Thursday, July 10, 2008


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 10, 2008

The state Democratic Party is crowing over new statewide voter registration figures. According to numbers the party received from the Secretary of State’s Office, the party has attracted more than 28,000 new voters since the first of the year — more than twice the number of newly registered Republicans.

Democratic Party spokeswoman Conchita Cruz partly credits the large number of new registrations to the large number of groups actively registering voters — the party itself, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the Public Interest Research Groups, the Obama campaign and various state and local campaigns.

Dems have gained in the already heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District. There have been 9,561 new Democratic registrations in the district this year, compared with 3,729 new Republican registrations.

Here in Santa Fe County, there have been 3,177 new Democratic registrations since Jan. 1. That compares with 873 new Republican registrations. But the biggest surprise is that the second biggest surge in registrations was my “party,” the Declined-to-States. So far this year, 1,035 new voter registrations in Santa Fe County were filled out with the DTS box checked.

According to the latest figures available on the Secretary of State’s Web site, DTS made up 16 percent of the electorate as of May 23, just behind the GOP, which has 18 percent. Democrats make up 63 percent of the registered voters in the county.

Of course, it’s not the DTS’s the Democrats have to worry about. It’s the DTVs (Declined to Vote). Unless the party can get these new voters to the polls, the big registration numbers will turn out to be one of those weird little factoids the pundits will scratch their heads over in November.

Remember when Bill Richardson used to be the only New Mexico politician to get national publicity? There were not one, but two reporters from New York publications in Santa Fe last week working on stories about the fact that two Udalls from neighboring states — Tom from New Mexico and cousin Mark from Colorado — are running for U.S. Senate.
Both Nicholas Johnston of and Carl Hulse of The New York Times attended the opening of the new Santa Fe County Democratic headquarters, an event Tom Udall also attended.

Johnston’s story, published Wednesday, talks about the Udalls in terms of a “new political dynasty” — to use a term the Udalls like to discourage.

“The younger Udalls, both U.S. congressmen, are among the Democrats’ best hopes of expanding their 51-49 Senate majority,” Johnston writes. “They are also examples of the party’s push to rebuild in Western states, which have favored Republicans in recent decades.”

Hulse’s piece concentrates on the fact — also touched upon in the Bloomberg story — that both of the Udalls’ opponents, including Republican Steve Pearce of New Mexico, are trying to use the Udalls’ history of environmentalism against them.

“With gas prices at levels where filling the family pickup truck can cost more than $100, their Republican opponents are trying to turn the Udall trademark into a black mark,” Hulse writes. “They contend that the Udalls’ resistance to new drilling and to wringing oil out of Rocky Mountain shale has contributed to the energy cost squeeze.”

He quotes Española Mayor Joe Maestas, a Democrat, saying that he fears “voters were becoming less concerned about the environment and more fixated on their fuel costs.”

Both stories mention the unofficial family-joke slogan the Udalls first used in 1998, when the cousins won their congressional seats: “Vote for the Udall Nearest You.”

More national stories: Ben Ray Luján, Democratic candidate for Tom Udall’s congressional seat, also got some national ink — or bytes, or whatever the appropriate metaphor is for Internet publications. Politico, a Washington-based online publication for political junkies, on Wednesday featured a column by Gebe Martinez saying that Luján could be helpful to Barack Obama in the state.

“So strong is the Luján name in New Mexico — the congressional candidate is the son of New Mexico House Speaker Ben Luján — that Obama should benefit from the candidate’s campaign organization and his father’s political machine,” Martinez writes.

“His father backed (Hillary) Clinton in the primary,” Martinez notes. The elder Luján said the lingering divide between the Obama and Clinton camps makes his son’s congressional campaign organization “crucial” for the Obama campaign.

She quotes Speaker Luján saying, “Ben Ray will bring to the voting booths a lot of Hispanics who supported Hillary. “He can say, ‘Why don’t you get to the polls for me and also vote for Obama in order for me to be effective for you.’ ”

And speaking of Hispanic voters, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on Tuesday ran a feature about how New Mexico Hispanics feel about the issue of the Iraq war. The story by reporter Jennifer Ludden features interviews with Antonio Gandara Martinez, a University of New Mexico student who supports Obama, and Dan Garza, leader of New Mexico’s Republican National Hispanic Assembly, who backs GOP candidate John McCain.

The story also quotes UNM political science professor Christine Sierra, who says she understands why a majority of Latinos have turned against the war.

“When you add class, rural areas, race and ethnicity to who serves in the wars, folks from certain groups are paying disproportionately in terms of their lives or sacrifices,” Sierra says.

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