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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

State Senator Eric Griego: An Open Letter to Fellow Democrats

This is an open letter to fellow Democrats sent to me for publication and written by State Senator Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque).

Dear New Mexico Democrat:
Last year’s election was a momentous occasion. Not only did we elect a Democratic President and an entire Democratic Congressional delegation, but we picked up several Democratic seats in the state House and Senate. With a nine-fifths Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature, and a Democratic Governor, we expected to implement a state policy agenda in line with the Democratic platform.

We were wrong.

In spite of a net gain of three Democratic seats in the state Senate, and the election of progressives (some would call it the Democratic wing of the Democratic party) to replace more centrist incumbents, not much has changed in the New Mexico Senate.

In the words of former Who lead singer Roger Daltry, “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.”

While the state House has tackled some of these issues including ethics reform, domestic partnership and progressive tax reform -- the state Senate has mostly thwarted the Democratic agenda. For those who don’t follow legislative politics, the current Democratic leadership in the state Senate was elected by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Nineteen members of the Democratic Caucus supported Senator Carlos Cisneros of Questa for President Pro Tem. The other eight voted with the fifteen member Republican caucus to elect Senator Tim Jennings, a conservative Democrat from Roswell. While Senator Jennings is a nice enough guy, his political philosophy is in stark contrast to the majority of rank and file Democrats – not to mention the state party platform.

The state Democratic party seems to endorse the coalition. One of those eight coalition Democrats was just given the first annual Bruce King Award Public Service Award by the New Mexico Democratic Party.

What has been the practical effect of this coalition? No significant Democratic bills, other than repealing the death penalty, have passed the Republican/Democrat Coalition controlled Senate. They have worked with the Republican caucus to kill conservation, progressive taxation, consumer protection and equality legislation. Most of this legislation has died in committees set up by Senate leadership to minimize the influence of progressive members, and thus insure no legislation implementing the Democratic Party platform would ever come to fruition.

In 2006 the state central committee passed resolutions opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yet, domestic partner legislation has been thwarted by Senate committees stacked with anti-equality Democrats. Despite the nine-fifths Democratic majority in the Senate, equality legislation has failed in committee and on the Senate floor.

In 2006 and 2008 the state central committee passed resolutions calling for repealing tax cuts for the wealthy. The state Senate leadership did not consider even one bill on the Senate floor that asked the wealthiest New Mexicans to pay their fair share. All such bills were killed in stacked committees with several “centrist” Democrats voting with Republicans to kill the bills. 

In the 2010 legislative session, the majority of Democrats voted with all Republicans to kill all floor amendments that would have reduced or eliminated tax cuts for the rich. Instead, a tax on food was passed by several Democrats in coalition with Republicans. The coalition rejected the more Democratic and balanced House budget and instead voted to cut education and other basic services rather than asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.

In 2006 the state central committee passed a resolution to support small businesses in their competition with national firms. A bill to do just that and make out-of-state corporations pay corporate income taxes on profits made in New Mexico died in the Senate, with several Democrats, including leadership, voting against the bill.

In 2008 the state central committee passed resolutions to promote active environmental policies, reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy. Yet, little if any conservation legislation has seen the light of day in the Democratic state Senate, despite a nine-fifths majority. Even worse, coalition Democrats voted with Republicans to remove Neri Holguin, a conservationist, from the Environmental Improvement Board.

On ethics and campaign reform, the state platform includes support for public financing of campaigns, same day registration for elections, and holding public officials accountable. Yet, the Senate Democratic leadership has not even let most bills related to ethics and campaign finance bills be heard. Most have died in the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senator Linda Lopez, one of the eight coalition Democrats. The ones that did make it to the floor were so watered down as to be nearly irrelevant.

I believe that if we lose statewide and legislative elections in November, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Despite the numerous scandals of state officials, our state Senate leadership has fought most reasonable ethics or campaign reform. Over the past two years the Democratic Senate leadership has bottled up, watered down, or otherwise stymied ethics and campaign finance reform bills. We have effectively deferred to the Republican party on ethics reform and as a result given them a strong issue for the 2010 cycle.

The slow drift to the right of the Democratic party has meant we no longer stand for anything. It has given our Democratic base no reason to show up in November. If the talk of reform and change that brought in the overwhelming Democratic majorities at the federal and state levels was just that – talk – we are going to lose in November. And we should.

Maybe it is time to discuss a third party that reflects what’s actually in the state Democratic Party platform. We need a party that supports ethics reform, a fair tax system, and equality for all New Mexicans. We need a party that puts the environment ahead of corporate interests. We need a party that fights for working people, not for corporate greed. That used to be the Democratic party. I can’t say that anymore, at least not in the New Mexico Senate.

