Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What does all this mean for the Valle del Sur? Part II

The New Mexico Senate is currently embroiled in a struggle over the leadership of that body. Sen. Tim Jennings, from Roswell, is challenged by a faction of Northerners that would elect Carlos Cisneros, from Santa Fe and Taos, as President Pro Tem. Evidently, the election of new liberal senators earlier this month has convinced some that power has shifted from the coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans that elected Jennings, enough to warrant a challenge. The showdown will probably be over this coming Sunday.

I remember the Northern coalition of legislators that produced House Speaker Walter Martinez, from Grants, back in the 1970s. The coalition was called the "Mama Lucy Gang," a reference to a restaurant frequented by the major players in the faction. Walter lost his Speakership after conservative Democrats from Southern New Mexico, frustrated by the habit of the Northern liberals to ignore them and their bills, formed a coalition of 10 Democrats and 26 Republicans and placed Gene Samberson, from Lea County, in as Speaker. The rebels were known as the "cowboy coalition," and governed the House from 1979-1982 and then again in 1985-1986. At the time of the overthrow there were howls of protest that, horrors, some Democrats would actually vote with Republicans, but I also remember the very real frustration of most Southern Democrats in the House who suffered at the hands of Martinez simply because they were from the South.

The South Valley helped remedy this injustice in the form of Rep. Ralph Hartman, from Anthony. He and Rep. Bud Hettinga and Rep. Russell Autrey (also from Dona Ana County) did a lot of the legwork to put the cowboy coalition together. After the overthrow of Martinez, Southerners could once again, as if by magic, get their bills passed. A similar situation developed in the state senate a few years later.

Then, as now, the South Valley tended to be ignored by the state, or worse, insulted. In Hartman's case, Martinez literally gave him a broom closet for an office, an insult that bothered him, but not as much as Martinez's refusal to help him pass needed legislation for the South Valley. I was county chair of the Democratic Party when that coalition was formed in 1979. In spite of many appeals from people all over the state, I never once criticized Hartman or the others for breaking with the nortenos to control the House

The bottom line for a legislator is getting things done for your constituents, not satisfying some sort of perverted party loyalty by voting for people who may not support your agenda, but offer you perks instead. The late Ralph Hartman did a lot for the South Valley, and it took political courage for him to stand up to the nortenos who thought they could bully him.

Today, after more years of neglect, the South Valley needs all the help it can get from Santa Fe. The challenge to Sen. Jennings will have local repercussions whether it succeeds nor not. Let us hope our legislators will think about the good of the county, rather than their own marginal and possibly short-term advantages.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What does all this mean for the Valle del Sur? Part I

It seems all but certain that Governor Richardson will leave New Mexico, as everyone supposed, in January. Diane Denish will have, if she chooses to use it, a free hand in selecting a new set of cabinet officers, deputy secretaries, and many other appointments. One of her major first decisions will be exactly how to handle these: should she start fresh, with new faces? Or should she remain a caretaker for Richardson's agenda? At this point we can only guess, but after six years and an electorate demanding change, some fresh faces might seem appropriate.

Relations with the legislature are likely to change for the better. The Senate, at least the faction with the most votes, tended to be relatively independent. In the House, subservience to the Governor reached embarrassing levels as many legislators acted as though they were elected as a kind of cheering squad for the governor. There were many reasons for this, including the Governor's well-known personality and political skills, but it revealed a lot about how fragile the legislative branch has become. With Richardson gone, political courage might just make a comeback, and Denish doesn't seem to be the kind of person who would be petty toward well-intended, positive dissent. This means serious leadership in one or both Houses may re-emerge, but a larger question is just how much serious leadership potential there remains among the ranks of the state legislature. Will someone step up to the plate? Vamos a ver.

