The race for U.S. Congress in District 1 between Martin Heinrich and Darren White is neck and neck. Last Saturday I got a chance to shadow Heinrich as his campaign kicked off the Democrats' Early Voter drive.
NOB HILL--What a day: 3 counties, 8 stops, 11 hours, 251 miles. But it was such a pleasure to be with a candidate that was working harder than anyone around him! I left the campaign car at 7:30 PM. But the Heinrichs still had another event that evening. Here's my take on last Saturday's Tour de CD1
8:32AM. Bernalillo County Shooting Range.
This facility is way out west: five miles the other side of Paseo del Volcan. Martin met with a dozen or so shooters in the Appleseed Shoot
. This event was sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. Heinrich spoke for a few moments, mentioned that he had used some of his own discretionary funds to help make the range a reality. He shook hands all around and was greeted politely...even cordially by the participants.
This is an important venue for a couple of reasons. First, every vote he gets out here probably subtracts one from the Sheriff. Second, the RWVA's program consists of Shooting skills, Patriotism, and History. These areas do NOT belong to the Republican party. They are our heritage also...whether or not one hunts. Nobody is more patriotic than those of you who are giving of your time to volunteer in this election! We are making history. And we study and appreciate the history of our country more than anyone. We will not be "doomed to repeat it" if we can help it. As far as bearing arms and the 2nd Amendment is concerned, this is NOT by itself a liberal vs. conservative issue. It certainly wasn't in the vast majority of the 20th century.
9:45AM. Daskalos Shopping Center, NE ABQ
A crowd of 30 or so Sierra Club
members were gathering before going out for a couple hours of canvassing. Heinrich has golden credentials with the S.C., especially since he was a member and strong conservationist way before he started running for congress. Heinrich left them with his own take-off on an Obama theme. "I was trained as a mechanical engineer and tend to think in terms of equations. Here's mine: Hope + Action = Change."
He added that a good volunteer effort on the ground was worth about 5% at the polls. Candidates Tim Eichenburg
and Al Park
The ground game could indeed make the difference in Heinrich's race since his current lead is only 2 points.
11:00AM. Punkin Chunkin 2008, Estancia
Well, call me uninformed but I had never heard of Punkin Chunkin
. It is shooting pumpkins out of compressed air cannons, seeing which cannon can shoot a pumpkin the furthest. To put this in perspective, some of the pumpkins looked to be 10 or 12 inches across and the cannon barrels were enormous, maybe 30 feet long. And there were 6 of them. Last year's contest winner chunked a punkin about 3/4 of a mile!
Martin Heinrich did not get a chance to speak to an assembled audience here, but he did mingle and talk to families. There were lots of people, perhaps close to a thousand when we were there. The Democratic Party tent was real busy with passing out literature, serving free pumpkin pie, and corraling passers-by with friendly politics. There seemed to be a great deal of interest. And many Obama yard signs were scattered throughout the crowd that had been picked up at the tent. I saw some White and McCain signs along the right-of-way coming into the park, but did not see a tent. There may have been one, but I didn't see it.
CD1 actually includes all or parts of 5 counties: Santa Fe, Sandoval, Bernalillo, Torrance, and Valencia. Torrance (which includes Estancia) and Santa Fe counties make up 4% of the total votes in CD1. That doesn't sound like much but it amounted to more than the winning margin for Heather Wilson 2 years ago. The Democrats have opened up an office here in Estancia--the first office here since the 1970's. Heinrich has been working here and the other east side communities for over a year. Here too, the ground game will make all the difference.
1:15PM. Back to Daskalos Shopping Center
This time Heinrich thanked the returning canvassers and led those who hadn't voted down to the early voting storefront in the same shopping center. It had a line about 20 feet long and maybe 40 people seated filling out their ballots.
Every vote is going to be fought for this time. Many early voters are doing so just to be able to work on election day. I'm talking about literally thousands of volunteers on election day. Thousands.
