Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Small-business owner and former teacher Jessica Velasquez is taking over as chairwoman of the state Democratic Party as New Mexico enters an election cycle that will determine whether Democrats maintain control of every statewide office.
Velasquez, 44, won 83% of the vote in a five-candidate field Saturday to secure a two-year term.
Her election came in a virtual meeting of the party’s State Central Committee, a group that includes Democratic Party leaders and volunteers.
In an interview Tuesday, Velasquez said she will push to recruit strong candidates, build up the county-level Democratic Party organizations and launch registration drives to attract new voters. She said she will promote campaigns focused on the issues.
“We’ll be fielding fierce Democrats in every race in every corner of New Mexico,” Velasquez said.
An immediate priority is the June 1 election to fill the vacancy in the 1st Congressional District, covering Albuquerque and much of central New Mexico. Democrat Deb Haaland stepped down earlier this year to lead the U.S. Interior Department under President Joe Biden.
Early voting at county clerks’ offices begins next week.
“Nothing like baptism by fire,” Velasquez said of the upcoming election.
The candidates include Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury; Republican state Sen. Mark Moores; former State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, an independent; and war veteran Chris Manning, a Libertarian.
Velasquez, a former teacher who now owns an electroplating business, is no stranger to campaigns herself. She ran twice for the state House in a Republican-leaning district covering part of the East Mountains.
As party chairwoman, she will now be supporting a host of Democrats who, in 2018, swept every statewide office in New Mexico.
The open 2022 races with no incumbent will include campaigns for state attorney general and treasurer. Also on the ballot will be New Mexico’s three congressional seats and every state House district.
“I think we’re in a great position to have another historic election year in 2022,” Velasquez said.
Heading the state Republican Party is former Congressman Steve Pearce, who won reelection last year and has led the GOP since late 2018.
Velasquez succeeds Marg Elliston as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Elliston, a retired state employee from Corrales, had served since 2018 before announcing plans to step down this year.
Also elected to statewide positions in the Democratic Party were Manny Crespin as vice chairman, Pamelya Herndon as secretary and Rayellen Smith as treasurer.