By Tony Parra
New Mexico will be immersed in its first Democratic caucus in more than 30 years when voting for the presidential nominee takes place on Tuesday.
That’s how long it has been since New Mexico has had a caucus, according to Roosevelt County Clerk Joyce Fraze and Terry Cone, Democratic chairman for Roosevelt County.
In previous years, New Mexico has had its primary elections in June and by that time the Democrat presidential candidate usually has been selected. There will still be a primary election to decide the Republican representation along with elections for state and county officials. But by then the Democrat representation will have already been chosen.
“The caucus will take place of the primary,” Cone said. “We normally have primaries in June, but the push for the presidential candidate had already been decided by then. New Mexico played no part in it.”
Cone, who is on the state central committee for the Democratic Party, said an amendment to Democratic Party rules was made last summer to allow a caucus in New Mexico.
“It is beneficial to the state because many of the candidates are spending advertising dollars in New Mexico,” Cone said. “There is a lot of traffic coming into the state and the candidates are wooing New Mexicans for their votes.”
In a caucus, the candidate selection process is sponsored and run by a political party. Primary elections are sponsored and run by the state.
Another difference is that caucus rules vary from state to state. Some operate like elections, where registered voters go to the polls and cast a ballot for one candidate in their party. Other caucuses operate like small conventions, where supporters of candidates give speeches and caucus participants vote for delegates to represent a candidate.
The New Mexico Caucus will operate as a party run primary, allowing all registered Democrats to vote for their preference for the Democratic presidential nominee. The approach will allow voters to cast their ballots at the polling site and immediately leave the poll.
Democratic candidates Howard Dean, Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards have campaigned or plan to campaign in New Mexico.
“I’m supporting John Kerry because of his experience on the Senate and his stance on the issues,” said Pauline Clark of the Roosevelt County Democratic Women. “He plans to lower the national debt and he has a more feasible plan on the economy. He wants to plug the loopholes so that we don’t give tax breaks to foreign companies that take jobs away from Americans.”
Pauline said that Kerry has addressed also prescription drug costs during his campaign.
“He has a good plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs,” she said. “A plan that would allow prescription drug companies to be more competitive with each other.”
New Mexico has backed the popular vote winner in 22 of 23 presidential elections.
Registered democrat voters can vote from noon to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the following locations in Roosevelt County: La Casa Senior Center; Portales Memorial Building; Dora Fire Department; Elida Senior Citizen Center; and Floyd Senior Citizens Center.
In Curry County, the locations will be the Melrose City Hall and the Bruce King Building (West side) in Clovis. In De Baca County, the location will be at the De Baca County Courthouse Annex in Fort Sumner.