This week, NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS features an in-depth discussion on the idea of open primaries, takes a look at homelessness in Albuquerque, and considers the impact of the private medical school to be established at NMSU.
The program airing Friday, July 25, at 7:00 p.m. on New Mexico PBS KNME 5.1, looks at Albuquerque attorney J. Edward Hollington’s law suit that contends the current law prohibiting independents from voting in primaries violates the state constitution. Proponents say open primaries would bring greater participation, especially by younger voters, but critics contend it could bring mischief at the polls and undermine the party structure. NMiF Correspondent Gwyneth Doland talks with former New Mexico state senators Mark Boitano and Dede Feldman, Think New Mexico’s Fred Nathan, and Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at UNM.
NMiF Host Gene Grant talks with Dennis Plummer, CEO of Albuquerque Heading Home. A recent study of the program found that it successfully housed more than 300 people and saved the city money by lessening reliance on emergency rooms and social services. The interview was recorded before the recent brutal murder in Albuquerque of two homeless men, allegedly at the hands of three teenage suspects, brought the danger of living on the streets even more urgently to light.
Also on the program, NMiF Producer Megan Kamerick speaks with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists, about their new book — “Everything That Remains” — and their message that having less stuff means less stress, debt and distractions in life.
And The Line looks at plans unveiled this week for a new private medical school at New Mexico State University. The $85 million dollar college is planned as a privately funded, for-profit enterprise that would graduate up to 150 osteopathic doctors a year, starting in 2020. Many are enthusiastic about the economic impact this could have on the state, as well as the impact on the chronic physician shortage. But how will it impact graduates from the existing medical school at the University of New Mexico, who will be competing with these new graduates for residency positions?
Gwyneth Doland, NMiF Correspondent
Megan Kamerick, NMiF Producer
Lonna Atkeson, UNM Political Science Professor
Mark Boitano, Former NM Republican Senator
Dede Feldman, Former NM Democratic Senator
Joshua Fields Millburn, TheMinimalists.com
Fred Nathan, Executive Director, Think New Mexico
Ryan Nicodemus, TheMinimalists.com
Dennis Plummer, CEO, Albuquerque Heading Home
Rob Nikolewski, New Mexico Watchdog
Laura Sanchez-Rivét, Sanchez Legal Solutions
Harry Van Buren, Professor, Anderson School of Management
The Producer of NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS is Megan Kamerick. Associate Producer is Kathy Wimmer. Funding for this program was provided in part by the McCune Foundation.
Episode 803 for air July 25, 2014
Additional resources for this episode:
* Study of Heading Home program by University of New Mexico
* Web extra for The Minimalists interview
* Web extra for Open Primaries segment
* Statements by state Republican and Democratic parties on open primaries
New Mexico Republican Party Chair John Billingsley’s statement on his support of Closed Primaries:
“A closed primary election is limited to registered voters of a particular party. This primary election gives the voters of that party better control over their eventual nominee rather than the caucus or convention style of selecting party nominees. The closed primary election process solidifies support for a candidate based on principles and issues that bind a party together. It provides better incentives for people to join one of the parties, which leads to more involvement in the voting process.
There are several forms of open primary elections that allow you to cast your vote for either a Republican or Democrat candidate. Some think this would allow for a bigger participation by registered voters without any party affiliation. However, statistics show that voter participation in the U.S. was higher when people could only vote in the primary for their own party.
Clear differences exist between both major parties in the U.S. and they reflect the views of their membership of registered voters. Married couples admit that they don’t agree with their spouse 100% of the time and we certainly will not agree with our political candidates, nominees, or leaders even close to that percentage either. But we vote for the candidate whose views most align with ours. Parties advance ideals and principles that their membership can coalesce around. This membership promotes candidates who work to be elected leaders. Open primaries dilute principles that bind people together. Another factor to consider in an open primary is that one party may organize its voters to vote in the other party’s primary. They can choose the weaker candidate that they know their party nominee can surely defeat in the general.
Independents have the right to register with any party; hopefully the one that they agree with in most cases. Alternatively, Independents also have the right to have an independent candidate sign up after the primary and support them in the general election.
I have always found it smarter to work from within an organization to make changes rather than destroy from the outside and try to rebuild from the ashes.”
Should taxpayers have to pay for closed primaries the way they do now if not all of them are allowed to vote in them?
“The taxpayer is currently paying for a process that allows registered voters of any ideology to vote in a multitude of scenarios. Therefore, to have a general election, where the winner must obtain over 50% of the votes, the need for a primary election is paramount. Voters have the choice to register with a current party, start a party of their own with other affiliated voters and caucus with others to propose an independent candidate.
Republicans want the most positive avenue to portray their ideals and principles, the same goes for Democrats, Green’s, Socialists, or any other party listed in New Mexico. The fantastic thing is that as an American voter, they have the right to choose the scenario that fits them best.”
Statement from DPNM Chairman Sam Bregman:
“DPNM is aware of the current lawsuit that has been filed challenging the existing system of party primaries. I am certainly open to taking a look as to whether an open primary system would benefit Democrats in New Mexico. Any decision would have to be made pursuant to the rules of the DPNM.
We will be discussing this issue in the coming months with the Democratic State Central Committee.”