Commentary: Congratulations to Amy Delaney-Hernandez, incumbent William Bayne Anderson and Kenneth Teague on their election to the Deming Board of Education on Nov. 5.
Projecting them as the winners is no feat of prognostication because they are all running unopposed.
In 2019, the majority of seats on the Deming’s school board are up for election and yet candidates for three out of five positions will simply walk into office unchallenged.
It is not the candidates’ fault, of course, and they deserve thanks for filing their candidacies on Aug. 27.
Likewise, three seats on the Deming Soil and Water Conservation District’s board are uncontested, through no fault of Rick Holdridge, Dianna Peterson or Seth Hyatt. They found their way to the Luna County Clerk’s office and signed up.
Uncontested races and low voter turnout go hand in hand in Deming; but it isn’t just us. Uncontested elections have been a growing trend across the country.
It is sobering to observe that the entire Deming City Council, excluding the mayor, are serving uncontested terms. Last year, District 1 Councilor David Sanchez and District 4 Councilor Victor Cruz, were both re-elected unopposed. In 2016 the other half of the council, Joe "Butter" Milo and Roxana Rincon, also faced no opponents.
Even more interesting, in terms of representative democracy, is the recent history of District 2, where I reside, which has since 2015 been represented by appointed councilors.
That’s because in 2015 Councilor Linda Enis Franklin resigned to move out of state and, due to the timing, the vacancy was filled by mayoral appointment. Mayor Benny Jasso solicited letters of interest and reportedly received four.
Admittedly, I did not submit one, and perhaps I should have at the time. Perhaps it is hypocritical of me to urge others to run for office all the time while making excuses for not doing so myself. My excuse now is that I can't be a reporter and a candidate.
Jasso appointed Roxana Rincon, an executive at First New Mexico Bank, who completed Franklin’s term and then ran in 2016. She was unopposed and “won” her own term, but rather than complete that term next year, Rincon has resigned, citing the competing pressures of work and family. (Although Deming’s councilors and mayor are paid, it is not a full-time wage: they all work other jobs.)
None of this is Rincon’s fault. When the mayor asked for candidates to appoint, she was one of four to step up and then she stood for an election — but there were no challengers, no opportunity for a constructive debate about Deming’s challenges and prospects, no obligation to respond to constituent concerns, no political competition; and, seemingly, little reason to vote.
Now the seat has been transferred from one appointee to another. On Aug. 15, Jasso appointed Irma Rodriguez, a Deming native and owner of Dust Devils gymnastics downtown, who seems like a good choice. After completing the current term, she would be eligible to run in 2020.
Will anyone else run then? Could we see a continuing cycle of appointees handing the office to new appointees?
The power of appointment is a measure for emergencies; it is not how representative democracy is supposed to function.
In a community where I routinely hear complaints about “good old boy" networks and entrenched incumbents, there seems to be a persistent shortage of citizens interested in running or even voting.
Deming is known for its volunteerism, charity and humanitarian assistance, as we know; yet until we shake off our allergy to running and voting in local elections, our institutions will continue to slog.