What does this have to do with the Valle del Sur? Not necessarily very much, although it will be necessary for political leaders in the Valle to press for solid appointments, including persons from down here in solid executive positions. Furthermore, the Valle del Sur has a number of talented legislators whose opportunity to play important leadership roles in the legislature on behalf of the citizens of the South has just been enhanced. May they rise to the occasion. We wish all of you well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Emilio Naranjo, R.I.P.

Emilio Naranjo was not the last patron in New Mexico. But he was the last patron who ruled uncontested, during his time. And he was the only New Mexico patron of his generation who enjoyed a national reputation.

His reputation went national in 1960 when he supported Lyndon Johnson, and then Jack Kennedy, for president giving Kennedy a huge margin toward his narrow victory in New Mexico. Kennedy, who loved political bosses, never forgot the favor and Lyndon Johnson rewarded him in 1965 by appointing him U.S. Marshall. But he had already been around New Mexico state circles for many years. He was elected chair of the Democratic Party in Rio Arriba County in 1953 and Sheriff in 1958. At one point he was state director of the Department of Motor Vehicles. His son Benny became Sheriff in 1965 when Emilio resigned that position to become federal Marshall.

Naranjo was a young man (born in 1916) when political change came to the Hispanic North, in the form of the Roosevelt election of 1932. Within the next eight years the North would switch from being heavily Republican to being heavily Democratic. Naranjo single-mindedly set about controlling the levers of power in that county, and did not relinquish his control until the mid-1990s, when he was defeated by Arturo Rodarte in a primary election for state senate. His power was fully consolidated in the late 1970s with his appointment in 1977 and election in 1978 to the New Mexico Senate and his appointment in 1978 as county manager. He was also Democratic Party chair in Rio Arriba County. But he was convicted of perjury that same year in a case in which he was accused of planting marijuana in the car of his 1976 opponent for Sheriff, Moises Morales. The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1980, allowing him to resume his senate seat, but thereafter his reputation, if not his power, suffered from a feeling among observers that his ability to deliver votes to Democrats gave him special privileges within the political class of New Mexico, a commentary more damning about the political class of New Mexico, perhaps, than about Emilio Naranjo.

The essentially conservative nature of Naranjo's power base was revealed clearly during the Tijerina phenomenon of the late 1960's. Tijerina, who accused the Forest Service of violating the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo when it expropriated land grant territory, was a true rebel, willing to shake up power structures through unconventional tactics and appealing to national sympathy. The power structure Tijerina most resented was Naranjo's, which steadfastedly cooperated with the law enforcement agencies that eventually brought Tijerina down. Naranjo's son Benny, Sheriff of Rio Arriba at the time, was pistol whipped by Reies Tijerina during the so-called Tierra Amarilla Courthouse Raid of 1966, and ordered at gunpoint by Tijerina to free the prisoners in the courthouse. Tijerina was acquitted of charges stemming from this incident, in a trial in which he acted as his own attorney. Likewise, the Raza Unida Party, a left-of-center movement trying to organize Hispanics in the Southwest under a party banner, found its Rio Arriba activists and candidates under attack during the mid-1970s, particularly from the Sheriff's department. Raza Unida leaders accused Naranjo of election manipulation and of fomenting police brutality.

I knew Naranjo casually. When we were both county chairs we would exchange minor favors on votes at statewide conventions, and we maintained a cordial, somewhat formal, relationship. He came and spoke to one of my university classes on politics in New Mexico (his son Larry, now a city councilor in Rio Rancho was in that class), and I would hear about him from students of mine from Rio Arriba county. My last meeting with him, in 1992, did not go well. I went up to his home (a mobile home) near Espanola with Sonny Rivera to see if I could persuade him to encourage Indian participation in the forthcoming 400th anniversary commemoration of Onate's arrival in New Mexico in 1598. Naranjo had acquired funds to have Sonny Rivera, from Mesquite, NM, sculpt a bronze statue of Onate. Naranjo was adamantly against my proposition, and it was clear to me that, for better or worse, that was the final word. There was no appeal.

