Jay Block made an interesting claim following the last Sandoval County Commission meeting: Native communities are a strong county voting bloc where they weren’t before, so Plan D for redistricting could lead to a Native commissioner in 2024.
“Mark my words, you’re going to see, sitting up there in January 2025, a Native American county commission because Republicans made that happen,” the District 2 commissioner told the Observer.
Rather than pouting and self-pitying over the 3-2 county commission vote in favor of Plan D, and further feeding into the circus-like atmosphere this matter quickly turned into, the Democratic Party of Sandoval County would be wise to get a head start preparing for 2024, as three county commission seats will be up for grabs.
Block’s seat will be among them, as will Chairman Dave Heil’s District 4 seat and F. Kenneth Eichwald’s District 5 seat. Block and Heil are Republicans, and Eichwald’s a Democrat.
All three of them are in their second terms, so they won’t be able to run again in 2024.
If the Democrats win all three seats in 2024, that will make them the commission’s majority come January 2025, regardless of how District 1 Commissioner Katherine Bruch fares in her 2022 re-election bid.
The latest redistricting map’s impact on Native and Pueblo communities was the main point of contention in the eyes of county Democrats and Native community leaders, so the Democratic Party of Sandoval County should be proactive making that topic a focal point.
They have a prime opportunity to find and potentially help elect candidates who can garner extra support among the county’s Native and Hispanic communities.
Under Plan D, Native Americans would represent between 2.7 percent and 4.2 percent of Districts 1 through 4, plus 45.6 percent of District 5. Hispanics represent 38.7 percent of the county’s population, including a greater District 4 majority at 48.1 percent.
Now’s the time for the Democratic Party of Sandoval County to launch grassroots work to educate younger voters, swing voters and minority populations on why electing a Democrat majority to the commission would be in the area’s best collective interest.
Yes, there will be support for Republican candidates in districts 2 and 4, which encompass southeast Rio Rancho and west Rio Rancho, respectively.
Therefore, Sandoval County Democrats will have to respond by solidifying an effective platform that puts minority demographics’ interest and equity at the forefront, from economic development to health care.
That platform also must not alienate independents, moderates, undecided voters and minority voters who may be torn over certain issues.
If 2020 can teach us something, it’s that one single, emotionally charged issue can swing momentum in Democrats’ favor.
Nationally, it was Donald Trump’s poor COVID-19 response where he repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus and did not install a coordinated plan for things like testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment that ultimately led to Joe Biden’s election in 2020.
Locally, it could very well be redistricting that becomes the Democrats’ rallying cry toward taking the county majority in 2024.