Deconstructed Podcast: The New Mexico Spring

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When Michelle Lujan Grisham, now governor of New Mexico, defeated Eric Griego in the race for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2012, it put the left wing of the state’s Democratic Party on the back foot. Nine years later, the state Legislature is routinely passing some of the most progressive legislation in the country. What happened? Griego, state director of the New Mexico Working Families Party, joins Ryan Grim to discuss.

[Musical introduction.]

Ryan Grim: This is Deconstructed. I’m Ryan Grim.

At the beginning of the classic novel “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the hero, Edmond Dantès, is a young man and the world is his oyster. He’s engaged to be married, well loved in the community, successful professionally. Yet, in spite of his own general innocence, he’s brought low by political intrigue and locked away in prison for life. But he escapes, and spends the rest of the book solving the mystery of how he was put away and exacting the most satisfying revenge, blow by blow.

A contemporary version of the Alexander Dumas masterpiece played out over the last decade in New Mexico. In 2008, Eric Griego knocked out a longtime establishment Democrat to win a New Mexico state Senate seat, and went about trying to change the system from the inside. Instead, he was chewed up and spit out by the state’s Democratic machinery. In 2012, he eyed an exit strategy: a run for an open U.S. House seat.

Newscaster: Only one congressional primary in New Mexico promises to have some drama: the race on the Democrat side to replace representative Martin Heinrich.

RG: Also eyeing that seat was Marty Chávez, a local mayor:

Newscaster: Chávez points to his three terms as mayor.

Mayor Martin “Marty” Chávez: There are candidates that talk and there are candidates that do.

Newscaster: A direct jab at his opponent, Eric Griego,

RG: And Michelle Lujan Grisham, a rising star in the party establishment from a centuries-old political dynasty.

Political Ad: Maybe it’s because she can trace her heritage by 12 generations. But whatever the reason, Michelle Lujan Grisham understands New Mexico’s values.

RG: The battle between insurgent House challengers and establishment Democrats first got national attention in 2018 when the four members of the Squad swept their way to office, but that fight had been bubbling for years, and this race was an early harbinger.

National progressive groups rallied behind Griego and also zeroed in on another Democratic primary in Congress, where progressive Lori Saldaña was running against the far more conservative Democrat Scott Peters. I covered this moment in a chapter of my book “We’ve Got People,” which sketches the fight within the Democratic Party from Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in the 1980s up to today.

The problem the left had, though, was that Emily’s List, which backs pro-choice women candidates, was going to weigh in on both races. So the heads of the progressive infrastructure suggested they deconflict. They understood, they said, that Emily’s List wanted to endorse both women. But if they only decided to put major resources into one of those races, could they please make it the progressive one, and back Saldaña, so that everybody would be aligned?

Emily’s List did decide, in the end, to only put resources behind one candidate. But they ignored Saldaña and threw all their weight behind Lujan Grisham, running a campaign that effectively branded Griego as a criminal.

She ended up winning by just over 2,000 votes, with Chávez third. Peters edged out Saldaña by 719 votes. Two corporate Democrats had been elected where a more unified operation could easily have elected two progressives. Peters is now a leader of the New Democrat Coalition, the faction of pro-Wall Street Democrats in Congress. Lujan Grisham is governor of New Mexico, and she was on Joe Biden’s shortlist for Vice President last year.

Griego, though, did not go quietly. He started organizing the disparate elements of the New Mexico left, realizing that the state Democratic Party wouldn’t change without massive outside pressure. As political director for the New Mexico Working Families Party, he and a coalition of allies began recruiting and backing candidates. The first signs of real success came in 2018, followed by a major breakthrough in 2020.

Now, I already spoiled the ending of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and I don’t want to spoil this story before we speak to Eric Griego, who joins us in a moment. But first, we’re trying something new this week. To support this show, we have a new offer for listeners who become a member of Deconstructed. If you make a contribution of any amount, we’ll send you a signed copy of my book that I mentioned earlier, “We’ve Got People.” To make that happen, just go to theintercept.com/give for the details. That’s theintercept.com/give.

