Back in February 2010, Carly Fiorina—the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and, at the time, Republican candidate for one of California’s seats in the US Senate—released a low-budget campaign ad characterizing her primary opponent as a “demon sheep.” More than three minutes long, the ad featured ugly clip art, melodramatic voice-overs and a man crawling around on all fours, sporting a poorly designed sheep costume and glowing red eyes.
The ad went viral, helping propel Fiorina to a primary victory, but later backfired when her Democratic opponents released a parody casting Fiorina herself as the demon sheep. She lost the general election to incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Demon sheep have since been eclipsed by “Romnesia,” women in binders and Big Bird. But Fiorina’s ad nonetheless set the stage for a new kind of election. Released less than a month after the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, it was an early harbinger of the high-cost, dark-money, all-meme-no-substance campaign that is rapidly becoming our political norm.
The current election cycle is on track to be the most expensive in history. Outside spending is increasingly negative; more campaign ads attack candidates than support them. Candidates themselves are less accountable to voters: President Barack Obama refused to meet with Iowa’s venerable Des Moines Register for an endorsement interview unless it was off the record, and a poller for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whose fiscal plans are famously vague, said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” As Columbia University professor Thomas Edsall recently wrote in the New York Times, “A Romney victory will make it possible for future candidates to take the same path of secretiveness. Non-disclosure could become the norm.”
Substitute Obama—whose administration has been known to espouse transparency only when convenient—and it's still true.
We don’t want to be all doom-and-gloom here (even though this issue does publish on Halloween). But we have to wonder: Which of these political sheep isn’t a demon?
In the end, it’s up to you. VOTE.
Our Endorsement Process
SFR sought to conduct interviews with candidates in every contested race. We did not conduct interviews in races where candidates are running unopposed. (For a list of those candidates, see page 18.) Only two candidates did not interview with SFR: Republican US Senate hopeful Heather Wilson, who declined an interview, and Democratic state Sen. Phil Griego, who did not return multiple phone messages and emails. Audio recordings of all other endorsement interviews are available on SFR’s election page: sfreporter.com/elections.
Barack Obama, Democrat
Depending on whom you talk to, President Barack Obama has accomplished either too little (on immigration, global warming and economic stimulus) or too much (on health care and financial reform) during his first term in office. The truth is somewhere in between. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), while imperfect, is an important move toward reforming health care. Obama’s nuanced approach to foreign policy is advantageous, too—the last thing America needs is a blustering president anxious to create enemies. If an intractable Congress allows it, we can hope for immigration reform and a meaningful jobs plan during the next four years. Despite Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s business experience, his plans for the country are extremely vague—with the exception of undoing everything Obama has done. It’s just one indicator of Romney’s disinclination for transparency—and turning the clock back to 2008 is, quite simply, the opposite of progress.
US Rep. Martin Heinrich, Democrat
Attack ads may still be flooding the airwaves in New Mexico’s Senate race (see page 23), even though US Rep. Martin Heinrich’s voting record doesn’t diverge significantly from that of his opponent, former congresswoman Heather Wilson. Since leaving Congress, however, Wilson—once a moderate Republican—has moved further to the right and been less than forthcoming about the private-sector work she’s done, mostly for big-name defense firms and national labs. Heinrich is what New Mexicans need: an earnest, hard-working politician whose bipartisan views (don’t believe the attack ads!) will serve him well in the Senate. Although independent candidates Jon Barrie and Bob Anderson both ran impressively low-budget campaigns, their views are more polarized. Heinrich’s moderation is the best option to represent New Mexicans and help meet their diverse needs.
US House of Representatives, Dist. 3
US Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Democrat
When SFR asked Ben Ray Luján why he’s running for reelection, the first words out of his mouth were, “This is about New Mexico.” Sure, it’s a sound bite, but over the course of his past two terms in Congress, Luján has shown a true commitment to New Mexico by advocating for clean-energy jobs, middle-class tax advantages, stimulus funding and health care reform. He has made a point of being accessible to constituents and is able to work not only with the rest of the New Mexico delegation in Washington, but also across the aisle. In a very broken Washington, Luján has the potential to be part of the solution.
Supreme Court of New Mexico
Justice Paul Kennedy, Republican
Both Supreme Court candidates have extensive legal experience—Democrat Barbara Vigil as a judge in the First Judicial District; current Justice Paul Kennedy as a lawyer in a wide range of cases and courtrooms—and both promise to advocate for the state’s underfunded judicial branch. But Kennedy’s independent views (despite serving as Gov. Susana Martinez’ lawyer on redistricting, he supports the idea of a nonpartisan redistricting commission) and more varied experience will, we believe, give him a deeper and more nuanced ability to interpret the law.
New Mexico Court of Appeals
Judge J Miles Hanisee, Republican
Since his appointment to the New Mexico Court of Appeals last year, Judge Miles Hanisee has ruled on a wide variety of cases, issuing opinions that show him to be a thoughtful and even-handed jurist. While Democratic candidate Monica Zamora has honed her legal expertise in the children’s court division of the Second Judicial District Court, Hanisee—a former assistant US Attorney, US Court of Appeals clerk and defense lawyer in private practice—brings a broader scope of experience to the bench, in addition to a more intimate understanding of, and passion for, appellate law.
