Alamogordo School Board Incumbent Losses Lessons Learned
Lessons of November 7, 2023, how low voter turnout and a loud vocal minority using social media with rumors and innuendos and negative campaigning can influence an election. The Alamogordo School Board race was an outlier verses the rest of the state where a majority of incumbents were reelected.
On June 28th, 2023 AlamogordoTownNews.com and Alamogordo Conservative Daily issued a commentary as an advisory to the voters of Alamogordo concerning the infighting, lack of leadership and turmoil within the local Democratic Party. In that story, we detailed how the lack of leadership and a collaborative presence in the community of the Democrats of Otero County to organize Democrats and Independents, opened the door for the majority party of Otero County to seize control of the Alamogordo School Board with candidates that were guided, trained and potentially recruited by the Moms of Liberty.
We mentioned that while Democrats were eating their own and infighting that the local Republican Party of Otero County was organizing and on June 22, 2023 had Mom's for Liberty's Sarah Jane Allen to be a guest speaker and explain Mom's of Liberty methodology to winning local school board elections.
We highlighted the dangers of Moms of Liberty’s doctrine but found the transparency and organizational skills of the Moms of Liberty and RPOC to be focused with a determination to win in November. September 15th, 2022 a leader of the Republican Party of Otero County had previously called for starting a Moms of Liberty chapter in Otero County.
One Moms of Liberty chapter this summer quoted Hitler in its newsletter; others have supported book bans or filed complaints against schools that assigned books about Martin Luther King Jr. or Ruby Bridges — the first Black child to integrate an all-white elementary school in Louisiana. Moms for Liberty chapters try to get books about race banned from schools saying that reading such stories can traumatize children.
SearchlightNM reported on the influence of Moms of Liberty School board races in New Mexico. They are nonpartisan, which means candidates aren’t identified by their political party on the ballot. But candidates are free to talk about the party they favor, and parties are free to endorse them.
Like at least four school board candidates in the state were being supported by the local leader of the controversial far-right group called Moms for Liberty, an organization that claims 285 chapters in 44 states. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers it an extremist group.
Per SearchlightNM , Sarah Jane Allen, the cofounder and chair of the Bernalillo County chapter — the only one in the state — said Moms for Liberty isn’t officially endorsing candidates in New Mexico. But Allen said she is supporting Vigil-Stockton, as well as Peggy Muller-Aragón and Steve Cecco in the Albuquerque Public Schools board race and Julia Ruiz, a school board candidate in Las Cruces.
Note: Mrs. Allen came to Alamogordo and held a public information meeting as a guest of the Republican Party of Otero County on June 22, 2023. Mrs. Allen did not overtly endorse any school board candidates in the Alamogordo Public School board race. The influence of MOL was felt by the incumbent candidates, and the tactics used to defeat them can be traced to the MOL political playbook.
SearchlightNM reports in a post election recap that not a single Mom's of Liberty backed candidate won in New Mexico.
That may be true on the surface that NO Mom's of Liberty overtly backed and endorsed candidate won in New Mexico. However Otero County was the outlier in candidates that were friendly to Mom's of Liberty won the local election with slogans such as "Protecting Our Children."
Protecting our children from what we asked the local candidates on multiple occasions and received no response.
Mom’s For Liberty co-founder and executive board member Tiffany Justice said on Steve Bannon’s podcast: “We’re going to take over the school boards, but that’s not enough. Once we replace the school boards, what we need to do is we need to have search firms, that are conservative search firms, that help us to find new educational leaders, because parents are going to get in there and they’re going to want to fire everyone.”
The first part of this MOL playbook was implemented even before the first vote was cast when, earlier this year, the executive director of the Flickinger Center of the Performing Arts filed a lawsuit against the Alamogordo Public Schools and demanded the removal of the school superintendent Dr. Kenneth Moore.
Mom’s For Liberty co-founder and executive board member Tiffany Justice also said on Steve Bannon’s podcast: Any school board members, administrators, teachers or parents who fail to fall in line with M4L’s agenda are to be targeted. Anti-abortion activist Allie Stuckey recently said the following at a speech at a M4L event: “Anyone who tries to stand between us will be removed from power […] we will rally and fundraise and make noise until you are stripped of your titles and ridden of your power.”
Sound familiar to what is happening in Alamogordo?
Lawsuit filed, a video suddenly drops and spreads across social media taking comments out of context of school leadership, rumors and innuendos propagate, extremist from both major parties jump to conclusions and activate their ideological extreme drones, threats of lynchings are declared via anonymous calls and even in person during a school board meeting via public comments in Alamogordo, more vocal threats are made, social media intimidation, a propaganda machine is created, and phone and social media posted threats are made against educational leadership, school board leaders as well as this media company for reporting the lack of civil dialog.
The influence and the tactics of Moms of Liberty were felt on election night November 7th, 2023. Propaganda peaked the final 3 weeks of the election with major attacks against school board president Judy Rabon and the other incumbent school board members seeking re-election.