OK, now onto our interview with Eric Griego.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: Eric Griego, welcome to Deconstructed.

Eric Griego: Thanks for having me.

RG: So Eric, you and I spoke several years ago, because I was interviewing you for my book about the Democratic Party, the fighting within it. And in 2012, you were involved in a chapter of that. Can you set the scene, a little bit, for people? How was it that you came to run in a Democratic primary for Congress?

EG: It was a series of bad decisions, actually.

RG: [Laughs.]

EG: I had been in politics for a while. I had been kind of an insurgent, progressive Democrat. I ran against an incumbent, developer-owned city council woman for the Albuquerque City Council, and that was my first race and I won that.

And really early on, it became clear to me that I was out of step with the Democratic Party. I had take on the leadership, including the governor at the time and the attorney general at the time, and the district attorney at the time —

RG: All Democrats.

EG: All of them were Democrats, all of them were protecting super-corrupt Mayor named Marty Chavez, who was a darling of the Clintons, and still is. He happens to be our national committeeman now for the Democratic Party in New Mexico, while he was a lobbyist for Verizon fighting net neutrality. So, that’s the kind of Democrat he was. [Laughs.] Still considered an elder in the Democratic Party here in New Mexico.

So yeah, I learned a really hard lesson early on that if you took on mainstream corporate or even corrupt Democrats that the Democratic Party establishment often stood with them. I ended up running against that mayor in the following cycle and got destroyed because he had very strong bipartisan support. Republicans preferred him. I beat the Republican, I came in second, but he had a coalition sort of middle-of-the-road Democrats and Republicans who supported him.

I then took a couple years off and did some community development work, economic development work. And then I decided to run for the state Senate against another entrenched legislator. So I ran against him and beat him in the primary. So that was the second time I’d taken out sort of a pretty powerful, Democratic establishment candidate. So anyway, that was sort of my brand, right? That was my philosophy. That’s what I did. I mean, I just felt like we had to hold Democrats accountable.

RG: Right.

EG: Because of that work, and also my work in the legislature, I had a very difficult time in the state Senate because I had questioned some of the decisions of our leadership. We had a corporate coalition that was a de facto coalition with the Republicans in the state Senate and blocking all sorts of progressive legislation. But they were very powerful, and so they made my life very, very difficult. I passed a few bills, but I didn’t get very much actually passed. I did a lot of behind the scenes work, but they sort of made an example of me and they said, “Look, we’re going to teach you what disloyal Democrats — this is what happens if you question the leadership, if you question the power of the establishment.”

RG: They have to. Because you can’t have examples of insurgents winning. Because that could inspire other people.

EG: Absolutely. Oh, yeah. They were very proud of saying to folks like this is what happens. They sort of held me up as an example of what not to do. We had a little mini-progressive wave that year of state senators, and even my colleagues saw what happened to me and said, like, “I don’t want to do that.” So I have to say they moderated their positions a lot, and I became very much the lightning lightning rod in the state Senate.

Much to their pleasure and delight, I decided to run for Congress in 2012, instead of running for reelection. In part because it was an open seat, and in part because, frankly, one of the other consequences of my work to question the dominant culture of the Democratic establishment, corporate establishment in the state Senate, was we were going through redistricting in 2012 when I was running and they conveniently paired me with another progressive for my Senate seat. So that was the other consequence.

RG: Let them fight.

EG: Had I not run for Congress, I would have had to run against essentially my closest progressive ally in the state Senate, who’s now my state senator, by the way. So it was by mutual agreement, I ran for Congress instead.

Newscaster: It is really the only major race with some major suspense. Three well-known Democrats duking it out in the congressional contest, here in the Albuquerque area for their party’s nod.

EG: So the two challengers: ironically, one of them was the former mayor who I had lost to, Marty Chávez.

Newscaster: The two didn’t agree on much when Griego was a city councilor during Chávez’s administration. Griego says that’s because Chávez often sided with the Republicans on key issues.

EG: And then the woman who ultimately won that seat and is now our governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Newscaster: Grisham says she’s the only one who can reach across the aisle to help end gridlock in Washington.

