With Election Day 2020 immediately ahead, the democratic process is in full swing. Regardless of which candidate or party it favors, the electorate seems to be far more engaged than at any time in recent memory. Maybe candidates proclaim it every election cycle, but this year both presidential candidates, Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, have loudly asserted this election is the most important in American history. That call for voters’ support echoes through down-ballot campaigns. Early and absentee voting seems to validate that.
Enthusiasm and determination are running high. As Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover put it, “I don’t care if you’re 18 and voting for the very first time or you’re 90 and you’ve voted your entire life, this is probably going to be the biggest election any of us has ever participated in.”
In an opinion article in the October 17 New York Times, Roger Cohen referred to the 2020 election as “a last stand for white America,” an assessment that encapsulates both resistance to the “Black Lives Matter” movement and reaction to election of the nation’s first African-American president in 2008 and 2016 and now, possibly, its first African-Asian-American vice-president in 2020.
In the run-up to November 3, huge monetary contributions poured in to the coffers of the two major parties up and down the ballot. Uncharacteristically, the Albuquerque Journal refrained from endorsing either Trump or Biden. In its October 18 editorial, the paper’s editorial board put it this way: “As early voting continues at a record-breaking pace, the one thing we can all agree on is that this is a critical presidential election, and it is important that every New Mexican and American exercise their right to vote.
“So who is the best person to lead our nation after COVID-19 and over the next four years? Both candidates have track records our readers are familiar with, and the decision is in their —your— hands.”
The New York Times published an extraordinary condemnation of Trump’s presidency in its Sunday, October 18 issue, a ten-page blistering appraisal written by the Times’ Editorial Board. The front page of that special section led with a full-page headline: “Lies, Anger, Corruption, Incompetence, Chaos, Decay. End Our National Crisis. The Case Against Donald Trump.”
Anticipating the rush to vote absentee and early, Corrales Comment published its candidate profiles and election procedures in the October 10 issue. These can be read at the paper’s website, corralescomment.com. An abbreviated re-cap of that information can be found in this issue as well.
New material published in this issue focuses on the election of judges and ballot questions such as general obligation proposals and amendments to the N.M. Constitution. On the first proposed constitutional amendment, voters are asked whether the N.M. Public Regulation Commission should be changed so that its members are appointed by the governor rather than by the general electorate.
It is described in summary this way. “Proposing to amend the Constitution of New Mexico to provide that the Public Regulation Commission consist of three members appointed by the governor from a list of professionally qualified nominees submitted to the governor by a nominating committee as provided by law and that the commission is required to regulate public utilities and may be required to regulate other public service companies.”
Constitutional Amendment 2 involves the terms of officials elected to non-statewide positions. It is described this way: “Proposing to amend Article 20 Section 3 of the Constitution of New Mexico to permit the adjustment by law of terms of non-statewide offices, and to standardize the date an officer begins to serve.”
Neither amendment is printed verbatim on the ballot.The first proposed amendment to the State Constitution is by far the more controversial. To some observers, the change allowing the governor to appoint commissioners would invite corruption and unethical influence.
The proposal would transform the current five-member, elected commission into a three-member board appointed by the governor, with the N.M. Senate having confirmation power. No more than two of the three could be of the same political party.
Terms would be extended to six years (now four years), with a two consecutive term limit. In recent years, PRC deliberations and rulings have been controversial, especially as they address electrical power companies’ closure of coal-fired power plants and conversion to alternative energy sources. New Mexico’s Energy Transitions Act calls for the state’s electrical grid to be “carbon-free” by 2045. The PRC will rule on proposals to achieve that.
Corrales voters will be asked to choose between PRC incumbent Cynthia Hall (Democrat) and Janice Arnold-Jones (Republican) to represent the commission’s District 1. Both are Albuquerque residents. Arnold-Jones served in the N.M. Legislature during four terms, 2003 to 2011. She is retired from a business career that included work for nuclear energy-related firms.
Hall is a former attorney for the PRC and former commissioner for the Bernalillo County planning and zoning board. After her election, she joined the PRC in 2017. Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow the staggering of terms for elective positions that are not statewide; it is expected to be most significant for judgeship races. The idea is to reduce the number of candidates, especially judges, appearing on the ballot for any given election. The State Legislature would be authorized to lengthen or shorten some terms so the contests did not all appear on a given year’s ballot.
This year, your decisions are sought on the following judgeship position and candidates.
• Justice of the N.M. Supreme Court, Position 1: Ned Fuller, Republican, or Shannon Bacon, Democrat.
• Justice of the N.M. Supreme Court, Position 2: David Thomson, Democrat, or Kerry Morris, Republican.
• N.M. Court of Appeals Judge, Position 1: Republican Barbara Johnson or Democrat Zach Ives.
• N.M. Court of Appeals, Position 2: Stephen Curtis, Libertarian, Shammara Henderson, Democrat, or Gertrude Lee, Republican.
• N.M. Court of Appeals, Position 3: Thomas Montoya, Republican, or Janes Yohalem, Democrat.
• District Court Judge: Chris Perez and James Noel have no opponent.
Voters will be asked whether the following judges serving in the 13th Judicial District should be retained, yes or no. Jacqueline Medina; James Lawrence Sanchez, George Eichwald, Allen Smith, Cindy Mercer and Cheryl Johnston. All of the above, with the exception of Judge Medina, were recommended for retention by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. No finding was made for Judge Medina because the evaluation commission said she had not been in office long enough to determine whether she should be retained in office. Voters will also be asked to decide four general obligation bond questions with implications for property taxes, three posed statewide and one specifically for Sandoval County residents.
The Sandoval County GO bond proposal would raise $1,975,000 for libraries around the county for books, supplies, equipment and other improvements. Respond for or against.
Statewide Bond Question A asks whether voters approve issuance of GO bonds to raise $34 million for senior citizen facilities and services. For or against. Statewide Bond Question B asks whether voters approve issuance of GO bonds to raise approximately $10 million for libraries around the state. For or against. State Bond Question C asks whether voters approve issuance of bonds to raise $156,385,475 to improve higher education institutions, special schools and tribal schools. For or against.
Here is the roster of other candidates closer to the top of the ballot, profiles of which were presented in the October 10 issue.
N.M. Senate District 9: Democrat Brenda McKenna and Republican John Clark
N.M. House District 23: Republican Ellis McMath and Democrat Daymon Ely
N.M. House District 44: Democrat Gary Tripp, Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Libertarian Jeremy Myers
District Attorney, 13th Judicial District: Democrat Barbara Romo and Republican Joshua Joe Jimenez
Sandoval County Clerk: Republican Lawrence Griego and Democrat Anne Brady Romero
Sandoval County Treasurer: Democrat Jennifer Taylor and Republican Benay Ward
Sandoval County Commission: Republican Jay Block and Democrat Leah Michelle Ahkee-Baczkiewicz.
And in case you missed it, the contest for president of the United States pits incumbent Donald Trump, Republican, against former Vice-president Joe Biden, Democrat.