A new generation of party leadership is on the horizon for the Otero County Democratic Party. The Political Climate in Otero County, New Mexico is Strongly conservative. In Otero County, New Mexico 36.0% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election, 61.6% voted for the Republican Party, and the remaining 2.4% voted Independent. Otero county voted Republican in every Presidential election since 2000.
Per the Federal Election Commission during the years (2018-2021), there were 3,488 contributions totaling $114,439 to the Democratic Party and liberal campaigns, averaging $33 per contribution
in Otero County, New Mexico. During that same period, there were 837 contributions totaling $229,584 to the Republican Party and conservative campaigns, averaging $274 per contribution.
What does campaign contributions in Otero County tell us? The Democratic Party had a more engaged grassroots small donor base during the 2018 to 2021 election cycles in Otero County. The Republicans of Otero County raised significantly more money by via a significantly lower number of contributors.
Experts in political science view party campaign contributions as a gauge of party power rather concentrated to a few or more widespread. Based upon the financial contributions within Otero County, it would appear power is concentrated within the Republican party.
The Republican base in Otero County controls every elected city and county seat except for one city Commissioners seat, thus there is a stranglehold on power, with one party rule. The one-party rule is further interesting to review from a viewpoint of a family tree.
If a family tree were drawn of who is related to who in Otero County, New Mexico and holding appointed and elected offices; the tree would show a concentration of just a few families controlling most elected offices within the County. Cousins, sisters-in-law, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews and aunts with the responsibility of oversite of family members within the bureaucracy of Alamogordo City and Otero County Governmental bodies.
When one looks at the larger bundling of donor dollars and direct donations supporting those campaigns of Republican insiders, one also sees the small concentration of power, and political money, pulling the strings and influencing the dialog of local government.
Whereas the Democratic donor numbers show a higher percentage of Democrats engaged in financial support and a more broad-based level of small donor financial commitment than within the local Republican Party.
That larger donor base of the Democratic Party and higher percentage of donor engagements by the Democratic Party shows a party of small donors wanting to be engaged. Thus recent actions by the Otero County Democratic Party to restructure the party are a logical next step for the minority political party.
AlamogordoTownNews.com met with Democratic Party Chairman, Jeff Swanson today for a conversation on the state of the local party, what is it up to and what are the plans of 2023 and beyond.
Mr. Swanson explained to us that the party in collaboration with the State Democratic Party was revamping to a more grassroots approach. In Otero County that has meant that the party has drawn Wards. A ward consists of several precincts and wards were drawn to include like characteristics, such as demographics and geography. The leadership team within the party and collaborating with the state “drew what amounts to 10 wards within Otero County.”
Within each of those wards is a leadership and engagement structure, getting the party closer to the voter or more “grassroots in engagement going forward” per Mr. Swanson.
With this reorganization, the party has been engaged in restructuring, taking an inventory of its strengths and weaknesses, and crafting, a go forward blueprint, to engagement.
Now that the wards were created and approved, the party is now engaged in a 2-prong process of electing new leadership.
Part one of the party engagement occurred this past weekend, with an election of ward chairpersons, and Central Committee Delegates for each Ward.
The elected Ward Chairs include…
- Ward 1 – Donalyn Torres
- Ward 2 – Raul Espino
- Ward 3 – Joann Vullo
- Ward 4 – Denise Lang-Browne
- Ward 5 – Claudia Powell
- Ward 6 – Gerardo Martinez
- Ward 7 – Donna Swanson
- Ward 8 – Glenn Melton
- Ward 9 – Henry Madrid
- Ward 10 – Arthur Alterson
The next phase of the process is to elect the Otero County Democratic County leadership and State Central Committee members. Those elections will be held March 25th by the County Central Committee members selected by the ward elections above. Each ward is represented by a chairperson and member delegates based upon a population formula of active registered Democratic Voters within that ward.
In speaking with Mr. Swanson, he expressed his appreciation to the party and the community for allowing him to serve in leadership within Otero County. He said, “now is the time to pass the baton to new leadership. It’s time for a new generation of leaders to carry forward.”
As such there are two candidates that have been nominated by the party members to potentially take the gavel from Mr. Swanson in a few weeks. The two candidates represent a younger and more diverse look to party leadership. The two candidates seeking the Otero County Democratic Party Chairperson’s role are Monica A Davalos and Brianna Martinez.
Following a similar format as we have done with the general elections in Otero County, we sent 4 questions to each of the candidates to allow them to explain either via a statement or direct answers to the 4 questions. We were seeking questions to why they were seeking their party leadership position and what were their goals if elected.
The questions submitted to each candidate were…
- Why do you want to be chairperson?
- You represent a new generation and perspective how will you lead differently than past leadership?
- How will you mend fences with the fractures in the party?
- What will be your top priority this next year?
What follows is the response from each Democratic Chair Candidate…
Monica A Davalos responded to AlamogordoTownNews.com with the following prepared statement…
“First, I congratulate Ms. Brianna Martinez on her Statement of Candidacy for Chair of the Democratic Party of Otero County (DPOC). It is refreshing to see a 21-year-old Latina. willing to step up to a large civic duty. I wish her the best. I also extend an invitation for coffee or lunch. I would like to have a chance to ask Ms. Martinez what she feels we both can do to further DPOC and discuss all the opportunities and challenges we have. before us. After all, we are all Democrats.
Next, I have some observations about how DPOC can be more receptive to all party Members.
The first time I was invited to a DPOC Zoom meeting was on Feb. 7. The current chair Mr. Jeff Swanson allowed a person who is neither a registered Democrat, nor a U.S. citizen, to help facilitate a meeting in which she verbally accosted multiple people who were Democrats.
This meeting was quite chaotic and had no merit or substance pertaining to the current issues the Democrats face. There was no agenda, minutes, or business conducted. Many people left during the meeting. It was very discouraging.
