Change is Here. Progressives Dominate NM Primary Elections

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Let’s face it — it’s been a crazy primary season. Some people armed themselves with hand sanitizer and face masks as they headed to the polls while others made use of their absentee ballots by mailing them or dropping them off at their respective polling places. Together, we adapted to a global pandemic and exercised our right to vote.

This year, ballots are taking a little longer than usual to count, but we can already see that real change is here.

Election Night Loser: The oil and gas industry.

Tuesday’s primary elections were a big loss for Big Oil and for entrenched pro-oil democrats who received help directly and indirectly from oil and gas companies, their lobbyists, and their PACs. 

The astroturf PAC New Mexico Strong has received nearly $3 MILLION dollars in the last couple of years directly from Chevron and this year brought over $700,000 of that to bear trying to reelect a cadre of “Democrat” Senators who have historically voted against their fellow Democrats on progressive issues. Most significantly were the defeats of longtime Chair of the Finance Committee John Arthur “Dr. No” Smith and Senate Pro Temp Mary Kay Papen. Both were brought down by political newcomers campaigning on platforms of change and progress. Smith was defeated by grassroots activist Neomi Martinez Parra and Papen by Carrie Hamblen, President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. (At the time of publication, Hamblen is expected to hold onto a 4% lead over Papen in SD38). New Mexico Strong had targeted sites for five senators this cycle, besides Smith and Papen, Senator Clemente Sanchez and Senator Gabe Ramos also received their marching orders from voters. Of their five Big Oil champions, only Senator George Munoz appears to be coming back next year. 

In the second congressional district Republican field Claire Chase, a former New Mexico Oil and Gas Association board member, lost handily to Yvette Herrell, despite being backed by Big Oil and Gas at every level.

Here’s why that’s a big deal specifically. 

Claire Chase is the past chair of NMOGA and her husband Chance Chase is VP of Mack Energy. Mack Energy are themselves major donors to a number of conservative PACs in New Mexico as we reported recently. Chance also served on the board of directors of former CD2 Representative and now New Mexico GOP chairman Steve Pearce’s 501c4 GOAL Advocacy. Also on that board was Nancy Brantley, wife of George Brantley, the first named donor to… Citizens for a United New Mexico. And just to bring it all together, that PAC that was backing Chase in the primary race for the Republican nominee in CD2, Citizens for a United New Mexico, was funded and run by the East Coast cabal that also runs Power The Future.

New Mexicans know how significant Oil and Gas is to the state when it comes to revenue for our schools and jobs for our workers. But we also know that the outsized influence that the big out-of-state corporations play in our politics with all that Big Oil Money is problematic. We’ll let one of NMOGA’s own spokespeople sum it up: 

“Every dollar that a company has to spend is a dollar that comes out of what they can pay people.”

John Smitherman, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s (NMOGA) senior regulatory advisor.

We agree John, maybe stop spending so much money trying to buy our state elections and you could hire back all the workers you laid off this year. 

NM voters to Big Oil in 2020… ¡Ya basta!

Election night loser: Racism.

There were two races (no pun intended) where racism played a hand in candidates’ defeat. Bernalillo County Commission district 3 candidate Adrian Carver and U.S. House of Representatives district 3 candidate Valerie Plame went down faster than the car seen driving in reverse on Plame’s campaign commercial. Plame, who tweeted anti-Semitic remarks, and Carver, who used racist campaign tactics because he thought slamming a progressive champion would win him the race, both lost. More importantly, two women of color who have worked in our communities for years and who hold our progressive values so close to their hearts won. Teresa Leger Fernandez won the Democratic primary for Congressional District 3 and Adriann Barboa, facing no opponent in the general election, is our new County Commissioner for Bernalillo County Commission District 3!

Election night winner: Women, people of color (POC) the LGBTQ and working-class communities.

With primary elections happening against the backdrop of communities rising up in support of Black lives, it seems appropriate that the election results were more reflective of the voices of our communities. After months of COVID devastating our families- particularly POC families- and after several Black murders at the hands of police were finally recognized in the mainstream media, we are finally starting to see a little glimmer of light – even if (for now) it’s only in local New Mexico politics. Of the 38 Progressive Champions running in the primaries, 31 of them were either women, POC and or from the LGBTQ community. Nearly 75% of them won their elections last night, 17 of whom were women. Even more, when our champions make it through their general elections, New Mexico will send an all women of color delegation to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives!

Election night winner: Reproductive rights.

The response was loud and clear: access to abortion is essential and families across New Mexico stand in support of women having the ability to make their own pregnancy decisions. Get in our way? We. Will. Vote. You. Out. After the unexpected passing of Senator Cisneros, New Mexico was left with seven Democrat Senators who voted to keep an abortion ban. After last night’s election results, it looks as if FIVE of them will be replaced. 

Senators John Arthur Smith (SD35), Clemente Sanchez (SD30), Gabe Ramos (SD28), Richard Martinez (SD5) and Mary Kay Papen (SD38) will be replaced by incredible champions for reproductive justice. We’re sending all of our big shout outs and love to primary election winners Neomi Martinez Parra (SD35), Pam Cordova (SD30), Siah Correa-Hemphill (SD28), Leo Jaramillo (SD5) and Carrie Hamblen (SD38). 