This open letter to Democrats is a guest blog by New Mexico State Senator Eric Griego (D-Albuquerque). If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

February 16, 2010 at 03:17 PM in Corporatism, Democratic Party, Eric Griego, Ethics & Campaign Reform, GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2010, Progressivism, Republican Party | Permalink


Thank you Senator Griego for saying what needs to be said. If we can't overcome these dark forces, we have no chance to solve any of our problems. Their power must be broken.

Posted by: Young Dem | Feb 16, 2010 4:10:03 PM

The Senate is so crazy this session we need to do something to stop this cabal from continuing their rule. We must get Jennings out of there! And pressure Democrats to be Democrats. Enough is enough is right.

Posted by: Been in the Senate Gallery | Feb 16, 2010 4:21:45 PM

The 2010 Bruce King Public Service Award senate recipient did vote in favor of domestic partnership yesterday in SFC and the year before. Breaking ranks, at least in this matter.

Nevertheless, thank you Sen. Griego for writing this guest column. It needed to be said.

Posted by: SW New Mexico Dem | Feb 16, 2010 4:28:53 PM

I couldn't agree more. I told some friends the other day I was in danger of becoming an Independent I would rather have my Democratic party become the Real Democratic party.

Posted by: David Stocum | Feb 16, 2010 4:34:29 PM

I don't think the Dem Party should be giving any awards to anyone who votes with Republicans to elect the likes of Tim Jennings as pro tem. It's an embarrassment to the party not something that should be rewarded. Give the award for someone with guts to stand up to the money interests and lobbyists!

Posted by: Rene | Feb 16, 2010 4:39:24 PM

Where are the awards for activists and volunteers?

Posted by: L.C. Democrat | Feb 16, 2010 4:41:25 PM

Thank you Sen. Griego for this run-down of our sad state of affairs.

This should be a warning shot over the bow of these lame DINOs. Get with the program or get gone.

This is a poor state. You are not elected to fatten your wallets and screw the people.

More truth like this please!

Posted by: bg | Feb 16, 2010 4:42:50 PM

You are so correct, I'm a Democrat in name only, because as a prgressive, this party does not really represent my views. I suppose I lived in Europe, you could say I would be a Euro-communist.

Posted by: Henry | Feb 16, 2010 5:24:56 PM

Thank you Sen. Griego for laying it out so clearly. I've attended a number of committee sessions and sat in the galleries observing the obstructionist tactics of so called Democrats. Thank you for the work you, and a handfull of others try to do for the benefit of the entire state.

Posted by: cw | Feb 16, 2010 5:31:12 PM

Thank you Senator for your clear account of how we got to this point, but I completely disagree with the idea of forming a third party. We are Democrats and we need to find ways to fix the problems within our party, not simply abandon ship. If we do that, we will lose everything.

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Feb 16, 2010 5:43:05 PM

Thank you Senator Griego. As a member of the Democratic Party Platform and Resolutions committee I am thrilled to see your references to our platform. We have worked very hard to develop a very progressive platform and we have passed the platform in our State Central Committee easily, proof that the rank and file Democrats of New Mexico are progressive.

I would like to ask everybody who is upset by how the Legislature did not represent us this year to demand that they reconvene and enact the necessary revenue generating actions that can save jobs, children's healthcare, our schools, our public safety department, our transportation department, OUR STATE!

Tim Jennings and Linda Lopez and the rest of the highly conservative "democrats" in our Legislature need to take a hike!

Thank you so much for standing up for the people of New Mexico.

Terry Riley

Posted by: Terry Riley | Feb 16, 2010 5:46:46 PM

I don't know how you and Dede Feldman work with these politicians, but thank goodness you do. Keep up the good fight(s) and continue to SPEAK OUT! Thanks for representing us(the Democrat voters).

Posted by: JillGat | Feb 16, 2010 6:14:43 PM

i want to add that the State Dem Party Chair Javier Gonzales brought the platform to each elected official. And has authored strong letters urging support of a particular issue from senators and reps. So as mad as I am i dont want to throw the baby out with the bath water. even though i didnt have any babies cause i am gay and my lesbian type of family is frowned upon by some conservative dems. Yet I digress. I want to be sure to give credit where it is due and applaud the leader in the Democratic Party .... the Party for the people and of the people...he has gone to bat for us.

Posted by: mary ellen | Feb 16, 2010 8:51:41 PM

Bravissimo Senator Griego!!!!

Posted by: Ana | Feb 16, 2010 10:21:14 PM

Cisneros as the candidate to replace Jennings has some problems--I hope the Senate Democrats will choose someone else to run against him in 2013. I would love to see Senator Fischmann as pro tem.

Sanchez isn't much better than Jennings, especially on ethics issues.

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Feb 17, 2010 4:02:53 AM

What is nine-fifths of 42? let's see, 42 divided by 5 is 8+. and 8+ times 9 = 72+.
And there are only 42 senators by my last count. My math is rusty, but Eric, I don't understand yours.
And maybe the New Mexico Senate is not ready to be run by the progresives yet. Be patient and get seniority.

