Gabe Vasquez, a candidate for CD2 in New Mexico, walks with U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland into the N.M. Democrats’ South Valley headquarters for a canvassing event on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM)
Off a road lined with gold-leafed cottonwood trees, the parking lots were packed between the voting center and local restaurant Abuelita’s on Isleta Boulevard, several miles south of Downtown Albuquerque. Observing the cars going in and out of the lots, it was likely faster to vote than to get a combination plate.
Convenience is key for early voting.
On Saturday, voters at the Bernalillo County Visitor Center in the South Valley confidently said they experienced a quick and easy process casting their ballot for the 2022 General Election.
Kristy Fernandez is already thinking of ways to make future election cycles even better.
“I feel like we should have a QR code that we scan if we vote, and then all of the ads disappear from your radio and TV,” she said. “That’s my million-dollar idea.”
The focus on the South Valley in the 2022 election cycle is spawned in part by redistricting. Republican incumbent Rep. Yvette Herrell is a new name on the ballot for some voters in the area who were drawn into the boundaries of Congressional District 2 last year. Herrell is seeking reelection from new constituents in the historic and often agricultural area to the south of Albuquerque.
CD2 used to be a mostly southern N.M. district that often voted Republican. But after redistricting, it’s a tight race, and the seat could turn blue. That means there’s national attention on CD2 this election cycle with control of Congress up in the air, too.
It also means lots of campaign ads.
Political messaging is fatiguing the people Source New Mexico spoke with after they cast their ballot this weekend. It was on top of the list, alongside issues like crime and education for South Valley voters.
While Fernandez talked about her support for Constitutional Amendment 1, a question asking voters to spend more on public school education with money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, her mother walked by with a fresh “I Voted” sticker.
“It’s a family affair,” Mary Sanmann said, as she walked out of the early voting precinct off Isleta Blvd. with her husband Gene.
Fernandez smiled, hugging her teen daughter Teresa who can’t vote quite yet, and said her family votes together. Early voting makes it easier to participate and enjoy a weekend together.
Participating in democracy is significant for her, Fernandez said.
“Voting is important. It’s a right that women didn’t always have. And if we don’t exercise it,” she said, “it’s something that we could lose very easily. So it’s important to me that women particularly take the time to vote.”
That message was amplified down the street by Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland. She was three miles away at a campaign office next to an HR Block in a shopping center, amping up volunteers before they went door to door encouraging people to vote.
“There are people in this city, in the state, that don’t know we have an election coming up. And guess what? It’s up to you all to make sure that they know,” Haaland said. “You need to be talking to everyone.”
It brought people like Debra Heath from Santa Fe to the South Valley. She supports the Democratic Party and annually canvasses during election season. Her first effort knocking on doors for the 2022 election was in the South Valley on behalf of CD2 challenger Gabe Vasquez, because she opposes the policy positions of Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell.
“What really matters to me, one thing is evidence-based decision-making, and looking for various perspectives,” Heath said. “There’s just so much lying going on right now. Looking at the campaigns … the television ads, they’re slinging all these negative messages. What I want to hear is: What are they working toward?”
Voters want to have hope that New Mexico is in a better place when state candidates for governor, attorney general and other state offices finish their terms in 2026.
Allen and Sandy Samuelman are South Valley voters who said they want to see change. Crime and county bonds brought them out to vote, they said.
“Our city’s gotten so violent, even to the point that we had a home invasion where the police surrounded our house, not a month and a half ago,” Sandy Samuelman said. “I don’t feel safe going out. I can’t walk my dog. There needs to be change in Albuquerque.”
They also would like to see a service that can turn off political ads after they vote, saying the messaging coming from campaigns is distracting.
“Politics is no longer working together to find a compromise,” Sandy said. “Everybody is so stuck.”
Ultimately, they want more representation for their neighborhood and the South Valley as a whole, the Samuelmans said.
“Nothing ever goes to the South Valley — hardly, you know. And I’m tired of that, especially when you vote for something,” Allen Samuelman said. “You never see it.”
Fending off obtrusive political messaging was also a theme for voter Darlene Flores. She visited the voting center to meet her democratic duty so she could leave the 2022 general election in the rearview mirror, she said.
She voted for candidates that can support issues on education and crime.
She truly wants to see a community that is more compassionate, she said, something she doesn’t think can be fixed by elections, because she thinks the discourse skews so negatively.
“I think it starts with upbringing,” she said. “If there’s no negative campaigning, I think right there, that would show an indication of how much I respect you. You’re my opponent, but you know what? We may have to work together. We may not invite each other to the same table on a Saturday. But we need to work together and respect each other.”
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