Michelle Lujan Grisham: I’m willing to work with anyone who is clear about making a quality of life difference for my constituents.

EG: Both of whom ran as moderates, right? She would not commit to Medicare for All, wouldn’t commit to a $15 minimum wage, lots of support from corporate entities. And I had a coalition of progressive groups supporting me and really ran as an unabashed, unapologetic progressive event in that primary.

And I lost! [Laughs.] Narrowly, but I lost. I was far more progressive, but yet, a lot of groups who really primarily wanted to see a woman in Congress, and a much more moderate person, frankly; it wasn’t just she was a woman, she was a lot more moderate. And so they essentially got together and helped fund some pretty egregious attack ads on me.

Newscaster: The gloves are off. The race for the Democratic bid to replace Congressman Martin Heinrich is getting nasty.

RG: Right, they made you out to be a thug, basically.

EG: Yeah.

MLG: I’m Michelle Lujan Grisham, and I approve this message.

Ad Voiceover: Eric Griego’s super PAC is lying about Michelle Lujan Grisham to hide his own record of breaking the law.

EG: And there was a huge dog whistle, I gotta say. We talk about dog whistles, that was not a popular term in the political vernacular in New Mexico, at least the time. But the ad that really was the one that where we saw my tracking polls dropped by 10 points is a darkened version of my face with a 20-year-old DUI when I was in my early 30s, paired with some traffic tickets I hadn’t paid on time, which was stupid on my part.

Ad Voiceover: Authorities issued 11 arrest warrants for Griego, including for driving without insurance or registration; three warrants while Griego served on the city council. A judge even issued a warrant for an accident on the grounds of the Capitol while Griego served in the state Senate. Does Griego think he’s above the law? New Mexico can do better.

EG: But this whole, like, brown dude from the bad side of town — and it worked.

Newscaster: A recent Journal poll shows it’s a two-person race to the finish between Griego and Grisham.

EG: And in the end, I lost by, you know, five percentage points in literally the last two weeks of the campaign.

Newscaster: It wasn’t until a little after midnight when we knew for sure that Michelle Lujan Grisham beat Eric Griego in the primary 40 percent to 35 percent. This was an expensive and an ugly race and, now that it’s over, Miss Lujan Grisham can focus on her campaign message: getting people back to work.

EG: The rest is history. The now-Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was, as many folks know, considered for the cabinet and is very much seen as a power player in Democratic politics.

RG: And it’s such an interesting irony, that when she is considered for cabinet positions, when she’s kicked around for vice president, what you often hear is, “It would be amazing to have a brown woman in that job.” And when when you hear how she ended up winning her first race for Congress, she won by being the less-brown candidate, by saying that the other candidates is too brown; to then, 8-10 years later, being talked about as somebody who should be elevated to a higher position, because of her own ethnicity, is quite an extraordinary irony.

EG: Again, I’ve had very political teachers, and I would say Marty Chávez was my first one that showed me that it didn’t matter how corrupt you were: if you had the right relationships in the Democratic establishment, you could survive. He survived that pretty major scandal.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: I wanted to jump in here for a moment to give some context to Griego’s allegation of corruption against Chávez. In 2002, Chávez agreed to pay back money raised from contractors doing business with the city, saying that while he hadn’t broken any laws, he recognized there was a conflict of interest.

In 2003, New Mexico’s Ethics and Campaign Practices Committee concluded that Chávez, as mayor of Albuquerque, had broken city rules by accepting gifts, exceeding campaign contribution limits, and failing to report campaign contributions. He was acquitted of other allegations, namely that he had also broken campaign finance rules in a run for governor and that he had misused public assets for his own political gain. Another scandal involving a friend he traveled with dogged him during his congressional campaign.

I asked Chávez if he wanted to respond to Griego and he told me this: “My only real memory of Mr. Griego is that his brief tenures as a city councilor and state senator were inconsequential. I do recall during our mayoral race that he had multiple arrest warrants out for him for failure to obey court orders and a record of driving while intoxicated in Texas. The name calling was always a regrettable part of his modus operandi and that apparently remains unchanged. I do wish him well.”

