks for that, Laura. You may not have encountered "more heat" for your views elsewhere, but some of the letters published here lately did give plenty of lumps to your school of thought.


Reader Michael Lamb of Chimayo sent us an except from the Gomez book:

"...In fact, the earliest Spanish expeditions were racially diverse, including the dark-skinned, likely African-origin Estevan, who spoke six indigenous languages and who had been a leader in the Spanish explorations of Florida, Texas and central Mexico before coming to New Mexico in 1539.

Estevan may have been a slave, but it seems unlikely given the autonomy he had on these various expeditions. Those of us in New Mexico who can trace our families back to the earliest period of Spanish settlements might well be his descendants, and, in a metaphorical sense, all New Mexicans are Estevan's children.

Yet we do not need to rely on tenuous connections to Estevan to know that the Spanish-Mexican settlers of New Mexico were a racially mixed group. Most of them did not come from Spain at all, but from central and southern Mexico. In 1650, Mexico had as many Spaniards as African slaves (about 200,000 in each category), and a whopping 10 times as many Indians and Indian-Spanish mestizos as either Spaniards or Africans. There was no concept of "miscegenation" or illegal marriage and sexual mating across racial lines as there was in the colonial United States with respect to African Americans, so the result in Mexico was a thoroughly mixed population.

Moreover, if your ancestors include the early "Spanish" settlers to New Mexico, it is likely that your family was even more mixed than those who stayed behind in central Mexico. You see, racially mixed persons could improve their fortunes by taking risks like moving to the dangerous northern frontier, which New Mexico was at this time.

Coronado's 1540 expedition to New Mexico included twice as many Indians and mestizos as Spaniards. In 1598, Oñate's settlement party of 130 people included only 13 married couples, so that the remaining single men turned largely to native indigenous and mixed women to make families.

By the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, New Mexico's so-called Hispanic population was overwhelmingly of mixed racial ancestry. Yet virtually all such mixed persons who identified as Spanish were expelled from New Mexico for 12 years by the revolt's leaders. Very few of those original settlers chose to return in 1692. Instead, the organizers of re-settlement were forced to go deep into Mexico to recruit mostly single men and single women for what was seen as a risky endeavor.

The settlers of Santa Cruz de la Cañada in 1694 were listed as "españoles-mexicanos" in the official records - 90 percent of them were born in Mexico, and they came from 15 regions in Mexico as well as from the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe.

So where in the world did these racially mixed persons get the idea that they were "Spaniards" or the heirs to the Spanish conquest? I argue that claims to Spanish identity arose in New Mexico in the 1880s in direct response to the intense anti-Mexican racism experienced by native sons and daughters in the first decades of American rule."

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