Democrats hold pre-primary convention in Roswell

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ROSWELL, N.M. — The city known for aliens and UFOs, experienced some of the first stirrings of the 2022 political season Saturday, as Democrats across the state came to Roswell for their pre-primary convention.

Party officials estimate that about 500 people were in attendance for the convention in the Roswell Convention Center, with another 600 watching the proceedings online.

Campaigns had tables where stickers, buttons and t-shirts were dispersed, while thundering cheers could be heard as an array of speakers took to the stage to address the crowd.

The convention, which marks the informal opening of the election year, had a festive feel. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Raul Torres, the district attorney for Bernalillo County and a Democrat hoping to be the party’s nominee for state attorney general, danced before an audience of convention goers as a live mariachi band played in the background.

But the speakers at the convention also sought to motivate their party’s voters to turnout in the coming election.

“And I’m asking you something today. I want you to bring your badass selves to the 2022 midterms. We will not go backwards,” Lujan Grisham told the crowd while wearing a bomber jacket emblazoned with a Zia symbol on the back.

Four years ago, Democrats won all of New Mexico’s statewide elected offices. They also now hold four of the state’s five congressional seats and wide majorities in both New Mexico Legislative chambers.

However, rising inflation and a national environment that favors Republicans could sweep away some of those gains.

Many speakers fear that not just the party’s fortunes but American democracy itself hangs in the balance this coming election, as Republicans across the nation have enacted laws to restrict voting.

In her address to the convention, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Tolouse Oliver condemned the false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election promoted by former President Donald Trump as an assault on democracy that promotes violence against election officials.

She added the outcome of the 2022 elections could have far-reaching consequences.

“Make no mistake, democracy is on the ballot in 2022,” Toulouse Oliver said.

Lujan Grisham speech

When she addressed the convention, Lujan Grisham spent most of her time citing her record of accomplishments in office, including robust job growth and an ambitious legislative agenda that has become law with the help of the Democratic-led Legislature.

Among the accomplishments she cited: an increase in the minimum wage, paid sick leave; a surge in funding for public education, a series of economic development initiatives and more funding for her Opportunity Scholarship program, which she referred to as “free college.”

She also laid out some initiatives she is looking at such as bills related to healthcare and continuing to make headway in making New Mexico’s economy carbon free.

“More is coming, more is coming, but only if we stand up and fight for Democrats.

Delegates to the convention over the next several days, will vote either online or by phone on whether to approve the party’s new updated platform, and which candidates will appear on the June primary ballot.

Convention rules

Candidates must win 20% of delegates to advance to the primary ballot. However, those who fall short of that amount can still qualify for the ballot if they get additional petition signatures.

Results of the Democratic Pre-primary convention will be released March 13.

Primary races

Two Democrats, Dashal Patel, a doctor from Hobbs, and Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez are each vying to be the party’s nominee to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

In the race for state attorney general, current state auditor Brian Colon and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres are both seeking their party’s nomination.

In his speech to the convention, Colon emphasized his biography, including the death of his father when he was a teenager, his experience as an attorney and his work as auditor.

Torres, in turn talked about his time as a prosecutor where he often comforted victims of crime.

The eventual nominee will face Republican Jeremy Gay in November.

The offices of state auditor and treasurer also have more than one Democrat running.

Heather Benavidez and Laura Montoya are both seeking the party’s nomination for treasurer, while Joseph Maestas and Zack Quintero are hoping to be the Democratic candidate for state auditor.

Republican response

In a press release, Steve Pearce, chair of the Republican Party of New Mexico and his party’s nominee who went up against Lujan Grisham in 2018, derided the low in person attendance at the convention.,

“This Convention was a weak affair with low turnout and empty seats, showing the waning support of the Governor and the Democratic Party. This lovefest Convention is nothing more than a “Democrat Makeover”–underneath the self-congratulations is a real sense of fear and nervousness. These Democrats know they’re in trouble,” he said.

Republicans held their pre-primary convention in Ruidoso Feb 26.