[Musical interlude.]

EG: In the case of the governor, it didn’t matter that I was a fellow Democrat, somebody who had been a political ally of hers in the past, I helped her when she ran for County Commission. When it came to politics, all bets were off.

But you raise a good point, because this is all coming back up. And I don’t know if you saw there was an Axios article that a guy named Russell Contreras wrote about the racial undertones of this seat, right? This is a majority-minority district here in Albuquerque. And we just nominated a white woman who arguably is progressive-leaning, very competent, very smart. But there were five — there were five — pretty progressive people of color running: two LGBTQ, openly gay, Latino men; a Native American, progressive woman; three formidable Hispanic women. It was, again, a lesson in sort of the race politics, unfortunately, in this district, which is ultimately white voters in this district still have a much stronger, in terms of turnout, in terms of power, in terms of fundraising much, much bigger effect on who gets the nomination, and it happened again.

RG: Right. And this wasn’t a primary. This was almost literally a smoky room decision.

EG: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. But the same dynamics.

RG: So now you’ve moved to the Working Families Party, which in New York runs in a fusion system, and I think most people are familiar with the WFP through that, that you can run on both ballots. What’s the WFP’s history in New Mexico? And what are the ballot access rules there?

EG: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we established in 2016, so it’s been about five years. And we really established ourselves an electoral presence within the Democratic Party. So we really tried to get the most progressive Democratic candidates in state legislative races and other races out of the primaries and then tried to get them elected.

I had actually tried when I was in the state Senate to sponsor a fusion vote. So the New York style of fusion where you can vote for more than one candidate, a candidate under more than one party line, so as a Democrat and a Working Families Party member. So that was not allowed under New Mexico election law. So I sponsored legislation was dead on arrival — I mean it literally did not make it out of its first committee. This is 2012. It had been sponsored previously, same outcome by someone else in 2007, never made it out of its first committee.

So the forces in the Democratic Party, primarily — it wasn’t even the Republicans — it was mostly the Democrats, and so what we’ve done here in New Mexico since 2016, is we’ve really tried to change the makeup of the Democratic Party by really going all-in for primaries for more progressive members, taking out the kind of establishment, corrupt corporate Democrats that I always run against as an elected official, but also that we have always targeted since WFP’s been on the ground here.

So our first year we just helped a couple of good progressives in the primary. The biggest thing we did is in 2018, we took on a state House Corporations Committee chairwoman, who was corrupt as the day was long, and bought and paid for by payday lenders, and private prisons, oil and gas, you name it, the who’s who of corporate entities. And we found a candidate, we recruited a candidate who took her on and beat her in the primary, and then got elected, and still holds the seat, and has been a pretty progressive member of the state legislature. Everybody said, “You’re crazy. You’ll never take this woman out.” She was powerful. She had three times the money our candidate had. But that was our first major victory. And that was really the brand for WFP New Mexico: we’re gonna take out these really terrible Democrats.

And then in 2020 we did two things. We helped recruit several candidates to take on the Corporate Democrats Coalition, which was modeled very much on the IDC in New York, a small group of really conservative, pro-oil and gas, pro-corporate state senators who really control the state Senate, despite the Democrats having a pretty formidable majority.

RG: Right. And you had served in the state Senate. So you kind of understood the choke points. Did you go after incumbents who are not just bad, but also sat at those veto points?

EG: Yeah! [Laughs.] That’s who I chose. Like there were a lot of people we ended up helping defeat. But the two most important were the two people who, harkening back to my own state Senate career, who I had watched in action, and this is the part when you’re actually an insider, when you’re an elected official, you can see the dynamic from the inside, that in-Senate caucus meetings were so detrimental to us moving the progressive agenda because they held a lot of power. One of them was the pro tem of the Senate, and one of them was the chair of the Finance Committee, which is the most powerful committee — all money bills, anything with a price tag on it went through that committee, which is 90 percent of legislation. So those two were very much the top of our list. They were also two of the most powerful people in the state Senate.

