Monday, December 21, 2020

Wild Chase For ABQ Congressional Seat Gets New Wrinkles: Lawmaker Proposes To Bypass Party Insiders And Give Voters The Say In Election, Plus: First Big Surprise: Maggie Is Out  

Rep. Ely 
Intense competition is underway among a pack of ambitious politicos in the embryonic race for the soon-to-be vacant ABQ congressional seat but the rules they will play by are not set in stone. 

The current process of picking the nominees--akin to modern smoke-filled rooms--is under attack and there could be a major change in the way the special election to fill the shoes of Dem Rep. Deb Haaland is conducted.

ABQ area Dem State Rep. Daymon Ely confirms to NM Politics with Joe Monahan that he will introduce a bill next month at the legislative session that would take the decision of who will be on the ballot away from a small group of Democratic and Republican Party State Central Committee members.

Says Ely, an attorney starting his third term:

I really like all the candidates mentioned so far but we should have an inclusive, democratic process.

Haaland was tapped last week by President-elect Biden for Secretary of Interior. She will resign her seat when and if she is given Senate confirmation. 

The procedures to replace her are foreign to most voters but Mr. and Mrs. Albuquerque understand that the election door is largely closed on them. They have no say on the nominees, only that they will vote on them at a special election. 

Rep. Ely's legislation would strip the central committees of their nominating roles. There would be a single election--no primaries--where qualified candidates of all parties would be placed on the ballot. 

It's called a "jungle" election because it includes the Dem, R and Libertarian candidates. 

California uses the jungle method for their primary elections. All candidates are on the ballot and the two top vote-getters face off in the general election--regardless of party affiliation.

Ely is proposing a variation, awarding the ABQ congressional seat (and future vacancies) in one election using ranked choice voting. That's the system where voters rank their favorite candidates and currently used in Santa Fe city elections. Here's the explainer from Ballotpedia:

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

The election heavy in the Senate is ABQ's Daniel Ivey-Soto. And it could take heavy lifting to get the Ely bill passed as it makes new and dramatic changes.

Haaland is now not expected to vacate her seat until March or later because the Dems have a slim majority in the US House and they need her vote in the early months. Here's an explainer

This means the election to fill Haaland's seat would occur at the earliest in mid-May and more likely June or later. Once a vacancy is declared the election would be held 77 to 91 days later.


Toulouse Oliver
The first big surprise in filling the Haaland seat is the no go from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Toulouse Oliver, 44, who last year sought the Dem Senate nomination against Ben Ray Lujan before withdrawing, is nothing if not ambitious so her decision raised eyebrows. In a Facebook posting Sunday she said:

. . . We have the responsibility for choosing a new U.S. Representative when Deb Haaland takes on her next historic role. I look forward to a robust campaign, but I will not be a candidate. I value my work as your secretary of state too much to consider heading to D.C. at this time. Thanks for your support over the years. And please remember to vote in the CD1 special election, if you are eligible. . . 

MTO is eligible to stay on as SOS through 2026. Her departure from the race leaves Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, 63, who is expected to make an official announcement today, State Rep. Melanie Stansbury, 41, and trial attorney Randi McGinn, 64, as the three major female contenders.


Rep. Haaland appeared Saturday with Biden and other members of his environmental team and made remarks broadcast nationally. Her comments begin at 33:00. . . GOP Alligators say Peggy Aragon, ABQ westside school board member, is weighing a run for the Haaland congressional seat. . . 

Radio talker Eddy Aragon says he will seek the GOP nomination for the seat. He came in second to Steve Pearce in the recent race for GOP party chairman. . . GOP Alligators report that attorney Jared Vander Dussen, 27, who sought the 2020 GOP US House nomination, is looking at running in the special and that R Mark Ronchetti will not run.

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