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Rural Dems are crossing party lines

By tom wright

Brian Egolf, Speaker of New Mexico’s House of Representatives, has reacted to the loss of the CD2 seat to Yvette Herrell by promising to redraw the district in favor of Party progressives. This totally ignores the choice of moderate Democrats who voted for the Republican candidate.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, but tend to be more conservative than their fellow progressive Democrats in Doña Ana, Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties.

Democrats have won the House seat twice in 40 years, but failed to get reelected in both instances. Progressive Democrats spent hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting five moderate Democrats in the State House and Senate, and did manage to defeat their long-time and most powerful Sen. John Arthur Smith in the primary. However, Democrats in his 35th district preferred and voted for the more conservative Republican candidate, Crystal Diamond, who defeated the progressive Neomi Martinez-Parra. Crystal Diamond will be the first Republican to hold that seat in 65 years.

Speaker Egolf and his fellow progressives have slapped the CD2 moderate Democrats in the face by unseating John Arthur Smith, who was a tight-fisted and regular check on state spending, and his moderate Democrat wing has reacted by staying with their more conservative principals and voted for Republicans.

Another part of Egolf’s thinking is many of the CD2 Democrat voters supported Mark Ronchetti in his race against Ben Ray Luján for the Senate. Looking at the spread in that district, Ronchetti carried a larger percentage of the Democrat vote than Biden.

In the larger national picture, Egolf realizes that to continue to draw the big donors from outside the state, he must redistrict to guarantee them a win. All of the Democrat’s federal candidates drew huge sums in direct campaign finance and support in PAC advertising from outside of New Mexico.

To Egolf, all of this is about power and furthering the progressive agenda, and not about representing the people of New Mexico, even those in his own party. There is now a clear difference between New Mexico’s southern rural Democrats and progressive Democrats. Those in the south have shown they are willing to break from party lines to vote for whom they feel is best for their district.

Throughout the state, Mark Ronchetti drew Democrat votes, even in the Democrat northern stronghold of the CD3. It may be a sign Democrats are waking up to the current differences in their party and are also willing to vote across party lines.

It is the all-or-nothing quest for political power that has separated our politics on both the state and national level. This past election set spending records in New Mexico and nationally. It showed us that members of the aristocracy class are willing to spend vast sums to win their progressive way in our mostly rural state. Their values do not represent our rural districts and this election showed us that rural Democrats are beginning to realize that fact.

Tom Wright is a political commentator and columnist writing for the nonprofit New Mexico Turn Around, www.NMturnaround.org.

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