Returning from Recess

On June 13th a special meeting was convened for action to be taken on the 2022 primary election canvas. A recess was called before action could be taken. It was announced at the time the County Attorney could not be present due to a death in the family. The Commission explained they wanted additional time to seek legal counsel. At 9:00 am this morning the recessed special meeting entered again into session. After considerable public opposition, Torrance County Commissioners Certified the Election.

Many residents of Torrance County and surrounding communities showed up for the second half of the special meeting. Some of those in attendance passed around a petition requesting a hand recount. Prior to the 9:00am meeting, a number of residents convened outside the building to hold a group prayer. Others hurried into the building to get a seat without talking to anyone.

The Commissioners filed in and took their seats. Instead of starting with The Pledge of Allegiance and prayer, as is commonly done is this county, they chose to skip that step and jump right into the meeting.

The commissioners left the regular session and initiated an executive meeting with the County Manager and two contracted attorneys. The regular county attorney was still not in attendance. The executive meeting lasted about an hour and a half, after which Commissioners returned to the chambers to resume the regular session.

Upon resuming the regular session, Commissioner Ryan Schwebach began addressing those in attendance. As Schwebach commenced, it became evident they would not allow public comment.

County Commissioners Certified the Election

Daniel Ivey-Soto

Citizens became vocal about their desire to be heard by the Commissioners before action was taken to certify the canvas. Commissioner Schwebach asked one of those in attendance to leave, which he did willingly, following a remark the attendee made about Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Many of those in attendance objected to the seemingly special consideration afforded Senator Ivey-Soto to meet with the Commissioners privately in executive session a few days earlier. Some attendees declared Senator Ivey-Soto to be conflicted in his participation in the canvass process. Others in attendance objected to the inclusion of Senator Ivey-Soto in the process based on the many unresolved allegations of misconduct made against him.

Unruly Commissioner or Peasants?

On multiple occasions, Commissioner Schwebach demanded the citizens leave or be removed. At least once he demanded the Sheriff remove citizens speaking out of turn. The citizens pleaded to be heard by the Commission. One such citizen is the same author of this article, Jennette Hunt. I was holding my one-year-old in my arms as I was asked to be removed. Thankfully, Sheriff Jose Martin Rivera did not remove me or others peacefully objecting to the process we contended represented the wishes of Santa Fe before those of Torrance County citizens. Sheriff Rivera did not remove anyone from the meeting.

Following public comment, the Commissioners each took a turn speaking. Ryan Schwebach issued an apology and said, “It is my strong opinion, that the time and place to fight this battle, is by NOT canvassing this, this, election.” He further stated, “I have not said this is the end of it.”

Next, County Commissioner Kevin McCall said, “We need to take this passion, and I will get behind it with you, and we need to go Northbound.” McCall later continued, “We can disenfranchise voters by not certifying. We can disenfranchise candidates by NOT certifying. We are stuck between a rock and a hard spot.” Commissioner LeRoy M. Candelaria stayed silent for most of the meeting. He did, however, speak when it was time to vote.

Challenge Accepted

Candelaria, along with McCall, and Schwebach voted a loud, “yes” to Dominion voting machines, and a silent but deafening “no” to their citizens. Following their vote, citizens began booing and calling out words of frustration and disgust, with words such as, “shame on you,” “cowards,” and “traitors to your country.” It was clear how the majority in attendance felt. “Disappointed” is an understatement. The meeting was adjourned shortly afterwards.

The few minutes that followed were filled with citizens and officials shacking hands and voicing their feelings. Although, the Torrance county citizens were vocal and frustrated, they left as peacefully as they arrived. After all, “we are a peaceful people,” as one citizen stated. Many have taken on Ryan Schwebach’s challenge, “I will leave you all with this: you have challenged me to think on this, and to pick your battles. And I will challenge you to be smarter about how you present your battles.” Challenge accepted.