Commentary

Why run for mayor?

The campaign trail can be rough, but it’s worth it for people to see themselves reflected among the candidates

May 19, 2022 4:00 am

Community organizer Barbara Jordan passionately speaks to the large crowd gathered in the intersection of Lomas and Fourth Street in Downtown Albuquerque about the fight for abortion rights on the evening of May 3, 2022. She finished by urging the crowd to not let this be the last time they come out to support their community. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

On Sept. 12, 2021 at Haynes Park in Rio Rancho, N.M., dressed in a black suit and pink top, I stood before a humble audience and announced that I was running to be the next mayor.  The task had secretly been on my mind for months. The seed had been planted ever since Aug. 15, 2020, when a friend of mine asked me: Had I ever considered running for office?

Well, at first, I thought, “Me? Surely I am not good enough for such a task.” I slowly realized that I was exactly the person that needed to run to be mayor of my city. I knew I would do what it takes to uplift the citizens of my city. I had found along the way that since I could not see the change that we could see, I needed to be the change for my community. I threw my heart and soul into doing it.

I knew campaigning would be an uphill battle, as Rio Rancho is still very conservative. This was never more apparent than on Sept. 12, 2020 when I was out registering people to vote, urging them to complete the census, and talking about racism at a rally in a parking lot. Hundreds of Trump supporters came out with guns, batons, knives and plenty of verbal insults. Our lives were threatened that day and I heard someone yell, “Let’s slash their tires so they can’t leave!” 

I remember all too well, a “gentlemen” yelled at me to “Get out of our city!” to which I replied, “This is my city. I live right down the road.” The look of bewilderment on his face was priceless. I had met with our mayor several times after this incident, where he apologized but had nothing further to say. I suggested we get a diversity committee and asked: Would he publicly denounce the racists who were there that day and say that he, too, believed Black Lives Matter? His response was excuses before he pivoted to how he was elected and became generally dismissive.

I applied for Emerge New Mexico, a program that prepares Democratic women for office. This was a journey all on its own. I learned valuable skills and tools, which would immensely help me along the way. After nine months of sisterhood and training, I graduated about a year after that incident on Sept.  18, 2021, ready to take on the world.

I garnered support from people who were ready to see change like me. I never knew that there were so many people here who recognized that Rio Rancho could get back to being a community that included everyone and not just a select few who were friends of our elected officials. 

I am actively changing the proverbial good-old-boy system. We can now locally show children who look like me that they can run for office in Rio Rancho, N.M.

Along the way, things happened that I did not account for. I received hate mail. I was told I was a racist. I received phone calls from random individuals letting me know that I was being attacked at the direction of my opponent. I learned a new acronym: FRoGs, which stood for “Friend of Greg’s.” My campaign signs were defaced, and six of them were stolen. 

Now while these things happened to me, it only energized me to want to win even more. The backlash just solidified in me the importance of the race. I knew I could bring transparency back to the office and bring our community together.

The endorsements that I received were unheard of for a small local mayoral race: U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, State Sen. Brenda McKenna, State Sen. Harold Pope Jr., State Rep. Damon Ely, Democratic Municipal Officials, EMILY’s List, Native American Democratic Caucus of New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party (who made so many phones calls and send out text messages for me), Equality New Mexico, OLÉ New Mexico, Sierra Club Foundation, Teamsters Local No 492, Planned Parenthood of New Mexico and Moms Demand Action.

When the dust settled, I had received a little over 3,000 very important votes. But we lost. 

We live in a city with over 100,000 residents, and only 11% came out to vote. I was of course disappointed but again gained renewed hope. My focus now is to get more people to the polls.  

The support that I gathered from so many people, I will never forget, and it does not just go away. I feel now more than ever, it is bigger than me. 

This is not about me, this is about my community. 

My campaign in itself was a success and was a win. I know I have altered the status quo of our representatives running for office unopposed. I am actively changing the proverbial good-old-boy system. We can now locally show children who look like me that they can run for office in Rio Rancho, N.M.

I want to let all of my supporters know that I appreciate you beyond any thanks I could ever say.  I want the people of Rio Rancho to know that I will be back with a force. I will continue to work hard for us each and every day.

Out of all the things I learned, this stays with me: This road is not easy, but for some, it must be traveled, and I, for one, plan on continuing my journey.

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Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan

Founder of People Requiring Equality w/in Systemic Racism (PRESS) New Mexico, Barbara Jordan is a retired combat veteran with 20 years of loyal service to the United States Air Force. She merged her natural humanitarian skills and fire for social justice issues with an emphasis on racial equality to create PRESS New Mexico, named after one of her favorite sayings, “We will press on!” As a Founder of PRESS New Mexico, her vision is to undo systemic racism by creating cultural change leaders who are put in positions to create transformational change. Barbara has been featured in 2020 America Documentary, No More Normal, Albuquerque Journal, Rio Rancho Observer, KUMN, Daily LOBO, New Mexico PBS, Santa Fe New Mexican and Spot on New Mexico. She may be seen on KRQE 13 Albuquerque, KOAT, News Brea and the Santa Fe Reporter. She is the loving mother of son, Devin and a proud native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She lives in Rio Rancho.

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