Democratic candidates vie for votes at convention in Roswell - Albuquerque Journal

Democratic candidates vie for votes at convention in Roswell

State Auditor Brian Colón, left, and 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez are the Democratic candidates for attorney general.

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SANTA FE – With a pep rally-like atmosphere, the Democratic Party of New Mexico on Saturday introduced its slate of candidate for the June primary election – an unofficial launch of the campaign season for contested nominations to serve as attorney general and other offices.

The convention provided a chance for State Auditor Brian Colón and 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez – the Democratic candidates for attorney general – to deliver in-person speeches to hundreds of Democratic activists and leaders gathered in Roswell or watching online.

The top-of-the-ticket nominations at stake also include races in the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District and for state auditor and treasurer.

Colón drew on his experience growing up in poverty and losing his dad at a young age as he described himself as a candidate who would bring a broad set of skills to the Attorney General’s Office. He is a former state Democratic Party chairman and attorney in Albuquerque.

“Being AG,” he said, “requires somebody with experience – a breadth of experience. I understand firsthand that to protect our families on crime, we can’t just talk about a revolving door or point fingers.”

He mentioned investments in behavioral health as key to improving public safety.

Torrez, a former federal prosecutor who now leads the District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County, pitched himself as a “lawyer for the people” who has held the hand of a mother as a verdict is read and supported children confronting an abuser in court.

He mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and highlighted his litigation against a heavily armed militia in New Mexico.

“This is a serious time,” Torrez said, “and we need serious people for the battles that lie ahead.”

In contrast to the Republican Party’s convention last week, the Democratic delegates will cast their ballots entirely online or through telephone voting. The voting period runs from Saturday and through Wednesday, with results to be released March 13.

The candidate with the most votes in each race will be listed first on the ballot. Candidates who don’t get at least 20% can’t appear on the ballot unless they collect extra petition signatures.

Republicans voted and announced the results on the same day last week, albeit after an unexpected delay.

The winner of the Democratic nomination for attorney general will take on Republican Jeremy Gay, a Gallup lawyer and former judge advocate in the Marine Corps.

Incumbent Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, has served two terms and cannot run for reelection this year.

In another high-profile race, Democrats Darshan Patel and Gabe Vasquez sought support Saturday for the nomination to take on Republican Yvette Herrell in the 2nd Congressional District.

Patel, a physician who works in Lea County, said he would bring experience in health care policy and union advocacy to Congress.

“I’ve shown up for New Mexicans every day in our fight against COVID-19,” he said.

Vasquez, a Las Cruces city councilor, said he has a track record in public service demonstrating his strength as a candidate to win the seat, which has flipped between Republicans and Democrats in the last three election cycles.

“We know taking New Mexico’s second district back will not be easy,” he said. “The future of our state and the future of our country are always worth fighting for.”

Patel and Vasquez are competing in a district that was substantially redrawn based on 2020 census data. It’s now much more friendly to Democrats.

The district ranges from Albuquerque’s West Side down into its traditional core in southern New Mexico.

Four years ago, Democrats swept every statewide office on the ballot, riding a blue wave at the midterm election of Republican Donald Trump’s presidency.

But they face a different political environment now, with Democrat Joe Biden in the White House. The president’s party often loses ground at the midterm election.

Responding to questions from reporters, Democratic Party Chairwoman Jessica Velasquez said Democrats have a strong slate of candidates this year and will take nothing for granted.

“We know that it’s going to take work,” she said of the general election campaigns.

In a written statement, Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said Democrats “know they’re in trouble. From Washington to the Roundhouse, progressive Democrats have inflicted pain on New Mexicans and destroyed our great state.”

Saturday’s convention featured plenty of music to introduce candidates, some dancing and periodic shouts of encouragement as the hopefuls introduced themselves.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, unopposed for the Democratic nomination, wore a bomber jacket with the word “warrior” on the sleeve and the state flag on the back as she urged Democrats to be their “badass selves” and show up in the midterm election this fall.

The primary election is June 7. Absentee balloting and in-person voting at county clerks’ offices begin May 10.

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