There are two major underlying narratives in this election cycle—and every election cycle from now on. The first is about money. And holy smokes, there is a ton of cash changing hands this year. Even little legislative races in the state are racking up $100,000 tabs. Not to mention the national races. This is by far the most expensive election season to date. Millions and millions of dollars are chasing your vote.
Something Eric J. Orona penned in a letter to the editor a couple of weeks ago caught my eye. The gist of it was this: While all that green is flying around over our heads, our problems remain unsolved due to a lack of funding.
Schools don’t have the books they need. Veterans and people with mental illness are starving on the streets. We’re cutting programs for the disabled. We live paycheck-to-paycheck—if we’re lucky enough to have a paycheck. Meanwhile, politicians take to the very expensive airwaves to tell us the country is broke.
Something’s messed up about that.
Our two-party political system is a drag.
The second thread here is that our two-party political system is a drag. It creates a divided country and decreases participation in the electoral process. It’s like we’re engaged in some national football game between Team Jerks and Team Other Jerks. We wear the colors, support a mascot, slap on bumper stickers and rally for our guy (or, in rare instances, gal). But just imagine if there were more options. Maybe we could start to have a real conversation about the precarious situation we’re in. There’d be more positions than two on every issue.
It’s hard for third-party candidates to get on the ballot in New Mexico. Just ask Jon Barrie, who’s running for U.S. Senate against Heather Wilson, Rep. Martin Heinrich and write-in Bob Anderson. The Secretary of State’s Office did not make it easy for this guy to get in the race. Barrie, an Independent American Party candidate, collected 10,279 signatures—no mean feat. The SOS wanted to toss about 4,500 of them, preventing him from getting on the ballot. That’s more than 40 percent.
Barrie—a libertarian kind of guy—took it to court and won. Which is great. Except when you consider that while he was fighting to just get in the race, his opponents were campaigning around the clock and stockpiling more cash.
New Mexico puts up plenty of roadblocks to non-Dems and non-Republicans trying to get a foot in the door. Ballot Access News is a publication out of San Francisco that keeps its eye on this sort of thing. When I spoke with Editor Richard Winger two years ago, he said in most states, things were getting better for third-party and independent candidates. But New Mexico has consistently moved backward. That’s why the Alibi sat down with write-ins and third-party candidates this year—as well as major party contenders—while prepping our Election Guide.
Margaret Wright, Carolyn Carlson and I met with all of the candidates we’re endorsing and had a face-to-face talk about what matters to them. I really can’t stress how essential this part of our endorsement process is. A candidate may look good on paper or sound OK over the phone, but that in-person interview is telling and forms the bedrock of our reasoning. You really don’t even begin to know something about a person until you chat with them for a spell.
Regardless of which way you swing, we want to stress some non-candidate issues that will be on your ballot this year. First of all, the minimum wage hike. Let’s support this, Albuquerque. Let’s help low-income workers have a fighting chance in our struggling economy. It’s just the right thing to do.
Second, we have got to get the Public Defender’s Department out from under the thumb of the governor. This could even the playing field for people accused of crimes who can’t afford a private attorney. Vote in favor of Constitutional Amendment 5.
Finally, we really need qualifying standards for people who want to get on the Public Regulation Commission. The gig pays $90,000 a year, is enormously complicated and sometimes goes to dunderheads like Jerome Block Jr. Vote yes on Constitutional Amendment 2. (Parse our thinking on page 16.)
This is the most important thing I’m going to say: Even if you think I’m chief moron on Team Moron, please bother to vote. It’s your world.