Posted by: Uncle Crusty | Feb 17, 2010 7:26:17 AM

Thank you, Eric!
The Platform and Resolutions Committee has worked hard to make the voice of party members heard. Legislators have received a pocket-sized summary of resolutions relevant to NM law that have been passed by the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party. We also have legislative liaisons, Sen. Tim Keller and Rep. Karen Gianinni, to assist in this process. Our party chair, Javier Gonzales, and his staff, have also contributed to this effort.

It is a huge disappointment that NM Democrats' mandates were ignored despite all this.

For this session, we focused on a FEW key issues for legislative support: domestic partnerships, preserving funding to education and Medicaid, closing loopholes that allow out-of-state corporations to avoid NM income tax, and making income tax more progressive, including repealing 2003 tax-cuts to our wealthiest. None of these were accomplished despite a Democratic Party majority in both houses!

Who are those who voted against our basic values representing? Obviously not the people who elected them. They have betrayed their constituencies from the grassroots through the SCC that worked so hard to communicate with them.

I am outraged.

Nancy Denker,
Chair, State Platform and Resolutions Committee

Posted by: Nancy Denker | Feb 17, 2010 7:59:16 AM

Very well said, Nancy. The party has worked very hard over the past several years and especially this year to educate and communicate with legislators. It's hard to overcome the power of money from the big donors of some of them though. By now we all know who they are. Check the votes in committees and on the Senate floor. The same culprits are always to blame in killing good legislation because it might impact those who bribe them.

Posted by: Member of SCC | Feb 17, 2010 9:03:51 AM

I dont see how any of Eric's rantings and ravings helpt the residents of his district.

Over the last two years, he has passed ONE piece of legislation (a success rate of less than 5%, far less than his freshmen counterparts). Furthermore, approximately 69% of his capital outlay requests were for projects OUTSIDE of his senate district.

His duty is, first and foremost, to represent the needs of his district. If he wants to grandstand on these issues, and cause civil war in the senate, fine. Resign the seat, and let someone who can actually be an effective legislator get to work for the people of Isleta Pueblo, San Jose, Barelas, Kirtland, UNM, and Moriarty.

Mark my words: he will be a one term senator.

Posted by: district 14 observer | Feb 17, 2010 11:29:22 AM

Hey Uncle Crusty, it's more about honest Democrats trying to wrest power from the Democrats who vote for the desires of their keepers and slimy "donors." It's about ethics reformers versus status quo crooks. Crushing the pay to play crowd will help all New Mexicans not only Democrats. It will get done.

Posted by: Honest Abe | Feb 17, 2010 11:32:53 AM

I applaud Senator Griego as well. I still wish you would've punched Senator Adair last year in the 2009 session.

I think your points are relevant on the national scene as well. I have been a Democrat my entire life. Last month I changed my registration to Independent.

It is my opinion that corporate interests dominate all levels of government. I do not know how we can change this. I think the answer can probably be found in the reestablishment of community.

As a people, we are more disconnected and isolated from our communities than ever before. People rarely know the names of their neighbors. The suffering of our fellow citizens is nothing more than blips in the endless stream of propaganda spewing from the television set.

We need to reassert civic awareness through interaction with our fellow citizens. We need reform at every level of government.

It is wrong that we live in a country that spends a trillion dollars per year on war but we have millions that can't access health care.

It is wrong that our education system is based upon a paradigm that was prevalent almost 200 years ago and research has conclusively invalidated.

It is wrong that less than 1% of the country controls 34% of the wealth, the next 19% controls 50%, and the bottom 80% struggles for a mere 15%.

It is wrong that the majority of US based fortune 500 companies pay no taxes through creative book keeping.

It is wrong that we spend on average 2 times as much money per year incarcerating criminals as we do educating children.

The list is endless and I do not think it will change until the system is utterly broken.

Posted by: William Nie | Feb 17, 2010 11:40:44 AM

I see we have a loser troll in the thread. Are you James Taylor's brother? Griego beat Taylor by almost 25 points. I live in his district and support for him is huge so you're talking out of your hat. Griego proposes and backs bills that the crooked element hates. So far they have had much success but their power is weakening and the people are more tuned in to their thievery than ever.

Cause civil war in the Senate? Mr. Jennings has dedicated himself to that with the help of sickening embarrassments like Richard Martinez and Bernadette Sanchez. A closet gay man and a hypocrite who brings a bill to tax tortillas!

Posted by: District 14 Voter | Feb 17, 2010 11:43:14 AM

"support for him is huge"

interesting. I'd like to see the data youre basing this opinion on.

Why not refute the facts I presented: He has passed no legislation, and has a horrid track record when it comes to bringing resources into the district.

