Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Candidates Protest Democratic Party Involvement in Mayor's Race in Anthony

A colored flyer, looking pretty much like a campaign mailer (see below), is circulating in Anthony, with a photograph of Arnulfo Castaneda (Mayor of Anthony) on it.  The flyer announces that the Dona Ana County Democratic Party is "co-sponsoring" a state of the city address by the mayor on Wednesday evening, February 24, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

There are four candidates running against Mr. Castaneda, in a hotly-contested election that will be held on March 1.  Co-sponsoring this event, given the timing, can legitimately be viewed  as constituting a Democratic Party endorsement, perhaps an informal one, of Mr. Castaneda over the other candidates.

Is there something wrong with this picture?  The Constitution of New Mexico explicitly makes municipal elections non-partisan.  So, in addition to being unfair to Juan Acevedo, Raymundo Aguirre, Peggy Scott, and Diana M. Trujillo, (all of them, incidentally, are registered Democrats) it may well be illegal, not just unethical, for the Democratic Party to involve itself or even seem to be involving itself in a mayor's race.

But there is more. The flyer lists the "City of Anthony" as a co-sponsor.  I spoke to two council members this afternoon and evening.  Until they were informed about it from non-official sources yesterday, and viewed the flyer, they said, neither had heard about it, nor had they been invited to it.  The question arises:  if the city council had no knowledge of it, much less approved it, can the "City of Anthony" in fact, be said to be co-sponsoring it?  Or is the co-sponsoring Democratic Party suggesting the mayor is the city?

A mayor's forum, involving all candidates, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, at the Catholic Church Recreation Hall.  Full disclosure:  I was asked to serve as moderator for this event, and I accepted.  Arturo Uribe, one of the principal organizers of this function, told me he had called Dona Ana Democratic Party County Chair Liz Rodriguez-Johnson to confirm the party's sponsorship of the City Hall event the same night.  She denied it, according to Uribe.  When he replied he had been told by people in Anthony that the co-sponsorship was clearly on the flyer, she said "something to the effect that the problem with some people in Anthony is that they don't know how to read what's on the flyer," according to Uribe.

I guess I don't know how to read it, either.  You be the judge.  Is the Democratic Party hinting it is endorsing Mr. Castaneda?  Under whose authority?  Is it proper to list the city as a co-sponsor without the city council's approval, and without inviting them to attend?  Should Dona Ana County's Democratic Party be involving itself in a non-partisan election, constitutional issues aside?

This afternoon I spoke with mayoral candidate Diana M. Trujillo.    She told me she learned about the event on Monday.  She thought the co-sponsorship by the Democratic Party was unethical.  This evening I spoke with City Councilwoman Betty Gonzalez, and mayoral candidate Raymundo Aguirre, who were attending a meeting at City Hall.  I asked them if they though it was appropriate for the county Democratic Party to co-sponsor this state of the city event.  "No," said Mr. Aguirre.  Betty Gonzalez was more emphatic.  "It is completely inappropriate for the Democratic Party to sponsor this event."  I tried, but was unable to connect with Juan Acevedo and Peggy Scott.  Neither returned my phone calls.

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