Last week I had to ask my 10-year-old grandson what a meme was. He explained it’s a humorous video or image on social media. The reason I asked was I saw an image on social media that said, “Would JFK be a Democrat today?” It got me thinking, would he? I have always looked at myself as a JFK Democrat: pro-business with openness towards social issues and fairness for all New Mexicans. JFK once said, “if by a Democrat they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate … then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Democrat.” I would have to agree – that’s the kind of Democrat I am.
As a father, teacher, businessman, legislator and later as governor of New Mexico, I lived my life this way. I ran an open government and made sure my office and party represented all New Mexicans. I am most proud to have opened doors for the first time to minorities that had never had a voice in state government. I appointed Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and women to all aspects of government, making sure everyone had a voice at the table. This benefited all of New Mexico.
Sadly, I have watched a wave of new philosophy from both parties pushing an agenda that’s only best for the parties, but not the people of New Mexico. The new politicians no longer think long term or for the overall greater good of our state, but “what’s in it for me?” It has saddened me watching moderate Democrats and Republicans – specifically within the Hispanic community – being pushed out of parties with no real voice.
These past years I have sat on the sidelines very quietly enjoying my life with my family and friends, observing from a distance. I know the new politicians of the 21st century don’t need my advice. But friends recently suggested I sit down with both gubernatorial candidates to discuss the concerns I outlined above. I agreed to but didn’t expect anyone to call.
I never heard from Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. I did receive a call from Congressman Steve Pearce. I was surprised how open he was and how we agreed on about 80 percent of the issues that plague New Mexico. I found him to be straightforward and an honest man. In fact, he reminded me of the moderate Democrats and Republicans of the past I worked with for the betterment of New Mexico. Leaders like Harold Runnels, D.; Joe Skeen, R.; Pete Domenici, R.; Manual Lujan, R.; Bruce King, D.; Bill Sego, R.; Bob McBride, D.; and Ted Montoya, D. We all worked together for the good of our state. From my perspective, the current leaders of the Democratic Party have forgotten this history and heritage of our great state. They have forgotten about the JFK Democrats and Hispanic communities around the state. Congressman Pearce is the only candidate willing to reach out across party lines and work with Democrats, Republicans and independents. That willingness to collaborate across party lines is exactly what New Mexico needs and it’s why I am endorsing Steve Pearce for governor.
If the Democratic Party is going to continue to grow and be strong for generations to come, it must include all New Mexicans. Sadly, its current leadership has forgotten that. That’s why I am asking my fellow JFK Democrats of New Mexico and all those who believe in bipartisanship for the betterment of our Hispanic community, the betterment of New Mexico and the betterment of the Democratic party – to rise and vote this election for candidates who will actually hear our voice, not the party that has pushed us away.
Jerry Apodaca served as New Mexico’s governor from 1975 to 1979. His son, Jeff Apodaca ran for the Democratic nomination for governor this year but lost to Lujan Grisham.