Politics Sexy, Sexy New Mexy
posted by June 8 at 11:33 AMon
I was born in New Mexico and grew up in a deeply political family. My mom was active in the League of Women Voters. There’s a picture of me, 6 years old, next to Senator Jeff Bingaman when he was a freshman senator; one of our closest family friends was so active in his campaign that when he walked in a local parade, he recognized her, walked over and shook her hands to thank her. We had lively political debate, and I got dragged to a lot of Election Night parties. The thing is, local and state politics in New Mexico were incredibly dull then. New Mexico was such a small player on the national scene that people forget we existed. A monthly column, One of Our Fifty Is Missing, ran in New Mexico magazine each month, detailing incidents in which people from out of state assumed that we were foreign nationals. They were numerous, and I could give you personal anecdotes.
There were and remain three House seats in New Mexico, and at the time, they were safer than a woman’s virginity at Ricky Martin’s house. The incumbents won by Jim McDermott-sized landslides every two years, and even my intensely political parents couldn’t rouse themselves to do more than attend a fundraising dinner or two for whatever sacrificial lamb was challenging the incumbent. The state legislature was no more interesting. It wasn’t that it was dull in the sense of a house full of technocrats battling it out over whether to increase a tax by .012 percent or .0125 percent. It was boring because it was a political machine run with more ruthless efficiency than Tammany Hall. Even the corruption was dull. There was never an extravagant scandal like in New Orleans, and the prospect of viewing or reenacting the cold, mechanical processes was so dull that I never even considered applying for Boys State, even though it would have been a nice little addition to the college app. In presidential elections, things were never close, and I dreamed fondly of being represented in Congress by someone whose most interesting trait wasn’t that I went to school with his nephew, who had a reputation for wetting his pants in class.
Then I moved here in 1996. The next year, Bill Richardson gets plucked from the House and made UN Ambassador. Gary Johnson, the formerly dull governor of New Mexico, gets reelected in 1998, and starts screaming his head off about legalizing all drugs, including cocaine. The aforementioned congressman gets skin cancer (that’s one of the drawbacks of living in the sun belt no one seems to mention), dies, and leaves a continually competitive seat behind, one that both parties pour money and manpower into. In 2000, Gore wins the state by a handful of votes, and in 2004, Kerry loses by a handful of votes. Bill Richardson gets mentioned repeatedly as a candidate for VP in 2004, and in 2006, Heather Wilson, who won that competitive seat, and Pete Domenici, senior senator from New Mexico made a call to David Iglesias and pressured him to bring indictments early for political reasons. To top it all off, Bill Richardson is running for president. I gotta say, it’s weird seeing my stupid home state move from political Siberia, to, if not the center of national politics, at least within sight of it. It probably also explains my love affair with Bill Richardson’s candidacy. It’s flailing, and people are going to bring up the fact that New Mexico scores really low in most areas of achievement, but if you’d grown up there, you’d see that taking a state from 49th to 35th in something is actually a huge accomplishment. Plus, the man has the funniest fucking ads of any candidate so far: