Mea Culpa: Admitting I Got Something a Bit Wrong

Last week, Retake posted about how centrist Democrats undemocratically manipulate national and state elections to the detriment of solidly progressive candidates. I got it half right and half wrong. Today, I clarify and offer another angle.

Before, we dive in, a quick note about two Retake events this week:

We remain challenged in figuring out how to manage Huddles that focus both on coordinating volunteers who want to support Rethink administrative and outreach work and those who want to think about, discuss, and research transformational issues. In a 60 minute or even 90 minute Zoom, it is impossible to address both things.

As a result, very soon we will be reaching out individually to volunteers who want to help with outreach to ally organizations and people who want to help us prepare for Interim Committee hearings.

For those who want to participate in conversation on transformative issues and possibly write about them in either issue briefs or letters to the editor/ op-eds, you should continue meeting in the Huddle format, resuming this evening at 6pm with Huddle IV and then on July 20 (1st and 3rd Tuesday).

During today’s Huddle, we will discuss the opportunity to pursue creation of a state or regional public utility. To prepare for this conversation, please review this post written several weeks ago. It outlines what Public Power is, its immense benefits, and how states or jurisdictions can implement it. We will discuss both the article and our emerging advocacy work to educate legislators.

During the Huddle, we will also discuss organizing research and writing into:

  • Local food systems;
  • Election and lobbying reform;
  • Democratizing the economy by transforming the workplace and corporations;
  • Tax and revenue reforms;
  • Restoring the public sector by transforming an array of privatized sectors (e.g. public power, public bank)

So if public power isn’t high on your research and writing priorities, consider our work in these other areas. During the Huddle, we will also devote a bit of time to a plan for how we can coordinate ongoing production of letters to the editor and op-eds. Advancing these transformative policies will require a good deal of community and legislator education. We need you to accelerate that process. So, please register for tonight’s Huddle by clicking here.

Mea Culpa

Last week, I presented an opinion piece signed by about 15 CD1 activists, mostly from Progressive Democrats of America Central NM Chapter (PDA). Their piece began with a quote from Heather Cox Richardson, asserting that democracy was in peril and followed that with discussion of how the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee systematically used their considerable power and vast campaign financial resources to advance centrist candidates, especially incumbents, and impede or even punish progressive candidates, especially those challenge a Democrat incumbent. The opinion piece went on to link these undemocratic practices with the recent CD1 Democratic primary.

To refresh your memory, that primary pitted eight Democrats against each other. The vote was not a vote of registered voters, but rather of CD1 State Central Committee members. In the first round of voting no candidate received 50% + 1 of the votes, so a runoff was held the next day. Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez held a wide lead and most felt that she would likely emerge victorious in the runoff with Rep. Melanie Stansbury. As you all know, that did not occur, as Stansbury won the runoff.

In the piece that I reposted, the ABQ advocates asserted that Stansbury won because of undemocratic influence conducted by Sen. Martin Heinrich and others among Democratic leadership. From the original email from PDA:

“NM Senator Martin Heinrich and several prominent state party leaders stepped in from on high to lobby on behalf of the runoff opponent of the widely known and trusted progressive candidate. Even though he hadn’t voted in the first round, Senator Heinrich also made sure to vote in the runoff. Together, he and his influential centrist allies succeeded in changing enough SCC votes to ensure that the challenger won the nomination, by a mere six votes (five of which had originally gone to the progressive frontrunner).”

Progressive Democrats of America, Central NM Chapter

In the Retake post that included PDA’s piece, I wrote: ‘Sedillo Lopez’s runoff with Melanie Stansbury was unsuccessful, at least in part due to DPNM centrist leadership stepping in with strong endorsements for Stansbury.”

In retrospect, while I feel strongly that DNC and DCCC meddling in primary elections is undemocratic, what transpired in CD1 was not remotely equivalent. As the Retake post made clear, the DNC and DCCC systemically undermine progressive candidates with money and huge political leverage. They reach out to progressive candidates and try to dissuade them from running, punish campaign managers who work for progressive candidates challenging centrist incumbents, and pour money into the centrist incumbent campaigns.

In CD1, none of that occurred. I have found no evidence that Sen. Heinrich or any other Democrat leader made calls or large donations to influence the election. Yes, Sen. Heinrich and other Democrats endorsed Rep. Stansbury, but making endorsements is part of the democratic process. As noted in the Retake post, newspapers, advocacy groups, elected officials, and others routinely publish endorsements, Retake Our Democracy included. This does not rise to the level of undemocratic influence.

What’s more, it is hard to argue that in the runoff between Sen. Sedillo Lopez and Rep. Stansbury, Democrat leadership lined up solidly behind Rep. Stansbury. Runoff elections like this are not secret ballots and so votes are public information. Among those Democrats voting for Sen. Sedillo Lopez:

  • Rep. Georgene Louis, chair of the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee;
  • Senator and Senate Pro-Tem, Sen. Mimi Stewart;
  • House Majority Leader, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton;
  • House Education Committee Chair, Rep. G. Andrés Romero;
  • Robert Lara, former DPNM state Treasurer;
  • Pamelya Herndon, DPNM Secretary and selected to replace Rep. Stansbury in the NM State House.

That is an awful lot of Democratic leadership voting for Sedillo Lopez. What’s more, it is not as if Rep. Stansbury is a centrist who resists voting for progressive legislation. She voted in support of Retake legislation in 2019 100% of the time, has been a strong advocate for reforming water management practices in NM, and was invited to join the US Congress’s Progressive Caucus. Click here to read the US Congress’s Progressive Caucus announcement welcoming US Rep. Stansbury. Click here to review the full list of just under 100 members of the US Progressive Caucus.

However, the PDA piece did make a very strong point about voting patterns among typical centrist Dems and Democrat leadership nationally and in NM: “The neoliberal power brokers who run the party have done everything in their power to prevent progressives from claiming our fair share of Congressional seats and from occupying other influential party positions as well.” From the Retake blog:

“However, the ABQ progressives make a very strong point. They ask: ‘when will Democrats begin to run on platforms that include policies strongly supported by all Democrats: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, $15 minimum wage, taxing the 1% and corporations, relieving student debt and most importantly taking meaningful action on climate change?’ Instead, Democrat leadership gravitates toward equivocation.”

Retake Our Democracy: “It Isn’t Just the GOP Tipping Election Scales: Look to Ohio & NM for Centrist Dems at Work

And here is the heart of the matter. Most all of Democratic leadership suffers from what a recent NY Times article, “The Strange, Sad Death of America’s Political Imagination’ call “sclerotic” thinking. But that is a far larger topic and one we will focus on later this week.

For now, I want to acknowledge that I should have spent more time considering the degree to which the PDA piece tied the CD1 race with DNC and DCCC practices. The latter are clearly undemocratic, but the recent CD1 primary seems very much an example of Democrats, progressives, and centrists all weighing in and raising their voices appropriately in the democratic process. “My bad” for overstating the relationship between the DNC and DCC and Sen. Heinrich, et al.

In case you missed the post, click here to review it.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Thank you for clarifying your position and admitting you should have looked into the matter more thoroughly. By the way, I consider myself very progressive and I have never had confidence in Sedillo-López. She doesn’t seem to be able to get anything done, unlike Stansbury who digs in, fights hard, creates alliances, and gets things done. The times call for actions, not words and tears.
    Deborah Krichels

  2. Glad to see this post. I know that Retake info influences me. I admire your integrity. It gives us all a model to think about in relation to what we say/write as we reflect and find out more information.

  3. imminent-about to happen
    eminent-someone famous

    Note to all: Better to use simple words
    rather than misuse more complicated ones.

    • Roxanne caught it but too late. of course you are 100% correct. I think the mistake was in the alert though not in this blog as I sure can’t find it. but thanks Sunflower.

  4. I am glad to see this clarification, because I felt that there was something wrong with the email in question. Sen. Heinrich usually represents my views very well, and I was disturbed at the criticism. There will always be times when an elected representative doesn’t fully represent my/our views, but politics is the art of the possible, not of the perfect.

  5. Thanks for clarifying that, and for apologizing. (I wonder if PDA of CNM has?) I watched all the candidate forums between the 8 Dems. They almost all answered the questions the same way. Melanie worked hard to get endorsements and let her record be known. Also, a 40ish single Congresswoman has an advantage over a 60ish one with lots of family ties, and can probably serve longer. And she had worked for Congress and the President for 6 years before. Both she and Antoinette had served in our legislature for about the same time.

  6. Thanks for the clarification or retraction or something. I thought the original anti Stancbury letter from PDA and Adelante was pretty unhinged.

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