In truth, Naranjo was a talented politician, well liked by many, with a large following, and he knew how to get things done. That the kind of power he wielded could surface in a county in New Mexico is explained by contradictory things: on the one hand it speaks of the power of his charisma and the fierce loyalty it inspired. These are highly positive, and they rightly inspire a deep pride in Rio Arriba county. But on the other hand that one man could acquire such power speaks volumes about the isolation of the people of Rio Arriba country from the wheels of power in Santa Fe, 30 minutes away, and about how policy and taxpayer funds are distributed through the political system of the state. These inspire much less pride.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Legendary Patron Emilio Naranjo Dies: Stay tuned for a personal commentary

Word has come that Emilio Naranjo, 92, former state senator and legendary political leader in northern New Mexico died yesterday, November 13. I knew Naranjo personally and will write a brief commentary, so stay tuned.

Las Cruces Sun News Criticizes Nava, State Government

The Las Cruces Sun News, in a strongly worded editorial, criticized GISD Superintendent (and State Senator) Cynthia Nava, State Auditor Hector Balderas, and Education Secretary Veronica Garcia for neglecting the financial situation at GISD for four years until a $3.9 million shortfall threatened "a disruption to and lessening of the educational experience."

Dismissing Nava's claim that the shortfall developed before she took over as superintendent, the Sun News states: "it's not like she is new to the district. She held a high-level administrative position during each year that the books went unattended."

Expressing doubts about the announced solution to the shortfall (taking funds from capital outlay monies left over from the building of Chaparral High School), the editorial points out that Chaparral High was opened in the fall of 2007. "They've had almost $4 million left over all this time, with no plans for how to use that money?"

The editorial goes on to ask, "how can Auditor Hector Balderas let a district go for so long without completing an audit? And where was Education Secretary Veronica Garcia when the district was spending four years digging itself in the hole?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saludos, Don Benito: The Berino Vote in 2008

The South Valley voted 68% for Obama in 2008, significantly above the 61% vote for Kerry in 2004, giving Obama a 4843 vote margin over McCain. Obama outperformed Kerry in every precinct in the South Valley. But this was far short of the 81% margin enjoyed by Governor Bill Richardson in his 2006 campaign, and Richardson outperformed Obama in every precinct except one: Berino, where Obama got an astonishing 83% of the vote, ahead of the 81% Richardson got in 2006.

Of all the political leaders in the South Valley, Benito Trevino, of Berino, was the most active volunteer for Obama, and he and a group of Berinenos worked tirelessly for Obama and other Democrats, such as Harry Teague. Looks like the hard work in Berino paid off. Saludos a Don Benito y a sus companeros: Felicitaciones!

Gadsden School District Bailed Out by State

The Gadsden Independent School District, the third largest school district in the state, will apparently not have to choose between laying off 98 person or forcing everyone to take unpaid leave. Those were the options presented last week by school officials to employees of the district facing a $3.9 million shortfall after the district failed to comply with legal obligations to conduct annual audits and fell in arrears. Employees were allowed to vote on these options and the results were to be announced this week.

Now it appears the state will make up the shortfall by using funds left over from the construction of Chaparral High School, according to a story by Diana Alba in the Las Cruces Sun News today. GISD school superintendent Cynthia Nava, also a state senator, had earlier proposed going to the state legislature for the funds.

Part of the district's initial proposed solution to the shortfall included accepting a gift of $1 million from Sunland Park casino owner Stan Fulton, who has opposed putting a casino in Anthony. Fulton has made many donations in the region in recent years, largely for educational projects.

This bailout plan may become controversial, as other school districts may begin asking how state officials were able to find the legal authority to transfer capital outlay funds designated for other purposes and seek, perhaps, to do the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The New Mexico Hispanic Vote in 2008: Do we know what happened with turnout?