When I announced my candidacy (Feb. 7), Mr. Swanson e-mailed all of DPOC and claimed such “a … takeover, if realized, with the populous cannabis farm lady in Tularosa as Chair, who knows nothing significant about DPNM nor has ever been to a DPOC meeting … Well the effect will be shut down opposition to the most radical Republicans here … and DPOC will likely become a dimwitted and weak faction.” I found this to be very telling given that Democrats fought so hard to legalize cannabis. And, yes, I am “the populous cannabis farm lady,” a proud cannabis producer. And I am proud of what the Democrats did for the cannabis industry and for the State of New Mexico.
My most recent observation was the March 4 Ward election. The Chaparral Ward Election was slated to begin at 6 p.m. However, the current Chair did not arrive until 6:30. The election was held on the side of the road in front of the Betty McKnight Center, which is on the Dona Ana side of the County. Questionable, isn’t it? Notice for these elections were given well in advance and there was plenty of time to arrange for the people of Chaparral to have a decent place to vote, rather than on the road at sunset.
We as Democrats have little room for mistakes, especially within our own operation. As of Jan. 31, 2022, Otero County had 9,941 people registered as Democrats compared to 16,439 Republican: 26,380 out of more than 37,000 voters. To win local elections, we need to register and turn out more Democratic voters.
As a candidate to serve as Chair, I find it important to reach out to all of Otero County and start to reach beyond Alamogordo and involve La Luz, Chaparral, Mescalero, Bent, Tularosa, and other communities. It all begins with making contact and understanding what our surrounding areas need. We have such a diverse community of people that haven’t been invited to participate. We under-utilize our people and the power of the Democratic Party when a large part of our demographic is left out. We can and must do better for each of our neighbors.”
We then asked Ms. Brianna Martinez the same 4 questions we asked her opponent. Ms. Martinez’s response is as follows…
AlamogordoTownNews.com: Why do you want to be chairperson?
Ms. Brianna Martinez Response: “I care about the well-being of my fellow Democrats. I understand their core values, having worked within the party for years. I’d like to work to create a positive change. This is not a position I will take lightly as I don’t want this for the title, I want to be of service to the Democrats here in Otero County. I’m running in hopes that I get the opportunity to serve others and to make the achievement of the party goals a reality.
There is a lot of potential for a shift if we get involved a lot more in the community and increase our outreach. I have started to develop a plan on how to achieve this, which I will be addressing more in the future. It will take a lot of work and collaboration; however, I believe this is something that can be done, it will take a village, but we can and will do it.”
AlamogordoTownNews.com: You represent a new generation and perspective how will you lead differently than past leadership?
Ms. Brianna Martinez Response: “Because I do represent a new generation and bring a new perspective, I’m certain I will have different ways of leading than past leadership. What I will focus on is allowing everyone the opportunity to participate in a way that suits them. Our current Chairman, Jeff Swanson told me, “Learn everyone’s strong points, and allow them to use those strong points to do what they are best at and most comfortable with, everyone brings something of importance, but only if the organization empowers them”. With that, I know some have said the party needs more structure, I strongly disagree, let others come as themselves, all identities, races, genders, sexualities, ages,
ranging educational backgrounds, etc., and let them bring what they can to the table, and we can all learn and grow from each other. Let’s not just talk about being inclusive but be inclusive.
If I have the opportunity, I would like to bring a focus to the position that targets our younger Democrats in Otero County they are the ones who will be the leaders of tomorrow. I know that many of the younger and minority voters feel that on a national level that the Democratic Party is not progressive enough, or tries to appease our opposite number, the Republican Party. I will be sure, if elected as Chair, to not only uphold, but to be very clear about the importance of progressive ideas and policies, and why we do not need to accept the watering-down of Democratic values. The goal is to focus on Democratic values and getting them implemented. I will be sure that the Democratic Party of Otero County continues that message as it has for the last four years and will work diligently to make this statement better known.”
AlamogordoTownNews.com: How will you mend fences with the fractures in the party?
Ms. Brianna Martinez Response:” While I cannot force other members to mend their relationships with one another, all I can do is ask that they attempt to put all odds aside and start anew. I believe if these individuals have a true goal and passion to build the Democratic Party of Otero County and support the Democratic platform, this is not much to ask, and they should be able to do so. I personally am willing to work with everyone. However, I cannot allow the incivility of others to harm the progress and growth of the organization. It is up to individuals to behave in a civil and respectful manner as I cannot control their actions. The most I can do is lead by example, maintain order to the best of my ability and ask that individuals try to put their differences aside. The solution isn’t to ignore. the issue and hope it goes away, but to continue working for a good cause and hope others follow.
I will add, should there be any violations of the Code of Conduct, in which someone files a complaint against another member, that will be taken seriously, any-and-all members, would be held accountable if found to be in violation, no one is exempt from the consequences of their actions.”
AlamogordoTownNews.com: What will be your top priority this next year?
Ms. Brianna Martinez Response:” The top priority for the next year would be to increase voter outreach. Considering we have some very important elections coming up, I believe this is an area that needs a lot of attention. To go more in-depth, the goal would be to retain Democratic voters in Otero County, which can be done by expanding our outreach, being more visible in the community, reminding others we are here, and educating them on what values the Democratic Party holds. As mentioned earlier, I have started to develop a strategy to accomplish this goal, which I will discuss at a future time.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview and to introduce myself to those within the public who may not know me.”
AlamogordoTownNews.com and KALHRadio.org 95.1 FM appreciates the opportunity to engage in dialog with these two up and coming leaders within Otero County. Thank you, also to Jeff Swanson for the dialog today, and to better understand the process of change and evolution of the Democratic Party of Otero County.