But we found challengers, insurgent challengers in both cases. So we got involved early, we helped recruit those folks, we helped support them, and we got them both through primaries, and one of them was a pretty Democratic seat. The other one was a swing seat. So we ended up losing, it’s District 35, in the southern part of New Mexico, sort of a swing district, it was a Mexican-American woman named Neomi Martinez-Parra, who’s just fierce and took on this really powerful, entrenched Democrat, beat him in the primary and lost the general because —

RG: And you lost in the general, but that’s a fascinating moment, though, because even though you replaced a Democrat with a Republican, you replaced an extraordinarily powerful Democrat who was in the way of progress with maybe a worse Republican, but someone who’s not in the way.

EG: Yeah, absolutely.

RG: You didn’t lose the majority, right?

EG: No, no, we ended up actually picking up one seat, but we lost that seat, and we lost another seat to Republicans, and another seat that we played in. And some folks are like, “That’s crazy!” It’s all about the numbers, it’s all about having a majority. If you want to pass some of these bills, you got to have more votes, you got to count your votes. And my view has always been, if you have to negotiate in your own caucus on most legislation, and they’re working as much with the Republicans they’re working with you, that’s not a good theory of change to really move strong, progressive Democratic legislation.

RG: Right.

EG: So we knew that was a high probability that we would lose the seat. We also knew that it would change the dynamics of the caucus, because, again, having sat in those caucuses, this is behind closed doors with people and the real negotiations are happening. This particular member of the Senate, people lived in fear of him, because if you wanted to get anything passed as a state senator so that you could get reelected, so that your constituents liked you, so that you could run for the next thing, you had to go through his committee. And it was an absolute death-wish to take him on, which I learned the hard way. But I got to tell you, when we took him out, and he lost, the dynamics, and I’ve heard this from several former and colleagues and people we helped get elected, like the dynamics in the caucus are just day and night — now because people don’t live in fear of somebody essentially ruining their political career, because they have the audacity to say, “Hey, why aren’t you letting this healthcare funding bill through your committee, right?”

So we lost that seat in the general, but we ended up picking up a couple of other seats in the general, where much more progressive-leaning Democrats defeated Republicans here in the Albuquerque area, so we more than made up for it.

RG: And all of this is a fun story, and it’s nice to see people get their comeuppance, but it doesn’t really matter to people on the ground unless it translates into actual legislation. So the new legislature got sworn in this year. And how did it go?

EG: Well, thankfully, they delivered! [Laughs.] Not on everything, but on an amazing amount of progressive legislation. So after 11 years of trying to pass this transformational investment in early childhood — New Mexico has the worst outcome for kids, especially young kids in the country. And we’ve been trying for 11 years, it was a bill that I initially helped write, we have this massive, permanent funding that’s produced in part from oil and gas leases, $22 billion, which is one of the largest in the world, but about three times the size of our general fund. But we just wouldn’t touch it because the crew that I just mentioned, who we took out, it was sacrosanct — like, we could not touch this essential savings account, right?

So the first indication that we had done something right by electing all these much more progressive-leaning state senators is we passed this constitutional amendment after 11 tries, this is the 11th year we had run it, and every year Smith and the corporate Dems killed it. So that’ll be on the ballot next year. It’s got overwhelming public support in both Republicans and Democrats. And it’ll mean about 25,000 to 50,000 new kids in New Mexico will have access to early childhood when they never did.

We passed what will be the most rigorous paid sick leave law in the country that covers all workers, no carve outs for business size, and provides eight days of paid sick leave per year. It doesn’t kick in until next year, that was the compromise, but it still will be one of the toughest laws in the books that would have never made it out under the old crew.

RG: How long had people been pushing that?

EG: Paid sick leave? Honestly? It had never been a serious effort, to be honest with you, because there was just so little support; it was anathema to the corporate leadership.

RG: Right. That’s the other interesting function of these veto points being corked up. People say: Why bother? Why push for anything? Because we know it’s just going to get bottled up here. Did you see that phenomenon across the state? People realizing, “Wait a minute, if we put some energy on the field here, we could actually move the ball.”

