Vote early, vote next year!

Even though many East Mountain residents live in unincorporated areas, this week’s municipal elections make it clear to all of us how important our votes are, and how fortunate we are to have candidates willing to put in 100-hour-plus weeks to stand for office.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the village of Tijeras. Jake Bruton, a village councilor, filed to run against 20-year mayor Gloria Chavez. In a community of just over 600 people, that’s a tough decision to make. In small communities, politics become personal and are highly emotional. To say that tensions were high in this year’s mayoral race is to put it mildly.

As of Tuesday night’s election results, Bruton leads—by two votes. Provisional ballots have still to be counted, and the Secretary of State says the election will be certified by the 15th.

It was a week full of election news. In fact, just this Thursday, Laura Seeds was found guilty of tampering with the 2016 mayoral election in Española, which her husband won by two votes. Seeds was found guilty of forging signatures on several absentee ballots as an election volunteer. She could face up to seven years in prison.

Here’s the clincher: Seeds also faces charges of tampering with the 2018 election. She was indicted one month before the March 2018 municipal election. That’s right, she was indicted for voter fraud yet still allowed to volunteer in the next month’s election. This is why citizens lack faith in our elections.

While Seeds accuses the AG’s office for prosecuting her for political reasons, I am pleased to see Democrats standing up to protect our elections. In years past, voter fraud has been something Democrats have dismissed or denied. Communities across New Mexico have been plagued by allegations of voter fraud for years.

The truth is, whether it’s 2000 or today, the losing party in an election is willing to believe the worst when their cause fails, including election tampering. Well done to the AG’s office for timely prosecution of this case of actual fraud.

This month is also seeing a large number of citizens announcing for 2020 local and state races. Imagine. Who would want to in this day and age? I don’t remember a time when political dialogue has been meaner or nastier. Scores of men and women across our state are volunteering to be insulted, smeared and slandered in general, while working every evening and weekend to raise funds and knock on doors.

Campaigning is miserable. I happen to have first-hand experience. Principled campaigning is even worse. If you decided not to go negative in your campaign, it’s not like voters are going to come up to you in Walmart to congratulate you for being a nice person. In fact, negative campaigning is so common, it’s expected.

Campaigning is grueling labor with at best a 50% chance of success. Do we really need to pile insults onto the people running? I ask you to be thoughtful of this year’s candidates, even those you disagree with. It’s awfully easy to point a mean-spirited comment to a stranger on Facebook, but it’s far more effective to not give them your vote.

And I am not trying put a trigger warning on political campaigns. Criticism of policy stances? I’m all for it. Exposure of wrongdoing or misinformation? It’s our duty as citizens. Making up stuff about someone you disagree with? Let’s just not.

If “all politics are local,” let’s take some pride in ours. We have a new class of East Mountain candidates stepping up this year. I hope everyone asks the hard questions in 2020 on the many issues we face, and delivers their replies in the voting booth.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive, former Navy officer, and a second-place 2018 election primary finisher. She lives north of I-40 where she and her family run two head of dog, and one of cat.