According to a report based on exit polls taken on election day, released by the Pew Hispanic Center ("The Hispanic Vote in the 2008 Election"), 41 percent of those who voted in New Mexico on election day were Hispanic. Similar exit polls in 2004 showed Hispanics in New Mexico comprised only 32 percent of the electorate. Since the proportion of Hispanics in New Mexico grew only very slightly during the past four years, at first glance it might appear that Hispanic turnout rates in 2008 were significantly higher than Anglo turnout rates in New Mexico.

On second glance, however, it could be that since New Mexico has early voting, Anglo voters disproportionately voted early, compared to Hispanics, leaving a higher proportion of Hispanics to vote on election day. Exit polling on election day would therefore overestimate the Hispanic vote proportions.

According to the same study, 69 percent of New Mexico Hispanics voted for Obama, compared to the U.S. average of 67%. Even in Florida, a majority of Hispanic voters (57 percent, many of whom are Cuban-American or Latin American) voted for Obama, a major change from 2004, when Florida Hispanics voted 44 percent for Kerry. The highest proportion of votes for Obama among Hispanics was in New Jersey, at 78 percent, followed by Nevada, at 76 percent, and California, at 74 percent.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What's in a Name? The Evolution from Hispanic to Latino

On election night I did a brief commentary for a Boston radio station. They wanted to know how the "latino" vote would go in New Mexico. Happy to accommodate, I used the term "latino," and rattled off my stats, instead of using the more locally used term "hispanic."

In my lifetime, the terms used to designate people of Spanish-speaking heritage have evolved. In the 1950s people from northern New Mexico called themselves "Spanish Americans" or "hispanos." In some areas of the north the term is still popular today, but not exclusive. But chicanos from the South came in two major varieties: there were "Mexicans," and "Mexican nationals." Mexican nationals were braceros, who came on short contracts to do agricultural labor. The term "Mexican" referred not to nationality but to ethnic background,although it suggested stronger attachment to a nation than usually was the case, and the term suggested poverty and low status. Highly educated people in those days frequently used the term "Mexican American" as a signal of inclusion into the All-American melting pot, and as a signal they did not share prejudicial attitudes toward the group.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a strong movement, particularly among the young, to switch to the term "chicano," a self-conscious effort for internal unity behind a single term, and one which carried a political message of ethnic pride and political struggle to overcome prejudice. After a long period of tension between people of Hispanic heritage (is that the right term?)the term "chicano" came into the mainstream, adopted by Anglos as well as (choose one of the following: mexicans, mexican americans, chicanos, hispanics, latinos).

Then in 1980, for political reasons, the Census Bureau adopted the term Hispanic, precisely as a way of statistically unifying people of Hispanic heritage (which by now included many Puerto Ricans, Cuban-Americans, and people from south of Mexico, as well as people who preferred terms like "chicano" or "Mexican American") behind one relatively value-neutral, socially acceptable term. Gradually the term "Hispanic" gained steam and was the overwhelming choice of just about everyone by the 1990s, as the term chicano began to fall out of favor.

But by this time the term "latino" began creeping into the vocabulary of Californians, and it gradually spread East. The advantage of the term "latino" appears to be that it carries the flavor of culture, and even of various distinct cultures, while still being politically neutral, in comparison with the more abstract, bureaucratic-sounding "Hispanic." Moreover, it harks back to the term "Latin America," which is more specific and which includes the millions of people who came to the U.S. from South of Mexico, while remaining neutral about nationality.

When Boston radio guys start using the term "latino" can we in New Mexico be far behind?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Voter Turnout Proportion in New Mexico Lower than in 2004, U.S. figures show higher turnouts

Secretary of State Mary Herrera predicted a statewide turnout of 80% in New Mexico in the general election of 2008, in a story to the Associated Press. Other election officials estimated a turnout of just 73%. Actually, the figure was more like 67%. According to a report issued on November 6 by American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate, 798,986 people voted in New Mexico this year in the general election. This represents almost exactly 67 percent of the 1,192,989 registered voters on October 31 of this year.

