Retake the Roundhouse has emerged out of New Mexico’s grassroots campaign for Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ supporters were inspired by his vision and many Hillary supporters, while agreeing with his vision, supported their candidate for a variety of reasons. But now it is time to unify in an effort to create a far more progressive legislature in New Mexico. It can be done.
Only 37% of registered voters came to the New Mexico polls in 2014 — the lowest turn out since WW II — and seven House seats were lost to the GOP by less than 500 votes each. For the first time in 60 years, the House is controlled by the GOP by a 37-33 margin. The Democrats held the Senate by the narrowest of margins, a margin made more perilous by a few conservative Democrats often crossing the aisle and supporting GOP initiatives. As a result, in the last two legislative sessions, Roundhouse Democrats have been constantly on the defensive. As Peter Wirth described in a meeting this week:
“Most people just don’t realize how many truly horrible bills were approved by the House. People don’t realize how close we have come — by a difference of only one or two votes in the Senate — to approving catastrophic bills that Martinez would have surely signed. It is frightening.”
Retake the Roundhouse will work with other advocacy groups throughout the state to implement five core strategies.
Strategy I: Organize and focus broad volunteer support for Democratic candidates in nine House and seven Senate District races. These sixteen races were selected because the races are viewed as winnable by Democratic strategists and with an infusion of grassroots support, could swing the House back to the Democrats and significantly strengthen its hold on the Senate.
Strategy II: Work with Southwest Organizing Project and other advocacy groups to build and support the growth of Progressive Hubs in communities throughout the state using these Hubs to engage, educate and activate local constituencies to sustain constant pressure on legislators to ensure they advance progressive ideas.
Strategy III. Serve as a constant watchdog during Roundhouse sessions, monitoring committee actions and pending legislation, reporting on voting records of legislators and identifying defecting Democratic legislators who should face progressive opposition in 2018 primaries;
Strategy IV. Identify, train, and support young, progressive leadership in every Progressive Hub and cultivate well organized and supported campaigns for positions on local City Councils, School Boards and County Commissions. This young leadership will then be poised to be strong candidates for legislative races in the future.
Strategy V. In 2018, with communities organized and young candidates trained and ready, we will use the primaries to challenge all Democrats who have betrayed their party and voted to support GOP initiatives and we will be able to support strong progressive Democrats to run in Republican held districts.
This can happen.
We can reverse tax cuts for the wealthy that have starved our coffers. We can fund early childhood education; expand support for our schools; create a livable wage in NM; restore the Safety Net for our most vulnerable neighbors, a net that has been shredded by Martinez and the GOP. We can invest in renewable energy sources; create an ethics commission to monitor political activity; and create same day voter registration. These things can happen with a progressive Roundhouse. But we all need to get involved now to make this possible.
Local candidates have a chance to prove themselves and learn. They are the statewide and federal candidates of tomorrow. Local decisions generally have the most immediate impact on people’s lives.
States also control redistricting. Right now Dems need 56% plus of the national congressional vote to secure a majority in Congress. Presidential elections are generally state wide, but a two states allocate electoral votes by congressional district. If that happened nationally with today’s gerrymandered districts the office of President would be like the Congress is now, safely Republican.