If you’re waiting on a round of Optic-sponsored candidate forums this election cycle, to help you decide who to vote for in the local races, I’ve got bad news for you: We won’t be holding any.
The Democratic primary election on June 5 decided nearly all local races. Such is the reality of living where one party rules the day.
In San Miguel County, Melanie Rivera is walking in unopposed as County Clerk, Bertha Bustamante beat out four other Democrats for County Treasurer, and Gilbert Sena and Nicolas Leger defeated their only opponents in the primary election. None of them have Republican or independent challengers for the Nov. 6 election, so those races have been decided.
The same is true in Mora County, where Democrats Alfonso Joseph Griego, Joanne E. Padilla-Salas and Florence C. Romero essentially won their seats as commissioner, clerk and treasurer (respectively) last June.
There are, however, a couple of state House and Senate races on local ballots, as two Democratic incumbents are facing GOP challengers. In the District 39 state Senate race, Rep. Phil Griego has to win re-election against Aubrey Dunn, while in state House District 40, Rep. Nick L. Salazar is facing Gary E. Martinez. As for Pete Campos in Senate District 8 and Tomás Salazar in House District 70, they’re both unopposed in the general election after hard-fought wins in the Democratic primary.
Rounding out our local ballots will be a race for state Court of Appeals between Democratic nominee Monica Zamora and Republican J. Miles Hanisee; a 3rd Congressional District contest between Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Lujan and Republican challenger Jeff Byrd; and the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, and former Rep. Heather Wilson, Republican.
There are also five proposed amendments to the New Mexico Constitution and three bond questions on the November ballots for New Mexico voters (which we’ll try to go over in some detail at a later date).
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Top of all ballots, of course, is this year’s presidential election. And beginning this week, the debates get under way.
For four consecutive weeks — with the first one starting at 7 p.m. this Wednesday in Denver — President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden, will square off over domestic and foreign policy issues in a variety of venues and settings.
Meanwhile, a nation of onlookers will tune in, mostly to see how their already-chosen favorites fare. Possibly 10 percent of the voters haven’t made up their minds, and maybe there’s another 10 percent who might change their minds if their chosen ones say something so thoroughly offensive to them that they couldn’t ignore it, but mostly it’s a battle for an undecided minority of people in the center.
Let’s face it: The “wing nuts” on both sides of the political spectrum wouldn’t change their minds for anything; if their man stood up in the debate and pronounced himself as the Great Satan himself, bent on leading America to its destruction, I think the fanatics on the right and the left would simply blame the pronouncement on the mainstream media and vote for their man anyway. Mainly because they already see the other candidate as the Great Satan himself.
Polls released last week — you know, by those damned ol’ mainstream media folks — have Obama surging ahead in the few swing states that matter. With that in mind, I’d say it’s reasonable to expect Obama to play it safe in the debates while Romney gets aggressive in his criticisms. Romney’s in a pickle, however, since the polls also show him hurting in “likability,” I’ll bet he will also try to present a warmer, less aloof side to the voters, but I don’t expect it to work.
I doubt I’ll sit through all four debates. I’ll probably be like most voters, tuning in to bits and pieces of them as my time and attention span allows.
The most interesting of them all might actually be the vice presidential debate: Biden’s been such a loose cannon I’ll be watching for him to go off-script, and Ryan’s embellishment of the truth during his convention speech makes me curious as to whether, this time, he’ll go with actual, verifiable facts.
As for the presidential debates, I will be amazed if Obama or Romney say anything new. At this point, they don’t even need teleprompters to keep themselves on message. Their “facts” and “visions” and “promises” are all committed to memory by now.
Still, I’ll bet they’ll be able to forget all that quickly, as soon as the Nov. 6 election is over. After all, campaigning and governing are two very different animals.
Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org