Dem party chair and vice chair

Rio Arriba County Democratic Party Chair Joanne Salazar (left) speaks during the June 2019 Democratic party convention. Vice Chair Luis Torres is at right.

    After a chaotic online convention Sunday evening, Democratic Party of Rio Arriba’s members are challenging the election of Rio Arriba County officers.

    In a text message County Democratic Party Chair Joanne Salazar reiterated that the process was still following election guidance provided by the state party.

    “The elections are proceeding in accordance with the Democratic Party of New Mexico rules and within the timeframes allowed per the call of the State Chair,” Salazar states.

    Democratic Vice Chair Luis Torrez said he had been attending public meetings since he was a child and this meeting’s direction stood out to him.

    “I have about 70 years of attending different kinds of meetings, obviously not all of them political. That one yesterday has to rank among the four or five worst ones I’ve ever been to,” Torrez said in a Monday phone call. “We were in session for two hours and 20 minutes, by my estimation. Joanne was talking about an hour-and-half of that time and did not say very much but she talked the most of the time we were in session.”

    Torrez said a lot of the complaints were because of the shifting dates for elections and the confusion that caused.

    “The whole thing’s been a real mess in terms of when things are happening and when things go out that sort of thing,” Torrez said. “I’m not saying Joanne’s conduct is out of malice, I just think she’s terribly in over her head, she does not have the capability for doing what she’s charged with doing. Unless the party finds new leadership, we’re doomed to become the minority party in this County.”

    Precinct and Ward elections for the party were meant to be held on March 13 according to an ad the party placed in the Rio Grande SUN. Ballots were sent for that election on March 14, 15, 19 and 20 and were counted on March 24. The list of candidates was not published until after the election was originally scheduled to start.

    Issac Casados, the chief of staff for state Representative Roger Montoya, D-Velarde, said participants received word of the convention two hours before the election started and had to register to vote an hour-and-a-half before the election began.

    “By the rules you are required to announce it 10 days before,” Casados said. “It turned into a melee. It was a really sad display of leadership.”

    Casados said there were multiple voters voicing concerns about the election integrity.

    “She told a number of individuals, ‘Just challenge the election results.’” Casados said. “A lot of people got on because they had questions, she didn’t want to have answers.”

    Balloting for the County positions normally takes palace during the convention, however, elections did not take during the event.

    “I believe there was a calculated part of getting enough of their people on, when they realized that wasn’t going to happen she didn’t hold the election,” Casados said.

    Casados alleged that Salazar was also appointing people to positions that were left vacant.

    “It’s never been done in this County prior,” Casados said. “That’s been one of the things we’ve been trying to eliminate for so long is this nepotism in politics and undue influence in politics by family and friends. If we don’t put a stop to it here, how can we demand that it be put a stop anywhere else, in any municipality that’s facing the same thing.”

    In a letter posted on the County party’s website March 26 Salazar said the party was still following state guidelines and would have its elections completed by April 3.

    “As I stated at the beginning of the DPNM/DPRAC Ballot Counting process, the DPNM and the DPRAC have been partners in this election process since day one,” Salazar states in the letter. “Conspiracy theories, allegations of mismanagement and other Trump tactics have plagued this election. Election administrators are volunteers, clocking over 250 hours to work collectively with our DPNM partners. They do not deserve the hostility and anger that they have endured.

    “I am asking that as DEMOCRATS WE STOP EATING OUR OWN AND UNITE. There will be winners and losers as in all elections. Despite many emails sent to electors, DPNM rules are being followed. I ask that civility prevail. President Biden has called for party unity. I believe we should all adhere to this.”

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