We're not all yahoos in Clovis, New Mexico.
I've lived in Clovis for over 12 years. I'm originally from the Los Angeles area, but as a radio gypsy I have lived all around the country. I'm a radio broadcaster and have covered news in this area for many years, although that's not my schtick anymore.
We're not all inbred, backward morons, as some commenters have suggested. If you don't know about Clovis, it's where Buddy Holly recorded his hits, and the area is home to the anthropological site of the Clovis Culture. We are proud neighbors of Cannon Air Force Base. Most of the community is caring, kind and open-hearted. Clovis is full of good people.
And I can tell you, the good people of Clovis are horrified about what happened Tuesday night in our election. We are saddened by the broad brush that paints us in the same light as the man who was elected as mayor, David Lansford.
(You may have read about Lansford's views about President Obama, the CIA and evil. He called the president "the carnal manifestation of evil" and said Obama's election was part of a CIA conspiracy. He also aligned himself with the fringe group ATLAH Media out of New York. He was part of the ATLAH's mock treason trial of President Barack Obama and wrote articles for its online publication.)
Phones have been ringing off the hook since Tuesday night at 8 o'clock. If the majority of people in Clovis are good people, how did something like this happen?
It's important to note a few things. One, this is not an issue of free speech. Everyone agrees that David Lansford has a right to believe the way he does, and to speak about whatever he chooses. What this IS about is the very thing that commenters are commenting about: How can the mayor be the face of a city with outspoken views like that, and still expect to work side-by-side with those in Washington? After all, we are asking for $50 million for the Ute Pipeline.
The outpouring of negative comments about the city of Clovis is the second concern: how this community's reputation will suffer because of the comments, and beliefs, of this man.
Another thing to note is that this area is a very strong Republican stronghold. And a very strategically active one.
So how did this happen?
David is a very likable guy. He's intelligent. He's been mayor before. He believes we shouldn't spend so much city tax money. He's Republican. You can see, these characteristics would bring him votes in this area.
The story about Lansford's beliefs, his writings, his trip back east to participate in the "mock trial" of President Obama, didn't come out until a short time before the election. And a large percentage of people had 'early voted,' people who might not have voted for Lansford if they had known about these things.
The Republican machinery in this area is very well-oiled. And the Tea Party members (who call themselves High Plains Patriots) are extremely active. Throw in a last minute inaccurate distraction (how candidates felt about illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses -- a non-issue since the city has no voting power on the issue and the attributions to candidates were incorrect), and you have an election that was won by Lansford with a total of just over 2900 votes -- 1196 more than opponent Gayla Brumfield, who took in 1718 votes.
The town got its new-found reputation on 2900 votes.
Was his opponent, the incumbent, a bad choice? Quite to the contrary. Gayla Brumfield (http://www.gaylaformayor.com/) is a local realtor/broker who has done remarkable things for this community in the 4 years she has been mayor. She has found creative ways to fund a dog park, walking trails and a new youth center. I co-hosted a television show with her 10 years ago, long before she was mayor. Many of our shows were about the local community. I found Gayla to be caring and totally committed to making Clovis the best possible place to live. So the opponent was definitely worthy.
So why didn't Gayla win?
I think this is the most important lesson we can take from this situation, and I hope it will spur us to action. I think Gayla lost because of low voter turn-out, and a feeling that the election was in the bag; we have nothing to worry about.
This often happens in an election which contains an incumbent. Oh, everyone will vote for her, I don't have time. I forgot. I couldn't be bothered.
It's more than voter apathy. I really believe the bigger problem is voter assumption.
We need to create strong voting strategies. These might include phone trees and ride shares and education and advocacy of early voting. And we may already think we have those strategies in place, but this election proved to me that our town didn't.
Don't let voter assumption decide who leads our country. Don't make the mistake that we did in Clovis. And please believe, there are a lot of good people who live here.