Though his name has not danced across your post-dinner TV screens—and there is good reason for that— Damian Lara is making a strong claim for the nomination. Having refused any and all “big money” campaign, Mr. Lara is running on the strength of three things: the viability and vision of his progressive policies, the considerable weight of his legislative experience, and his immense connection to the communities of New Mexico.
In all of the positions he has taken on so far, from Congressional staffer to President of the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association and accomplished attorney specializing in immigration policy, Mr. Lara has proven himself to be capable and efficient. His accomplishments and experience suggest he would be a similarly efficient, loyal and dedicated representative for the state of New Mexico and its constituents.
Mr. Lara graciously stopped by Weekly Alibi today in time to make a persuasive final pitch before ballots are signed and sealed:
Weekly Alibi: It’s the day before the election, and time for one last push as voters weigh their options and make their choices. How is your voice and position distinct from the other candidates in this primary race?
Lara: There’s three things that set me apart from all the other candidates.
One, I actually have the real-world, practical Congressional experience in advocating for and pushing for policies, and I’m the only candidate who has the national awards to prove how effective I was as a Congressional staffer.
Two, I’m the only candidate who has actually read and drafted legislation that is actually codified. I can read a thousand-page bill and not only tell you what’s in it, but also how it’s going to affect different constituencies and convince people to make sure we do that in the right way.
And three, I’ve lived the struggles that many New Mexicans continue to live today, and because of that I’ve taken no big money. You can see where every single cent of my campaign has been funded from. No dark money, no PAC money, no big money whatsoever.
How meaningful is the role of “big money” in this race and other elections, and how have countered or replaced that role with your own campaign?
I’m going to practice what we preach. [All of the candidates have said] that we wanted to get big money out of government and have transparency and end Citizens United, but I am the only one actually refusing big money. It’s no secret I have poured my wife and I’s entire life savings, fifteen years of sacrificing and scraping and saving, into this campaign. I would have liked to have paid off my $50,000 worth of student loans instead, but I am trusting that the 2-minute conversations that I have had with the people on a 1:1 personal basis will mean more to them than a 30-second ad that they see run seven times on primetime that is being paid with $3 million worth of big, out-of-state PAC money.
I’ve stepped up to the plate, and I believe that the people will as well. We can restore this democracy—we have to—with our individual vote, and at the end of the day a vote is worth more than the big money being poured into this election. I am betting that big corporate interests and PAC money will not be able to buy this election. I am gambling on it, but I believe that the people will be able to do it.
You have an extensive and impressive background working with immigration policy. How does that experience inform your position and vision on the issue, and what you could accomplish if elected?
Immigration is the biggest human rights issue of our time. Just this morning, news came out concerning the strife within the Republican party about what to do about immigration. Having lived the issues and having been the closest to the problem, I’ve got the real-world practical solutions and the best policy solutions to do that.
I would focus on making sure we have family unity, but also that we have sensible immigration policies that protect our economy. Two-thirds of Americans realize that DACA recipients and the DREAMers deserve a path to citizenship so that they can be contributing, valuable members of our society.
But at the same time, I want to make sure that we stem the flow of illegal immigration into this country. Not because of any worry about or fear of the people coming across the borders—quite to the contrary—but because I know firsthand what happens to unaccompanied juveniles that ride “La Bestia” from the southern tip of this continent across to get here. I know what happens to young immigrants at the hands of coyotes. I know what happens to immigrants trying to cross the desert.
If we provide a safe, legal manner as an alternative, then we take the decision of who enters this country out of the hands of the drug cartels and put it back into the hands of the federal government. We can have compassion and sensible policies that actually work for hardworking people here, and then we make sure that we increase the number of visas for families so that they are not waiting 25 or 30 years to be reunited with their loved ones. And we do this all with sensibility and compassion, and we can do it again.
Is there a final message you’d like to leave voters with before tomorrow’s election?
Absolutely. Your vote is your voice, and from the beginning I have been asking people to lend me their voice so that I can speak for them and speak truth to power in Washington DC. The way that we get there matters, and we have not accepted any PAC money, corporate or otherwise, because those come with strings attached. We are the only candidate left who has the progressive values of a grassroots campaign that is people-powered. And more than that, I know exactly what’s going on with our issues, down from immigration being the biggest human rights issue of our time to having the experience and being closest to the problems, so I have the best policy solutions. And that’s why our campaign matters, because it’s giving a voice to the people.