The Land of Enchantment is Feeling the Bern. Bernie Sanders made two whirlwind stops in New Mexico Friday afternoon. In Santa Fe, he spoke to a rally of more than 3,000 people crowded into a gym at Santa Fe Community College. In Albuquerque, the Vermont senator spoke to a crowd of 7,000 inside the Convention Center. At the beginning of his speech, Sanders indicated that an additional 2,000 people were unable to get inside.
New Mexico is a poor and rural state. It is ripe for a drastic change, as a large portion of its population lives in perpetual poverty with little hope of making a better life.
According to The Street, New Mexico ranks number 7 in the 10 poorest states in the U.S. for 2015. However, Investopedia ranks New Mexico as the second poorest state in the Union. As Sanders stated in both speeches in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico has more than 30 percent of children living in poverty.
Drug addiction is rampant and mental health is crumbling, in no small part due to Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s actions that shut most of the state’s mental health facilities down.
The behavioral health providers had been accused of fraud with a pattern of regulatory wrongdoing. Martinez moved to cut off funding for 15 organizations, forcing many to shut down without going through the appropriate investigation first. The governor then outsourced these programs to a private Arizona firm, which in turn made matters worse for those in need. To date, several of the private Arizona firms have pulled out of the state, leaving those in desperate need of mental health counseling without any help. Of those 15 New Mexico organizations accused of Medicaid fraud, 13 were recently exonerated of any wrongdoing by the state’s attorney general.
At the Santa Fe rally, Sanders addressed the boisterous crowd, telling them “there is nothing, nothing, nothing that can stop us.”
He emphasized Latino and Native American issues in a state with one of the highest number of both groups in the nation.
“Everybody here knows, if you’ve studied five minutes of American history, that before this country became this country, Native American people were lied to. At the the treaties they signed were broken.”
He also addressed immigration issues that the Latino community feels strongly about.
“There are 11 million undocumented people in this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are in this room right now … In New Mexico, 30 percent of children are living in poverty, while millionaires and billionaires see their wealth increase every day. That is not what America is about.”
In Albuquerque, Sanders delivered a similar message, along with his standard stump speech issues of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, and health care reform. He appeared after a rousing introduction by Texas populist Jim Hightower. The Texas activist was the perfect foil for Sanders, as both men share many of the same progressive beliefs. On April 28, Hightower published an essay explaining why Bernie Sanders should stay in the presidential race.
“Bernie has substantively – even profoundly – changed American politics for the better, which is why he’s gaining more and more support and keeps winning delegates. From the start, he said: “This campaign is not about me” – it’s a chance for voters who’ve been disregarded and discarded to forge a new political revolution that will continue to grow beyond this election and create a true people’s government.”
New Mexico is considered a swing state, with a sitting Republican governor and a recent history of going Blue in presidential elections. In February, a poll indicated that more people favored Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders. The poll is three months old, however, and in election year terms, three months might as well be a lifetime.
No new polls for the state could be found; however, the political “matchmaking” site ISideWith shows that nearly 10,000 people voted in its Democratic preference poll. More than 60 percent of respondents chose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. And if Sanders’ continued upward trajectory is anything to go by, it’s a safe bet he could realistically win New Mexico.
[Photo by Susan Montoya Ryan/AP Images]