COMMENTARY: New Mexico CAFé, Southwest Environmental Center, the Wilderness Alliance, ProgressNow New Mexico, New Mexico Education Association, Shakti Rising of New Mexico, Planned Parenthood, Emerge New Mexico, and Mesilla Valley Audubon Society… What do all these organizations have in common?
Each and every single one of these organizations have an organized presence in Las Cruces as a result of hiring community organizers and collectively expending hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year. (CAFé alone spends more than $200,000 annually, with a large chunk going towards salaries.)
Each month, people involved with these groups and progressive elected officials come together in a group setting, forming the Progressive Voter Alliance to discuss what their organizations are individually doing. Then, they collectively decide on a unified action for the month and work to ensure the success of that action through creating what George Soros calls an “echo chamber.” You will see this through their coordinated Sound-Offs, letters to the editors, guest columns, and Facebook posts.
Progressive groups have realized that the best way to pass their agendas and priorities, whether on the City Council or in Santa Fe, is by electing members of their own staff and boards, such as Reps Jeff Steinborn and Bill McCamley; City Councilors Kasandra Gandara, Olga Pedroza, and Gill Sorg; former City Councilor Nathan Small; failed candidates Maria Elena Johnson, Beth Bardwell, and Joanne Ferrary; current State House candidate Angelica Rubio; and current U.S. Congressional candidate Merrie Lee Soules.
Progressives are able to win elections before Election Day even happens. In the race for City Council District 4, candidate Richard Hall won on Election Day by more than 90 votes, but lost by slightly more than 100 votes in Early Voting. This resulted in him losing by a mere 11 votes. (side note: The conservative candidate for that seat lost by more than 500 votes four years prior.) This shows that a push in the final weeks of a campaign isn’t sufficient on its own. An ongoing effort to build, engage, and turn out a base is how the left wins their elections.
When it comes to elections, conservative PACs find it necessary to spend large amounts of money to try to counter the organized efforts of these organizations. But in reality, their election-related expenses pale in comparison to the collective annual spending of the aforementioned organizations.
Changing the political landscape in Doña Ana County and Southern New Mexico will take more than dropping $100,000 in direct mail and radio commercials in the final weeks of an election season. Conservatives must understand the importance of constant community organizing and engagement and get to work doing so. It’s an expensive business, but a necessity to change the political climate.
To my knowledge, there is only one organization in Doña Ana County that has a hired professional solely focused on changing the political landscape through voter identification, coalition building, and running an organized independent expenditure campaign. Compare this to the dozens working for progressive-leaning organizations.
In 2016, conservatives have an uphill battle as they fight to win a majority on the Doña Ana County Commission and in the State Senate. In addition, we must work to keep our majority in the State House and to re-elect our only conservative voice in Washington, D.C. In Doña Ana County, three Commission seats are up for election and two of three could be winnable by conservatives, regardless of party affiliation, thus creating a conservative majority on the County Commission.
According to recent polling, conservative-leaning voters represent a majority of the electorate in Doña Ana County. But they only turn out when given a reason to do so. If we want to win, we must start immediately to identify these voters and learn what issues drive them. We must continually engage them, as progressives do through the Progressive Voter Alliance, and we must ensure they go vote their values. When we do this, we’ll see a quick and dynamic change in the political climate.
Jeffrey Isbell is a political operative who resides in Las Cruces. Leading up to the 2014 election, he oversaw an independent expenditure campaign winning six targeted races. In 2015, he directed the recall attempt of three progressive city councilors, managed the winning campaigns of three conservatives running for Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, and consulted the campaigns of Miguel Silva, Eli Guzman and Richard Hall in the municipal elections.