EG: Yeah, I think that that motivated a lot of more progressive-leaning Democratic voters. I think there are people who are just so incredibly disillusioned that it didn’t matter, we were never going to get rid of a few of these folks that were so entrenched. And I have to say it was a credit to, and it was a factor of the growth of sort of the progressive base here in New Mexico, a lot of grassroots groups passed the early childhood constitution, and passed this incredible paid sick leave bill, we passed cannabis legalization.

RG: So what are the details of your weed legalization bill?

EG: Yeah, so that was sort of the dying gasp of the few members of that coalition who survived. Even though we cleaned house, so to speak, there were still some remnants, three or four of these folks who were on the, I’ll call them on the fringe of the corporate coalition, right? They were not full-fledged members. They were sort of like pledges, I guess you’d say. [Laughs.]

RG: [Laughs.]

EG: And they made it tough — so the governor got a lot of pressure, not just from progressives, but all sorts of folks. And she said: “We’re gonna do a special session.” So she called them all back and they were able to pass it in two days. And it was pretty remarkable to see that happen, right? And it would not have happened if the previous establishment corporate Dems, conservative Dems were there.

RG: What about Covid relief? I understand New Mexico went above what a lot of other states were able to do for people.

EG: Yeah, one of the themes with this corporate coalition is their brand was austerity, austerity, austerity. They were the keepers of a fiscally sound state budget, right? And one of the things in the primary that we emphasize is now is not the time for austerity, now is the time to invest in healthcare and invest in people and so it really played out in the primaries right in the middle of Covid. But coming out of that, and coming out of the election, I think the Democrats and the governor, who viewed herself as a kind of a fiscal conservative, there was a lot of pressure to not just get the federal money out the door, but to really reinvest a lot more state funding on tax policy, on using federal and state funding to really make sure we were bolstering working folks, frontline workers, essential workers; I think those were all policies that would have had a much rougher road, if a road at all, if we had that deal still in place.

We were able to pass a bill called The New Mexico Civil Rights Act that ends qualified immunity for not just law enforcement, but for a lot of other frontline officials, corrections officers, and a lot of others. That would have never, ever, ever made it out.

The only lowlight I will say is we did not get a lot done, in my opinion, on the environment. We got a couple of important but really, I think, largely symbolic bills passed, but the one thing that has not changed — if anything, has grown stronger — is the influence of oil and gas in New Mexico.

RG: And how badly were you beaten by the oil and gas industry? Like a real shellacking?

EG: I think it was a shellacking for sure. Yeah, there are two or three symbolic victories. We passed a climate “just transition” task force that’s going to force our Economic Development Department to think about something beyond oil and gas, right? So what’s the next economy look like? But it’s really just the task force.

There’s something called produced water, which is a really toxic byproduct of fracking in New Mexico that didn’t go anywhere, because of not just Republicans but Democrats who killed that bill. There was a green amendment that is being sponsored in some states around the country that would put in the Constitution kind of an environmental green right, right? A cause of action for folks to be able to say, “You’re really violating some basic environmental rights that we have here.” That was killed by bipartisan vote.

We did get a couple of minor victories. So we got community solar passed, which is the public utilities —

RG: Feels like a no-brainer in New Mexico to have solar.

EG: [Laughs.] Yeah!

RG: Although it’s a no-brainer in Florida too, and Texas, but you don’t have it there either.

EG: One would think! One would think!

RG: So with the grip that the oil and gas industry has on the party, what’s the strategy for countering that, for loosening it? What is the kind of countervailing power that exists in the state that could push back on oil and gas?

EG: I still, like a lot of folks, feel pretty powerless at this point on that particular issue. And the reason is, I’m sure you’re familiar with the resource curse, like we’re a state that depends heavily, heavily on oil and gas, and natural gas, and fracking.

RG: Right. It’s funding your early childhood.