67% is not bad, although it is lower than the 70% that voted in 2004. That year 775,301 persons voted in New Mexico, 23,685 fewer than voted this year. This year voter registration drives appear to have been successful in registering a record number of voters, but apparently a smaller proportion of them voted in comparison with 2004. These are preliminary figures, but if they hold up they would indicate that the predictions of record turnouts did not materialize.

The above stats are based on voter registration figures. At the national level several states do not publish voter registration figures, making cross-state comparisons impossible to calculate. Instead, some analysts calculate the voting age population in each state, which can be adjusted to eliminate persons not eligible to vote because they are not citizens or are incarcerated, on parole, mentally incompetent, etc. The Center for the Study of the American Electorate, in a preliminary study of the 2008 elections, estimates that in the U.S. 208,323,000 persons were eligible to vote (not necessarily registered) and that, of these between 126.5 million and 128.5 million will have voted after all the votes are counted. By this calculation turnout this year was between 60.7% and 61.7% nationwide, compared to 60.6% in 2004 and 54.2% in 2000. This is below many estimates of voter turnout set at about 136 million voters, or 64% of eligible voters.

The New Mexico figures according to this methodology are as follows: 1,346,000 persons were of voting age and U.S. citizens, and 798,986 people voted, for a turnout rate of 59.3%, almost exactly one percent higher than in 2004.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Elections Over: Time to forge an agenda for the Valley. Suggestions welcome

Now that elections are over, this would be a good time to start forming an agenda for the Valley. This needs to be a collective effort, not just from one person. In this spirit, I will be happy to publish suggestions sent to me and signed, as long as they aren't too long and the language is appropriate for young readers.

Let me start out the discussion: 3 Botttom Line Items

1. Let us all agree to get Anthony ready for incorporation as soon as possible. It is overdue, and the county, our local legislators, and the people of Anthony should work together to make this happen. We should be realistic about the budget the city might have, but incorporation will provide a focal point for development and funds can be raised from other sources.

2. The South Valley needs to form a seamless coalition of citizens, locally elected officials, and our Washington representatives, working together to mobilize funds for development. This should be easier to accomplish now that Harry Teague is going to Congress.

3. We should encourage public forums to discuss Valley needs and try to keep everyone informed about what is happening. Transparency is essential to keep the Valley united.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

South Valley Improves Turnout, Performance

The South Valley improved its turnout rate compared to the 2004 presidential election. In 2004 the turnout rate was a mediocre 56.3%. This year it was fully 3 percent higher, at 59.4%. Even more importantly, Obama's performance--he got 68.2% of the votes cast between him and McCain--was fully 10 points higher than the 58.4% that Kerry got in 2004. This netted Obama a margin of 4843 votes compared with a margin of 2214 delivered to Kerry. By comparison, Dona Ana county as a whole gave Obama 57.9% out the Obama-McCain totals.

Overall, Dona Ana county gave Obama an 11,363 vote margin over McCain. 43.3% of these votes came from the South Valley. In this sense, the South Valley's margin compared to the rest of the county was proportionally lower than in 2004 since in that year the South Valley produced a margin of 2586, more than 100% of the 2214 vote margin of victory in the county.

This is the first time a presidential campaign has had a field office in the South Valley, in Anthony, staffed by Luis Avila, who worked tirelessly to identify Obama supporters, register people to vote, and get out the vote in early voting, absentee balloting, and election day voting. The data suggest he did an excellent job.

Myth of the Racist Hispanic Exploded

Whether at the national, statewide, or local level, the theory (or wishful thinking) that Hispanic citizens are closet racists and would not vote for a black man for President has been proven wrong.

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, from Dona Ana, speaking on the record from the National Democratic Convention, told the Rocky Mountain News “I don’t know one single Hispanic over 50 who will cast a vote for Obama.” She added that “there have always been conflicts between blacks and browns,” suggesting he would have a difficult time winning the state. And Bernalillo County Republican Party Chair Fernando C. de Baca went even further: "The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors. African-Americans came here as slaves. ... Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president." The latter comment was bitterly denounced by many Democrats, including House Speaker Ben Lujan, and De Baca was forced to resign as party chair in Bernalillo county.

