Hear them roar; women changed state policy in a decade | Local News
For this year alone, Memorial Day is the eve of an election in New Mexico.
This is just a sign that it is not always politics as usual in the state.
What changed? Especially the emergence of women in high office.
Ten years ago, New Mexico had three members of Congress. Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján represented the central and northern districts respectively. Republican Steve Pearce was the congressman in southern New Mexico.
At the start of this year, women held all three seats. Part of the reason was that Heinrich and Luján had advanced to the United States Senate, a more comfortable place with their six-year terms.
Yet women began to dominate elections for New Mexico’s three seats in the United States House of Representatives.
In 2018, Democrat Deb Haaland fled a crowded field, men and women, to the Central District of New Mexico.
Haaland succeeded fellow Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who became the second woman in succession to become governor of New Mexico. The first was Republican Susana Martinez, who won two terms that began in 2011.
In the Northern Congressional District last year, Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez beat a large primary field, then clinched a general election victory.
And Republican Yvette Herrell ousted outgoing Democrat Xochitl Torres Small to take the Southern District. Their run was a rematch of the 2018 election, although the outcome was different.
Another shock followed shortly after the general election.
President Joe Biden chose Haaland as Home Department secretary, creating an opening outside the normal electoral cycle.
The special election to replace Haaland takes place on Tuesday. Democrat Melanie Stansbury will maintain an all-female House delegation if she defeats Republican Mark Moores.
Voting patterns make Stansbury the favorite. A Republican hasn’t won the New Mexico House headquarters since 2006.
Stansbury, 42, is a former U.S. Senate staff member who has seen a rapid rise as a candidate.
She upset a seven-term Republican president in 2018 to become a representative for the state of Albuquerque.
Stansbury this year has passed seven other candidates to win the Democratic nomination in Congress. His special election campaign against Moores was reduced to a few months, a way to quickly fill the seat.
Moores, 51, is a three-term Conservative state senator. But he’s also someone who has worked effectively across party lines. Assaulting rural Republicans, Moores teamed up with a Democratic senator to pass the bill banning coyote murder contests, which he called embarrassment for the state.
Moores is probably better known than Stansbury in the Albuquerque District, in part because he was once a starting offensive lineman for the University of New Mexico football team.
Congressional elections are the most obvious but not the only arena in which women candidates have excelled over the past decade.
This year, women held 37 of the 70 seats in the state House of Representatives, the first time they had held a majority.
Gains have been slower and less dramatic in the State Senate, where men hold 30 of 42 seats.
Overall, the quality of state legislation could be a little better. At least there wasn’t a bizarre deal, like when lawmakers in 2013 approved a corporate tax cut in the last minute of a session – a botched move made without any financial analysis.
State lawmakers still lack the discipline and bravery to set a few priorities and then limit the number of bills to accomplish them.
They always add too many items to the agenda and then leave important issues unfinished.
But the 2020 Legislature, with more women than ever, made a dramatic decision. He authorized a proposed constitutional amendment for the statewide ballot that would expand funding for early childhood education and other school programs.
The amendment had been proposed and rejected in each of the previous 10 years.
Voters have the final say on the initiative, which would spend an additional 1.25% of the $ 22 billion Permanent Land Grant Fund each year.
If voters approve the amendment and the Legislature intelligently implements the program, a long-impoverished and struggling state could see more high school graduates and fewer inmates.
Moores opposed putting the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Stansbury voted in favor.
Crime and punishment were regular topics in their abbreviated run to Congress. But the wisdom of the amendment has not received much attention.
Like the flamboyant footballer he once was, Moores predicted victory. If he delivers, it would be the biggest upheaval of the past decade in any New Mexico congressional election.
The race remains to be lost at Stansbury. If she won it, Stansbury would put the neighborhood in the hands of someone who could exclude Republicans, men and women, for at least another decade.
Ringside Seat is an opinion piece on people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at
[email protected] or 505-986-3080.