Underdog to big dog: Will Karen Bedonie be New Mexico’s next governor?
Everyone loves a good underdog story. If Americans have a story genre, that has to be it. Even with all its faults, America still is the Land of Opportunity. We’re not born in a caste system; we have no official royal class. Our very Declaration of Independence states: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
It’s not hard to find voices that point out ways in which the United States and its political leadership has and does fall short in its interpretation of the rights named above. Conversely, it can be challenging to find people who celebrate the founding principles of the United States, actively exercise them in a way that benefits communities, and seek public office. If you’ve not been watching New Mexico political races on Facebook in the last two years or so, you may have missed a loud, proud American who has just become a serial political candidate. Her name is Karen Bedonie.
The race that put Bedonie on my social media radar was the most recent race for the Third Congressional District. It’s not even my district, but that didn’t stop Bedonie from putting energy into understanding the Second Congressional District, where I live. She never lost steam after running a tireless campaign that resembled a combination of a university-level cultural research project and TripAdvisor restaurant tour—sans the negative food service feedback. Bedonie’s tenacity in logging miles, meeting, and listening to people statewide is remarkable.
Her Facebook account is populated with pictures from the state’s more-populated as well as its obscure corners. There are nearly countless pictures and heartfelt accounts of exchanges with people of every age, socioeconomic status, and skin tone. There are snippets from frank conversations over red-checkered tablecloths and views from the insides of sometimes gritty but functional business establishments. Follow her long enough, and you’ll get the feel of holding a gigantic family album. Aside from the numerous travelogues, Bedonie’s honest portrayals of her personal and family history, based in the Navajo Nation, have been alternately heart-wrenching and inspirational. If you’ve not yet seen it, take in “A Long Walk in Socialism,” a Turning Point USA video that includes interviews with the Bedonie family.
Now, in 2021, Bedonie has announced her candidacy for Governor under the GOP flag. After a short hiatus, she’s been back on the highway, sometimes with her daughters or husband riding shotgun, visiting New Mexicans and their businesses across the state. Bedonie, a small business owner and operator, has bootstrapped herself and her family up from the socialistic structure and expectations of reservation life and, despite the scourge that Covid restrictions put on some aspects of her businesses, it appears she and her family have adapted and thrive, even as they prioritize charity on many levels along with her ambitious getting-to-know-New Mexico travel schedule.
Speaking of charity, Bedonie’s goes beyond people. While traveling New Mexico’s eastern tier last month, she visited a city animal shelter and adopted a dog—a Corgi, now named Darlene. When asked why she chose Darlene, Bedonie said,
We wanted a female dog for my big boy Crash to hang out with. I also am a very slow runner and needed a short-legged sweetheart to accompany me while Crash logs miles and miles with my daughters that run. Darlene was available and she was older. I love older dogs, because they are mellow and decent. We have a fireplace they can curl up at. Our home is loving and friendly. Darlene was so happy to get in the car. She rode well. So far, she loves our businesses and has been going everywhere with my girls. She’s a great companion. Eastern NM is as good as any. I have always rescued my dogs. I have one from Santa Fe, Los Lunas, Belen, Farmington, Albuquerque, and now Portales. My two cats are from Albuquerque and Gallup. Opening our home to more has airways been easy.
What she didn’t mention is the fact that she likely saved a furry life by creating an open spot, however temporary, in a busy shelter. Animal Control agencies in eastern New Mexico struggle to place burgeoning numbers of animals in communities where the pet-to-human resident ratio is especially high. And while no one outside of dog and cat rescue circles talks about it much, many animals’ lives end prematurely as a result.
Rugged tenacity and almost boundless kindness are rare qualities in the same person. Combine these with a thorough understanding of the founding principles of our United States, and a proven ability to keep multiple budgets with an eye toward conservatism and respect for nature, and a picture is painted that strongly resembles Karen Bedonie. Critics within her own party have decried her inexperience, but her life experience and understanding of history and politics are a glimmer of hope in comparison to what career politicians and bureaucrats have accomplished—or not—in New Mexico.
Yes, she has on at least two occasions had an unflattering moment of overreaction pursuant to taking a well-intentioned comment as an insult, but each time has shown a quick recovery. In more than two years of watching Bedonie fairly closely, I’ve not known her ever to wag a finger at anyone, to brush off a question with a haughty laugh, to have security called to her hotel room for a loud party, to grope, or….surely you get the picture.
Is there a perfect candidate for governor? Of course not. What’s for certain is that professional politicians of both parties have given us a load of trouble related to their behavior both on and off the clock, not to mention various digressions from the Founders’ written intentions. Bedonie has already shown she’s not the type to stir the kind of trouble we’ve seen enough of. She’s gone toe-to-toe with some of the crustiest elements of the state over just about all the issues. At day’s end, she manages to be a Constitutional thinker and principled, compassion-filled human being.
I, for one, am weary from seeing our state fail and flail. Karen Bedonie may hold the vision and capacity for action New Mexico needs. I’m ready to give her a chance.
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