Now that the results are coming in, it is clear that it was largely because of Hispanic votes that Obama was able to win Nevada by a whopping 12 points and Colorado by 7. In New Mexico largely because of Hispanic votes, Obama won by 15 points. Even in Sen. Garcia's own county, Obama held strong leads in precincts that are heavily Hispanic. In the three Anthony precincts, for example, according to preliminary figures, Obama carried the election by a whopping 89% of the vote. Polling of Hispanic populations during the elections had pretty much shattered the myth anyway, indicating that in New Mexico Hispanics were supporting Obama by a stronger margin than they supported Kerry four years ago, and that Hispanic citizens were lining up behind Obama in other states in high proportions as well. So much for that myth.

An more detailed analysis of the South Valley vote this year will appear here when the precinct totals are available.

Obama, Udall, Teague Win in Dona Ana County

OK: We know Obama won the nation and New Mexico; we know Udall won the state and Teague won his Congressional seat. But how did each do in Dona Ana County?

The most surprising result from preliminary results (updated at 11:41 on Nov. 4)is that both Udall and Teague got more votes in Dona Ana County than Barack Obama. This is highly unusual, since the Presidential candidate almost always runs well ahead of other candidates on the same ticket, since some people only vote for President. But in the preliminary results released last night, Obama had 33786 votes in DAC, while Udall had 35347 votes, and Teague had 34838, in both cases well over 1000 votes ahead of Obama. In contrast, in 2004, John Kerry had 1325 votes more than Gary King, who was running for Congress.

While these figures are still provisional, and there are still some numbers missing, if they hold up once the vote is certified, they suggest that Teague and Udall may have run more effective campaigns in the county than Obama. This is particularly surprising, given the high number of paid staffers working for Obama compared to the other two campaigns, and the relatively low priority given to Dona Ana County by the Udall campaign.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Elections in the South Valley: Part III

At the local level all incumbents—Dolores Caviness-Saldana, Mary Helen Garcia, Joseph Cervantes, Cynthia Nava, and Mary Kay Papen—have no opposition in the general election, and only Caviness had any opposition in the primary. In most cases this is due to the generally solid performance of these elected officials, but it is also due in part to the weakness of the Republican Party. The lack of incentive to campaign, however, should not lull representatives into complacency. The South Valley is changing. The old formulas for representation—capital outlay money for a swimming pool here, a building there, funding for a program in this community or that, running interference for a business being hounded by the bureaucracy, etc.—may not be robust enough to cover the kinds of challenges that lie ahead. Perhaps most important, given the growth that is exploding from Texas, leadership needs to view the South Valley as a single comprehensive unit, and plan accordingly. It is no longer enough to view the Valley as a collection of 12 communities relatively isolated from one another. What happens in one corner will affect another. This calls for forging a deeper region-wide identity, rather than 12 separate local identities. It is hard to imagine this happening without strong leadership from the incumbents listed above: without them exercising their considerable convening powers to get the right people at the table, without their insisting that local governments conduct themselves in a transparent fashion, and without their keeping the public informed about realistic options at critical moments of decision.
The incumbents have something extraordinary going for them: people trust them. And in an era in which “pay to play” politics in New Mexico is on the front pages of the newspapers almost daily—the Metro Court Building scandal that took down Manny Aragon, the Housing Authority scandal, the State Treasurer’s scandal, the Land Office scandal, and who knows what other scandals might be coming down the road, this is a major asset they have going for them as potential catalysts for positive change. If they set their minds to doing what needs to be done in the South Valley, they have what it takes to get it done.

