When my late husband was running for the New Mexico state senate, he pledged to knock on every door in his district. He thought giving voters a chance to meet him in person was the right thing to do.
A candidate I know this year had planned to do the same thing. Now, knocking on doors is out of the question. The best he can do is to leave fliers on front porches.
And that’s in central New Mexico, where districts cover only a few square miles.
This is not feasible in most New Mexico districts, which are geographically enormous. For example, District 28 covers Grant, Catron, and most of Socorro County. District 8 includes Colfax, Mora, Harding, Guadalupe, more than half of San Miguel and a slice of Quay. State house districts are almost as sprawling.
In a normal year, candidates would be looking everywhere for gatherings of voters, whether at Easter festivities, Memorial Day parades or senior citizen centers.
Not this year.
So how do candidates campaign in the year of coronavirus?
Our primary election is on June 3. After months of hullabaloo about the Democratic contest to choose a presidential nominee (now finally settled), you might have forgotten that the presidential choice is just one item on the ballot. The real focus is local.
Every seat in the legislature is up for election. In a state in which incumbent legislators are often unopposed, I was surprised to see how many seats have opposition, including primary opposition.
Five prominent Democratic senators who are relatively conservative are being targeted by challengers on the left. If you are a registered Democrat in one of their districts and have an opinion about this, one way or the other, that’s a reason to vote in this primary. Whichever district you live in, it’s worth finding out whether your representatives have primary opposition.
Local officials are up for election also: county commissioners, county clerks, county treasurers, district attorneys and judges. Candidates for these offices often run with very little public interest or even awareness. I’m guessing that this season is a heartbreaker for many of them, because it’s so difficult to get their message out. Please learn a little about candidates in your county. If a candidate interests you, pick up the phone and call them. They probably will appreciate it.
Ben Ray Lujan is uncontested on the Democratic side for the U.S. Senate seat that Tom Udall will vacate, but several Republicans are running; the winner will oppose Lujan in November. Lujan’s seat in Congress has attracted candidates of both parties. District 3 of the Public Regulation Commission will be decided in the primary.
In the second Congressional District, three Republicans are bidding to run against incumbent Democrat Xochitl Torres Small. This contest is already a brawl, as the three vie for the designation of most conservative. At a time when we’re all riveted on a deadly illness and the disruption of our economy, this campaign will break through and get some headlines.
To vote in the primary, you must be registered in the party of your choice. To change parties, you must submit a new registration 28 days before the election or register with your County Clerk.
We will likely have an all-mail election, though that has to be settled by a lawsuit. The Secretary of State’s office says a decision in its favor will not change any laws but will allow election administrators to apply existing provisions of the state Election Code.
This primary will go on, one way or the other, in spite of the obstacles. While you stay home and take care of yourself, please take a few minutes to become an informed voter, read the coverage in your local newspaper, send a few dollars to a candidate you really like, and help keep our democracy working.
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