Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beneath the Sangre de Cristos: Susana's Final Campaign Stop in Mora

The event was set for 3-5 p.m., Saturday at Cowboy Kitchen in Mora. My cousin Nick Cruz, who headed Democrats for Susana in Mora County, drove me there at about 2:30. It was on the main street across the street from a polling place, which was open. Democrats had put up little information tents for candidates next to the polling place, and to the right and to the left of Cowboy Kitchen on the same side of the street. So we were surrounded. That was a smart move, I thought to myself. Under such inspection you have to be pretty committed to show up, given that Democrats control the county. Several people in the Democratic tents glared at us as we parked and strolled to the restaurant. A crowd of maybe 30 persons was standing in front of the restaurant. An eighteen-wheeler pulled up, without sides to the trailer, fixed up with microphones and a dais. Candidates would speak from the platform, down at the audience. People were asked to move back so the truck could park closer to the restaurant. The crowd was growing bigger.

State police then measured the distance between the eighteen wheeler and the entrance to the polling place. It was three feet short of the required 100 ft. Then police measured the distance between the polling place and the Democratic tent next to it. I was told it too fell short of the requirement. Someone was looking for Ernie Olivas, who owns the empty lot on the West side of the Cowboy Kitchen, to see if he would rent it for a couple of hours so the truck could pull in there outside the 100 foot range. Did anyone have his phone number? Nick rang his number but Ernie didn't answer. Nick said he had seen him five minutes earlier. By now there were well over 100 people standing in front of Cowboys Kitchen, waiting for the show to begin. Suddenly a voice (I recognized it as belonging to Agnes Maldonado) from a loudspeaker informed us we had to go inside the restaurant. Change of plans.

After a crowd of perhaps a hundred settled into a room in the restaurant, a mariachi trio began to play; the female singer had a beautiful voice. Perhaps another 30 or so crammed into an adjoining room. The Republican county chairman began the show by introducing the candidates--for probate judge, magistrate, and sheriff. Each received a warm applause. Then statewide candidates spoke. People kept wedging into the small room until about 150 had squeezed in. The room got warmer.

Among the statewide candidates speaking was Ned Fuller, for Court of Appeals. When his turn came he said, simply, "What do you want in a judge? Equal treatment under the law, right? That's not what we've gotten here this afternoon, that's why we had to come into this small space," he said, alluding to the measuring incidences and the change of venue. He got a warm round of applause when he was done. When the statewide candidates were done, only Susana was left, but she hadn't arrived. The audience buzzed with anticipation. People been asked to leave their cardboard Susana signs (about 2 ft. by 18 inches) at the door when coming in so I started passing out a stack of Democrats for Susana bumper stickers I had, which were eagerly snatched out of my hands. "Hey Dwayne," somebody yelled out, "put a Democrats for Susana sticker on your hat!" Dwayne laughed and put one up to his hat for a few seconds, for a round of applause. Obviously a well-known yellow dog Democrat.

When Susana finally walked in, everybody inched forward to get a better view, and she delivered a rousing, energetic speech, sometimes speaking in flawless Spanish, expressing a hope to "win this big." Just as she ended, to thunderous applause, Dwayne raised his hand and quieted the crowd, saying he had a question. "I have a speech disability," he said. "I depend on government to help me through. Why are you going to take away those funds from me and people like me?" "That's not true," she started to say, but he interrupted to say "Yes it is, I heard it on television." The audience then turned on him and booed. Susana raised her hand to silence the crowd. Suddenly there was complete silence: a dramatic moment of truth. "I have a disabled sister," she said. "I've cared for her all my life, and we depend on government funding to keep her well. Why would I take away her funding just because I'm governor? Why would I take away funding for your disability? This is an example of the falsehoods people have been spreading about me!" When she was finished, the crowd broke into even more thunderous applause. The mariachi started playing and the afternoon was hers.

My cousins stood in line for 20 minutes to get me to take a picture of them with her. When we left there was still a 10-minute line of people who wanted to shake her hand and get a picture. I looked up at the mountains as we drove back to Holman. An early fall snowpack was already beginning to accumulate on the summits of La Jicarita. Winter comes early in the Sangre de Cristos, and I still had work to do to prepare for it.

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