To boot, New Mexico saw wins for reproductive champions in districts like Senate District 9, formally represented by John Sapien. We picked up an incredible advocate in Brenda McKenna! And least we forget CNN hero Roger Montoya, who won handily against his outspokenly anti-abortion opponent Matthew Gonzales in House District 40.

The last little reproductive rights victory? Elisa Martinez – Founder of an anti-abortion extremist organization in New Mexico – lost her race against a weatherman. What is it with Republicans electing reality TV stars? :::face palm:::

The bottom line: New Mexicans support access to abortion. After this shakeup, it is clear that the Senate must reflect that position in its leadership as well. We’re calling for no more anti-abortion leadership in our state Senate. Namely, in whoever becomes the new Pro-Temp and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. It’s simply not the will of the people of New Mexico.

Here’s a look at all of the Progressive Champions who won their primary races.


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Executive Director 

Marianna Anaya

Deputy Director 

Lucas Herndon

Energy and Policy Director 

Josette Arvizu

Communications Director 

Jackie Aguirre

Communications Specialist 

Edgar Cruz

Communications Specialist 

Alissa Barnes :: Executive Director
just the facts

you should know

Alissa Barnes is Executive Director at ProgessNow New Mexico where she leads a team that works on message development, issue and voter education, and amplification of progressive messages and values. She leads the organization in strategy development, fundraising, and organizational growth and sustainability.

Alissa’s background includes nearly 12 years at Roadrunner Food Bank where Alissa led the development and creation of multiple programs that are now national models, invested in community building and collaborations, and worked closely with elected officials, educating about hunger and why policies would either benefit or hurt clients in food lines. She has a BA from the University of New Mexico and various non-profit certifications.
  • If she followed her childhood dream, she would be a Broadway tap dancing star
  • Has seen Frozen 1 and 2 over 100 times
  • Loves heavy metal concerts
Marianna Anaya :: Deputy Director
just the facts

you should know

Marianna oversees strategic messaging and creative implementation tactics for issue-based and political campaigns. She leads the team’s digital and earned media programs, bringing a New Mexico values-based approach to her work. 

Marianna’s background includes race and ethnic studies in education as a focus at UT Austin and UCLA, political campaign work, staffing former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as leading organizing and communications work for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

  • She currently serves as the Board President of Emerge NM. 
  • Her hobbies include getting more women, queer folks and BIPOC elected to office.
  • She has three cuddle-worthy dogs at home
Lucas Herndon :: Energy and Policy Director
just the facts

you should know

Lucas’ focus is on all things energy and environment, election integrity projects and general messaging strategy. He is often the front facing voice for PNNM when it comes to issues surrounding methane, renewable energy, oil industry accountability, and public lands issues. 

Lucas has an extensive background in public lands and solar energy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 and has participated in every local election since 2012 through phone banking, online organizing, and poll watching. Lucas is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces where he has served in various capacities of leadership including as President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, District Director for the Dona Ana County Democratic Party, and attending and completing the inaugural classes of the Las Cruces Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Las Cruces Tree Stewards. 

  • Owned a tattoo shop called Omega Tattoo & Supply 
  • Once got a chin bump “what’s up” from James Harden on an airplane when Harden saw Lucas’ beard 
  • Has a minor in Medieval and Early Modern History
Josette Arvizu :: Communications Director
just the facts

you should know

Josette Arvizu is the Communications Director at ProgressNow New Mexico where she oversees the development and implementation of systems that further the external and internal communications of the organization.

Josette’s background in marketing includes copywriting, paid media, SEO and content strategy for businesses and nonprofits, including convention and visitor bureaus from Bermuda to Anaheim. She began her career teaching writing to college students while in New Mexico State University’s MFA in creative writing program. Her previous work promoting diversity and inclusion includes coordination of writing and traditional arts workshops for Native American youth at the Tucson Indian Center.
  • Is a cat mom to an obstinate orange tabby named Quasimodo and a restless grey cat named Squirrel
  • Hasn’t heard a pun she didn’t like
  • Minored in dance in college and is an avid follower of ballet on Instagram
Jackie Aguirre :: Communications Specialist
just the facts

you should know

Jackie’s focus is on graphics and social media marketing that promote progressive issues across our state. 

Jackie’s background includes work in the Reproductive Justice space focusing on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican-American communities.

  • She is a co-owner of a community art gallery celebrating BIPOC artists
  • She is a long-time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and works with college students to provide condoms/dental dams, menstrual products & other resources
  • She is a part of a group of women who love craft beer and hosts monthly beer shares with beer from all over the country
Edgar Cruz :: Communications Specialist
just the facts

you should know

Edgar Cruz is a Communications Specialist at ProgressNow New Mexico where he focuses on video creation and research that promotes progressive issues across our state.

Edgar has a background producing multimedia initiatives. With over five years of radio production experience, he is a movement agent who believes in exploring all avenues of media to inform and engage community.

  • Is a host of Espejos de Aztlan on KUNM
  • Is a member of Generation Justice
  • First discovered his passion for organizing as a high school student after joining the Youth Alliance in 2009