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When losing turns into a win

June 15, 2018

Amid the bluster of the primary election, one action stood out — and it made us wonder why more people who obviously are in a losing race don’t do what congressional candidate Pat Davis did in the Democratic primary.

Davis, a member of the Albuquerque City Council, was one of the also-rans in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives. Leading the pack were Deb Haaland, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Damon Martinez, with Davis, Paul Moya and Damian Lara trailing.

It appeared, in the final weeks of the campaign, that former U.S. Attorney Martinez might be breaking away in the close contest. At least that was the prediction from political observers, and the final Albuquerque Journal poll of the primary showed Martinez with 22 percent, Haaland with 19 percent and Sedillo Lopez at 17 percent.

But wait.

Davis, unlike so many candidates, admitted he was going to lose. Polls showed him with about 5 percent of the vote (he finished with 3.8 percent).

Then he sat back and asked himself: “Who best represents my values and my supporters?” Seven days out, Davis held a news conference and endorsed Haaland, who went on to take the nomination handily. She could become the first Native woman elected to Congress.

The city councilor was clear in his endorsement that he wanted the most progressive candidate — if it could not be him — to win. Remember, Davis is the guy who gained national attention with his attack ad against the National Rifle Association, one using an expletive not usually heard on TV. But political ads can’t be censored, so [expletive] the NRA went viral, although the commercial did not boost his campaign.

When that reality sank in, Davis recommended Haaland to his supporters. With that one action, Davis turned from failed candidate to, if not a queen-maker, at least a person of influence.

As he said in his statement: “We’ve all pledged to set our family disagreements aside after Election Day, but for progressives that day may be too late. That’s why I’m setting my personal ambitions aside now and asking undecided progressives to unite around the progressive candidate who has the best chance of winning and who I know I can work with at the city council and as an organizer to keep pushing back against Trump. That’s Deb Haaland.”

He put a greater goal before personal ambition, something more politicians should be willing to do. Haaland took a close race and eventually won by a strong margin, with 40.5 percent of the vote in a six-person field. She has a good shot at winning in November.

The endorsement from Davis was not the end all and be all, but its timing sure didn’t hurt. And that’s how a losing congressional candidate became one of the winners coming out of primary season.

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