He will have to run on his record in the coming election, not on some idealistic image of what might of been. Lets see how 'huge' the support is then.

I know of at least one serious primary challenger working the field already, and the guy is no joke.

Also, doent the gay jab at Sen. Martinez go against your progressive ethos? So what if he is in the closet? Why should that be fodder for your attack?

Posted by: district 14 observer | Feb 17, 2010 11:56:25 AM

I live in district 14, precinct 95 near San Jose parish.

I voted for Senator Griego two years ago, but dont plan on voting for him again. Just because people dont agree with you, doesnt mean they are 'crooks'.

I agree with district 14 observer that he should work for us, and not the democratic party.

Posted by: also a district 14 voter | Feb 17, 2010 12:10:06 PM

Funny, "district 14 observer" and "also a district 14 voter" have the same IP address. Hmmm.

Posted by: barb | Feb 17, 2010 12:17:15 PM

A the same poster. Wanted to make clear that I vote in ditrict 14, and that I did vote for Sen. Griego a few years ago. In response to the attack by the former poster.

Wow, didnt realize that people who express contrasting views/facts/arguments could be subject to such a cloak and dagger attack on a 'progressive' website.

Posted by: also a district 14 voter | Feb 17, 2010 12:27:31 PM

Well, I think it's useful if someone is posting under two aliases and making it seem like two people are agreeing on the points.

Posted by: barb | Feb 17, 2010 12:41:54 PM

It took me awhile, but I did a little research and found that James Taylor did not represent his district well.

For instance, in 2008, his last year in the Senate, Taylor sponsored 13 bills, and all of them died. Most of them were appropriations for projects outside the district including SB105 $100,000 for the NM Highlands University wrestling team; SB299 $90,000 for a women's soccer coach at NMSU; and SB301 $85,000 for a food service program at NMSU.

Just want to make sure everyone knows the facts.

Posted by: barb | Feb 17, 2010 6:12:29 PM

So,barb..... Because Taylor failed as a senator somehow absolved griego from having an equally lack luster record?

Seems like you need to review how one uses facts to construct a coherent and effective argument.

And in case your wondering, i am another person who is disagreeing with you! Surprise!!!!! Go ahead and check my ip address like you did to that other poster....creepy?

Also, get a bit of a social life?

Posted by: Funny | Feb 17, 2010 9:37:53 PM

I do not live in District 14 but I am damn glad that people like Senator Griego exist. Without people who commit themselves to public service and service for all of the citizens of the state and not just those in their district we would never advance as a society.

It is rare that any bills are proposed or passed in the Legislature that affect only one district. Discretionary funds, which we have none of since the Legislature refused to repeal the 2003 tax cuts, are where Legislators get the money to spend in their districts.

Terry Riley

Posted by: Terry Riley | Feb 17, 2010 10:42:24 PM

What "Funny" and the other complainer aren't considering is that, as Terry says above, there hasn't been much, if any, funding to do anything the last couple sessions. Everyone knows that.

Plus, as we've seen this session in spades, Republicans and "conservative" Democrats have banded together to try to stop change and keep the bills of the Democrats who are loyal to the Party's platform bottled up. In my view, the folks to blame for this aren't those getting stymied but those who are so disloyal to Democratic principles and positions that they would rather vote with the awful opposition than allow anything through that might be considered a victory for the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party (as they say) or bring the kind of change and reform that's needed in so many areas.

If Funny et al. haven't noticed, we're in an economic maelstrom caused in large part by actors on the national scene who, like the GOP-Conservative Dem coalition here, seem intent on representing monied interests rather than ordinary people. We see the kind of obstructionism that's halted progress on health care reform and energy legislation in the Congress mirrored here in stopping domestic partnerships, stopping a reasonable and fair budget from being adopted and even stopping the appointment of someone to an environmental board just out of spite because certain lazy and ineffective incumbents who had lost touch with the needs of the constituents lost in their primaries.

I think "Funny" shows his cards with the "social life" comment as it demonstrates the kind of juvenile mindset we've come to associate with the obstructionists here and everywhere.

There's nothing "creepy" about letting people know that someone who's making nasty comments is pretending to talk to him or herself in a thread.

Posted by: barb | Feb 18, 2010 8:40:50 AM

Nine fifths, huh. Perhaps this kind of math used by "progressive" Democrats is the reason our state is in such horrible financial shape. Is Senator Griego a product of our expensive public school system?

Posted by: Greg Graves | Feb 19, 2010 10:42:16 AM

Greg Graves go back to your right wingnut hole where nobody has to pay taxes and we're living in the 18th century. Do us all a favor.

Posted by: Icon245 | Feb 19, 2010 10:54:21 AM

I think he should go back to the Republican Governors Association in DC. Right, Greg?

Posted by: barb | Feb 19, 2010 10:56:22 AM