NM Senate Dist. 39
Aubrey Dunn, Republican
Democratic state Sen. Phil Griego, who chairs the powerful Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee, has held this seat since 1997. He declined to interview with SFR and, after the primary, told the blog Capitol Report New Mexico, “I didn’t have any responsibility to talk to the media.” But refusing to publicize his views is more of a disservice to voters than to the media, and suggests that Griego will be less than responsive to his constituents while in office. By contrast, Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn, a former congressional candidate and rancher, has independent views and promises to prioritize small businesses, education and—novel idea!—his constituents.
NM House Dist. 43
Stephanie Garcia Richard, Democrat
Although Republican state Rep. Jim Hall, whom Gov. Susana Martinez appointed last year, has shown himself to be an energetic and thoughtful legislator, challenger Stephanie Garcia Richard has the knowledge and passion to be a true game-changer. Her experience as an elementary school teacher in Pojoaque Valley Schools gives her a ground-level view of the challenges facing New Mexico’s education system, and she has pledged to work with the Martinez administration to pursue fair and effective reform. Her knowledge and experience around this issue will be a great strength for a district badly in need of better education options.
NM House Dist. 48
Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, Democrat
Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh tells SFR he’s running because voters deserve a choice. That’s true—and even though state Rep. Lucky Varela has served in the state Legislature for 25 years, during that time, he has served with honesty, dedication and expertise. Amid the partisanship that sometimes overtakes the Roundhouse, Varela exhibits independence and courtesy, yet continues to stand up for his constituents—evidence of his unique commitment to what’s best for both his district and New Mexico in general.
NM House Dist. 50
Stephen Easley, Democrat
Before the primary election in June, SFR endorsed Stephen Easley, an IT entrepreneur and former Alamogordo city councilor, for the clarity and pragmatism of his views on education reform—a key issue in this large, diverse district—as well as in other arenas. Easley’s intelligence, commitment to public service and experience cooperating with politicians of all stripes will prove invaluable to Santa Fe and surrounding areas.
1. Proposing an amendment to Article 6, Section 32 of the Constitution of New Mexico to provide for two additional members to sit on the judicial standards commission, a municipal judge and a public member.
SFR endorsement: AGAINST. At its current membership of 11, the JSC is big enough, and sufficiently represents judges’ interests. Any further increase merely adds to bureaucracy.
2. Proposing an amendment to Article 11, Section 1 of the Constitution of New Mexico to increase the qualifications for Public Regulation Commissioners.
SFR endorsement: FOR. PRC members are currently required only to be 18 years old, have lived in New Mexico for one year and not be convicted felons. Additional qualifications, such as minimum work experience or education, would improve the PRC.
3. Proposing an amendment to Article 11, Section 2 of the Constitution of New Mexico to enact a new section of Article 11 to remove authority to charter and regulate corporations from the public regulation commission and provide authority to charter corporations to the secretary of state.
SFR endorsement: FOR. Delegating the PRC’s corporations function to the Secretary of State’s office would simplify and clarify the PRC’s mission.
4. Proposing an amendment to Article 11 of the Constitution of New Mexico to remove the regulation of insurance companies and others engaged in risk assumption from the public regulation commission and place it under a superintendent of insurance appointed by the insurance nominating committee as provided by law.
SFR endorsement: FOR. Again, removing the insurance function would simplify the PRC’s mission and make the new insurance division more independent and accountable to constituents.
5. Proposing an amendment to Article 6 of the Constitution of New Mexico to add a new section that provides for the organization of the public defender department.
SFR endorsement: FOR. The creation of an independent public defender department is a much-needed change that will enable public defenders—whose mission is and should be separate from that of state-funded prosecutors—to advocate for their own funding.
BOND QUESTIONS (Statewide)
A. …Shall the state be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $10,335,000 to make capital expenditures for certain senior citizen facility improvement, construction and equipment acquisition projects…?
B. …Shall the state be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $9,830,000 to make capital expenditures for academic, public school, tribal and public library resource acquisitions and construction…?
C. …Shall the state be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $120 million to make capital expenditures for certain higher education and special schools capital improvements and acquisitions…?
BOND QUESTIONS (Santa Fe County)
1. Shall Santa Fe County issue up to $19 million in general obligation bonds payable from general (ad valorem) taxes, to acquire, construct, design, equip, and improve roads within the County?
2. Shall Santa Fe County issue up to $10 million in general obligation bonds payable from general (ad valorem) taxes to acquire real property and necessary water rights for, and to construct, design, equip, rehabilitate, and improve water and wastewater projects within the county?
3. Shall Santa Fe County issue up to $6 million in general obligation bonds payable from general (ad valorem) taxes, to acquire, design, construct, improve, equip and restore open space, trails and parks within the county?
*Editor's note: A previous version of this article cited Santa Fe County, rather than the BCC, for failing to come up with a timely development plan for the Santa Fe Canyon Ranch. SFR nonetheless stands by its endorsement.
For this year’s endorsement issue, SFR collaborated with
students at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. The stories were written
as part of a Real Stories journalism course, taught by former SFR Editor Julia
Goldberg, and offered in the Creative Writing Department at SFUAD.
They explore a variety of aspects of the 2012 election cycle and speak eloquently to the issue of political engagement among young people. For more information on the class, visit Realstories2012.wordpress.com