EG: Yeah, exactly. So not only does it fund early childhood, it funds a quarter of our K-12 system. We don’t fund our K-12 system through property taxes, like most states do, we fund them through the general fund, and a quarter of that — almost $3 billion, almost a quarter of the whole budget — comes from revenues that come from oil and gas and that permanent fund.

So it’s really, really hard. Even if you’re a super-progressive Democrat who cares about the environment, you find yourself really up against some very powerful forces. And sometimes you’re going up against unions who support the investment that the oil and gas represents.

And also this breaks along racial and socioeconomic lines, right? So who works in the oil fields? A lot of the frontline workers are immigrants, people of color, a lot of native folks who were dependent on some of the fossil fuel industries, certainly the coal industry, a lot of them work in the uranium industry. I’m sure you know the history of how terrible the uranium industry has been for Native Americans, and it’s been a source of employment for a lot of them. So now the conversation is really about how do we get more people interested and elected who get that it’s an imperative, not just a moral climate imperative, it’s an economic imperative that we’ve got to diversify our economy.

RG: So what’s next electorally in 2022, for this coalition, now that they’ve kind of tasted the fruit of some victory?

EG: That’s a great question. I think everybody’s thinking about accountability. So I mentioned the corporate Dems pledges, right? There’s still two or three of them who, in this vacuum that was created by the folks that we — but we also lost. We didn’t win every race. But in 2022, all of our statewide offices are up, including the governor’s race, and all of the state House members. So what we will likely do is protect several of the House members who really stepped up. There are a few who were very disappointing, who we’re going to try to probably primary. I do think there’s a couple of statewide offices that we’re going to have to really take a hard look at and see if we can move those to the left a little bit.

Honestly, I think the big battle for us is going to be in 2024. That’s when we have the next round of state Senate elections, but also, before then, local races. So we also have county races.

We’re never going to have really tested loyal folks, credible folks that we can trust, unless we elect city councilors and county commissioners who then go on to higher office, right? So that’s, that’s part of the pipeline.

RG: And last question, finally, just personally, what’s this journey been like for you to experience the state Senate from the inside, to be kind of chewed up and spit out, and then to kind of come back with an army behind you, and try to retake the place?

EG: No, it’s been incredibly gratifying.

I mean, somebody said, and I don’t like to use this phrase, but I do find it ironic, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

It was 10 years ago that I had to watch not just my legislation, but all this great legislation, and colleagues who just went to the mat, just get destroyed by this coalition of corporate Dems. And literally a generation of kids who could have been invested in just going by the wayside. A lot of casualties, collateral damage, and this political ideological fight that went on within the Democratic Party. So it’s been wonderful to watch, not just in the state Senate, but I have to say, in this congressional seat where I ran, and everybody couldn’t wait to rush to the middle and say, “This is a moderate district.”

To see this year, this very election that we’re in right now, everybody fighting to see who the most progressive is: they’ve all endorsed the green New Deal, they’ve all endorsed a $15 minimum wage, they’ve all endorsed universal paid sick leave, they’ve all endorsed Medicare for All. So it’s been amazing to see the transformation of the state, right?

And, look: I played a small role. There’s a lot of people who have been at this longer than me. But I got to say, to be in the middle of it and to be able to say, “You know? This was worth it.” There is value in being on the outside, right? There is value. It’s great to have a vote and to be in the middle of the political mix and the scrum there in the Senate, but I gotta say, it’s been incredibly gratifying to help elect some really good, smart, progressive people who have a moral compass. And you know, it’s also been good for them to realize that if they become a creature of that system that their necks could be on the line, too, next cycle. There is no immunity from accountability. And now they all see it. And I think it’s already changed behavior. I think it already has.

RG: Quite a ride. Thanks for sharing it with us. Thanks for joining us, Eric.

EG: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure, Ryan.

[Credits music.]

RG: That was Eric Griego, and that’s our show.

Once again, if you head to theintercept.com/give and make a donation of any amount to support the show, you’ll get a signed copy of my book “We’ve Got People.” That’s theintercept.com/give.

Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review — it helps people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at [email protected] Thanks so much!

See you next week.

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