1:45PM. AFT Rally, CNM
Teachers were jammed into Smith-Brasher Hall--over 150 of them. Albuquerque Federation of Teachers
President Ellen Bernstein talked about NoChildLeftBehind, calling it "a hoax...a sham." The Big Guns were showing up for this rally. Besides Heinrich there was Tom Udall
and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar
. Salazar had one of the funnier lines of the day, "Vote for the Udall nearest you!"
referring to Tom's cousin Mark Udall who is running for the Senate in Colorado. The theme of the speeches seemed to be to put the teachers back in charge of the classroom. Salazar was good. Udall was good. Heinrich was great.
Talking about his first grade teacher, Mrs. Taylor, Heinrich was able to relate in a personal way to the whole audience. Being a teacher is not like being a plumber: money leads a person to be a plumber, your heart leads one to teaching. NCLB's perversion of the educational process has devastated teachers. They know what they should be doing, but what they end up doing is filling out endless forms from above and giving tests that make children cry. The only purpose for most of this is to keep layers of paper pushers busy somewhere up the chain of command.
The real losers are the children. Teachers know this and it makes them sick. The audience hushed as Heinrich talked. They believed him when he said he wanted to "put the creativity and the passion back into the classroom."
But the most dramatic moment had to be a comment from the floor given by Kathy Chavez, President of the Educational Assistants union. She called her members "poorer than the working poor,"
a comment the whole audience knew to be true. Heinrich related how he had met an EA working three jobs. Nobody in the room doubted it. By the way, there are 1900 Educational Assistants just in Albuquerque.
Don't underestimate the depth of the anger and resentment that teachers feel. They and their union have been made the scapegoat in an educational nightmare. Impossible goals. Demeaning treatment of both them and their students. Singled out for blame for problems which they did not create and can't solve by themselves. This is more than money. Teachers feel stabbed in the heart. Really. And they are pissed.
3:00PM. Redlands Park, Westside ABQ
Another 'vote early' rally. This one featured a Chicago-style blues band, Blue Genes. Martin spoke as did City Councilman Michael Cadigan. There was lots of food and energy.
The organizing effort necessary to put all of this together is amazing me. Wow.
4:00PM. Law Offices of Senator Michael Sanchez, Los Lunas
There was a heavy cloud of smoke drifting through the crowd in the parking lot of the law office. It came from grilling hundreds of hamburgers and hotdogs. A child held a sign near the highway that announced "FREE FOOD" to motorists. Others lined both sides of the street with Obama signs. Recorded music was loud enough to be heard in the passing cars even with their windows rolled up. Rancheras, mainly. Everybody was so friendly...so out-going. Jose Campos talked to me about Martin Heinrich's efforts in Los Lunas. "He's the only candidate who comes to our senior center...and dances with them!"
But then the whole crowd moved a little bit. Bill Richardson had arrived. 'Superstar' is not too strong a word to be used here.
A dozen people pressed around him to say 'hi' to him, to touch him, to have a cell phone picture taken of the two of them together. He was truly bigger than life. That beard. That toothy grin. That easy grace.
Who could say exactly what were in the speeches. Heinrich was well received. Richardson spoke with the same self-deprecating humor that has always endeared him to audiences. Cars honked as they passed. I ate a hamburger. Everyone felt like dancing...and voting early!
I can't think of another politician in New Mexico that can approach Bill Richardson in terms of excitement.
5:30PM. South Valley BBQ, Albuquerque
"How late will we be staying,"
I asked our driver, Angela Barranco. Angela is one of several Heinrich staffers who usually work on The Hill. I was getting tired. But the waiting crowd at this gorgeous backyard BBQ was enthusiastic and I was soon engaged in listening to Richardson and Heinrich once again. Martin's son Carter ended up in his dad's arms while he was speaking. "When the South Valley votes, it's our children who win,"
he said. Once more Heinrich seemed to be able to transcend political rhetoric and speak on a heart to heart basis with the audience. Richardson followed and concluded the speeches with this thought, "It's going to be a cold morning on January 19th in Washington D.C....but my heart will be WARM!"
Everyone knew exactly what he meant.
If you are still with me at the end of this long, long post you know how hard Martin Heinrich is working. He is not going to let us down. We will never be disappointed with his thoughtfulness, his effort, or his sense of responsibility.
If you are interested in helping his campaign visit his website
, or drop by his campaign HQ at 4105 Silver SE.