The Elections and the South Valley: Part II

Congress: With El Paso spilling into the South Valley and parts of Cd. Juarez spilling north, there is a huge amount of work to be done to take control over this growth, absorb it, adapt it to our local culture, and keep it working in the interest of the local population and welfare. This will not be easy. Given the relative poverty of the region it seems likely that outsiders will come to believe that the South Valley might be bought and sold for very little. But the South Valley is now the location of the biggest economic development project in New Mexico history, and the next congressman needs to make the South Valley a priority. This means keeping track of what is happening, assisting in the mobilization of federal funds by pointing out where monies might be available, and encouraging a smooth interface between local, state, and federal agencies as these react to the imperatives of growth. Much of this can be accomplished by an alert staffer based in Las Cruces, but it will also take all the muscle our now-very-junior New Mexico delegation in Washington can muster. I began this campaign supporting Joseph Cervantes for Congress, and when he withdrew from the race I stayed out of the primary election. After observing Teague and Tinsley campaign this season I believe Harry Teague is temperamentally closer, and more sympathetic, to the culture of the South Valley, and more likely to be able to get things done in a Congress controlled by Democrats. Let's give Harry Teague a good margin to work with in Dona Ana County and the South Valley.

The Elections and the South Valley: Part I

Washington may seem a long way from Cazares' grocery store in Anthony, or Severo's bar in La Mesa, but this year presidential elections might make a difference in the Valle del Sur. After 28 years of trickle down economic policy it is just possible--not certain--that a different overall approach to governance will emerge, should Barack Obama become president. This isn't a partisan statement. Remember, after eight years of enjoying the blessings of Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House, in 2000 Anthony had a per capita income of $6674, compared to a national average of $21,587. This was a lot closer to the per capita income in Cd. Juarez ($3714) that year, in a Third World country twenty miles down the road where the cost of living is a lot lower, than it was to the New Mexico average of $17,261. And after 8 years of Ronald Reagan, 4 of GHW Bush, 8 with Bill Clinton, and 2 with "W," the average weekly wages in 2003 for non-management workers in private industry were about $6000 lower (in 2003 dollars) than in 1973, when adjusted for inflation. The last five years have been even worse for most workers. At the same time, during the 28 years since Reagan was elected, an enormous economic expansion more than doubled the nation's production in real dollars; in per capita income terms, income increased by over 68%. Problem is, this expansion of wealth did not benefit most workers, whose wages actually fell, in real dollar terms. For the most part it benefitted the top 1% of wage earners, whose tax rates just kept falling steadily after 1980 even as their salaries got bigger and bigger. And, forget it, places like Vado and Anthony and Sunland Park were largely abandoned by U.S. national policy under Democrats as well as Republicans. The recent collapse of the financial markets, accompanied by massive welfare checks to some of the strongest advocates of trickle down policy and deregulation to"keep government out of the markets," has angered millions of Americans who appear eager to punish the Republican Party for its leading role as an enforcer of the doctrine of trickle down all these years. There is, yes, a possibility that people in the South Valley may get some tangible relief from the damage these and other policies have inflicted on the vast majority of Americans. But be prepared: you may have to make your voices heard to prevent a return to politics as usual, and you may have to fight for the limited funds available after our government and Wall Street squandered all credibility through their actions and then told us that about $10 trillion or so just disappeared into the unregulated black hole of derivatives, hedge funds, credit default swaps, selling short, and other marvels of trickle down economic policy in practice. Vote Obama.

General Clark to Visit VFW This Afternoon, Denish Campaigns with Teague

Last minute campaigning continues. General Wesley Clark, former commander of NATO, will be in Las Cruces at the VFW Post 6917 this afternoon from 2:00-4:30, campaigning for Barack Obama. For information call (575) 915-0614.

Yesterday Lt. Governor Diane Denish campaigned with Harry Teague in Anthony at the Economic Development fair at the water and sanitation district. She was accompanied by State Treasurer James Lewis and Democratic Party chair Brian Colon. They campaigned for several hours in the region.