The tone of the attacks took a variety of forms even attacking the systems health care initiatives. Inflammatory posts and stories circulated that parents rights are being taken away by the APS School Board and the APS Superintendents office and kids are being provided “direct access to abortion or transgender reassignment options.”
Fact: School health care providers do not perform access to abortions nor transgendered reassignment options, let alone do so without parental notification, according to the state’s Public Education Department. School-based health centers “do not provide abortions or gender-affirming care,” PED and the Department of Health wrote in a letter to school districts, which they sent out “in response to recent inaccurate information being disseminated.”
The roughly 80 school health clinics in the state provide routine care such as treating asthma or sports injuries, or offering counseling, said Nancy Rodriguez, executive director for the New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care.
In a sweeping rejection of the Moms for Liberty group across the United States, voters turned away from candidates endorsed by the group in multiple school board races. This group, known for its stance against LGBTQ+ educational materials and its advocacy for “parental rights,” faced significant losses in states from Pennsylvania to Iowa to include New Mexico, excepting for the outlier of Alamogordo.
Across the state of New Mexico most school board elections reelected the incumbents but not in conspiracy prone Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico. Most incumbents keep their seats in major school board races across the state.
In Albuquerque the school board Vice President was voted out but all of the Moms for Liberty supported candidates lost. Same for Las Cruces MOL candidates lost and 2 of the 3 incumbents remained in. Incumbents won in Gallup-McKinley. Gadsden Independent School system 2 of the 3 incumbents remain, Albuquerque Public Schools saw only 1 loss of an incumbent, Santa Fe schools brought back all incumbents.
The Alamogordo Public Schools System Board of Education was the only election in the state to have all three incumbent school board members to be defeated.
And defeated they were, with their supporters and social media backers showing a lack of decorum and gloating about the overwhelming defeat of the incumbents.
AlamogordoTownNews.com reached out to all three incumbents about the election. In each case the sentiment was that they were sad with the response, that they are most concerned about the future of the kids they serve but that they wish success of the new board as their success is necessary for good student outcomes going forward.
The lesson of the recent school board election is clear.
Michelle Obama used to say when their opponents go low, they would go high.
In the November 7th, 2023, Alamogordo school board election the opposition candidates did not go low directly, they allowed a very organized and small but loud group of surrogates to go low, dirty and create outright false narratives. The incumbents showed class and attempted to remain high, above the fold of the negative attacks and that was a failed response. That response allowed the opposition to drive the dialog and the headlines and debate. The incumbents then appeared hunkered down and weakened by a lack of a bold response. That lack of a bold response allowed the opposition to gain momentum, and the narrative of the opposition made the incumbents look weak. Each of the incumbents have good families, successful children and lives to be proud of.
The visual crafted by the opposition, through a well executed daily bombardment of negative storylines to the voters, made the incumbents appear as sinister evildoers out to destroy the children of Alamogordo. Not at all the intent of the dedicated public servants. Their intention has always been a positive outcome for the children of Alamogordo.
There was no shortage of insults, mudslinging and distortions in this political race for the Alamogordo School Board.
Why does negative campaigning work? Because our brains respond to it. Once we think the proverbial glass is half empty, it’s hard to remember that it’s also half full. In other words, our brains are hard-wired to seek out and remember negative information. That fact isn’t lost on political strategist and political parties.
UC Davis psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood studies framing effects, or how people process information based on how it’s presented to them. She suggests that "once a negative idea has been planted, it’s very hard to shake."
The defeat of the 3 incumbents of the Alamogordo Public Schools race is a good case study of small town politics and what happens with a majority of voters don't participate.
The race shows how with a limited press, a small voter turnout 18.98% of registered voters, candidates who don't want to go negative or respond to negativity, and with the influence of social media; that a small loud group of individuals can sway public opinion and win a fight well above their weight class. It also shows that a town without 2 strong political parties voters don't participate.
The lesson does not speak well for Alamogordo. The low voter turnouts of municipal elections can have a profound impact on a small community. A low voter turnout means that the most engaged and in many cases the most extreme of voters are the ones making decisions for the majority of the taxpayer.
In the case of the municipal elections of November 7th, 2023 Otero County had 33,941 eligible voters and yet only 6445 ballots were cast or 18.98% of the eligible voters actually participated.
Statewide only 20.51% of total eligible voters actually participated.
Commentary: The sad truth of the Alamogordo school board race is the school board president, Judy Rabon is a civic leader responsible for the oversight of over 800 employees and an annual budget of nearly $90 Million dollars and yet only 537 people from her district bothered to even come out and vote. Each district has a few thousand eligible voters. The winner in this case won with 310 votes verses Rabons 227 votes. A very small number of voters made a big decision and over 6,000 students and 800 employees will now feel the impact.
Let us hope for the good of the community, the new board delivers positive results that actually represent the whole of the Alamogordo community and not just the agenda of the Mothers of Liberty.
The students, staff and over 36,000 taxpayers of Alamogordo deserve fair, competent, collaborative representation.
Source: AlamogordoTownNews.com, US California Davis, Chalkbeat.org, SearchlightNM.com, Dianeravitch.net, nmasbhc.org
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