The Democratic Party of Los Alamos County presented the prestigious JFK Award to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman during the 4th Annual JFK Dinner.
The event sold out Saturday evening at the Los Alamos Golf Course Community Building as local and state officials and more than 100 local Democrats honored the retired senator.
“Every person in this room knows Jeff and knows what a force for good he has been for our state and the United States as a whole,” Dist. 43 Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard said before present Bingaman with his award. “We know his seniority was a guiding force in many discussions on the all-important Finance Committee and Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which he chaired. But one critical aspect of our Senator that I always remember is that the legacy of Jeff Bingaman is not what he did for us, but who he is.”
Bingaman served three decades in the United States Senate and Garcia Richard said that he always remained a New Mexican … never forgetting why the people sent him to Washington.
“I personally remember how he came out to help me walk door to door in the rural parts of my district when I was running for election in 2012,” she said. “One day, out of the blue, our senior senator, one of the most senior members of the whole United States Senate just showed up by himself in his personal car, with no entourage in tow, to go door to door with me, sit on people’s couches and talk about issues that were important to them.”
Garcia Richard recounted stories from several people who Knew Bingaman well. She spoke of Bob Simon, a committee staff director who worked with Bingaman for almost 15 years. She remembered how in an interview with Politico he said, “He’s one of those people whose persona in public and persona behind closed doors is exactly the same … he’s low-key … he’s thoughtful. I think he’s got one of the lowest ego quotients that I’ve seen. The person that you see is the person that I see — it’s the person that his staff sees.”
She recalled another Politico interview in which Bob Frank, a onetime Bingaman aide and now president of UNM, recalled Bingaman’s reaction when a Washington newspaper ran a story in the 1990s suggesting he’d be a great candidate for vice president.
“He took one look at it, put it down, walked into his office and went back to work. It was not even of interest to him,” Frank said. “It was never Jeff Bingaman’s name in lights that drove him.”
And Andrew Black, a former field representative for Bingaman sent his own thoughts to Los Alamos Democrat Carl Newton who shared this story:
Black was attending a retirement party for Bingaman where more than 500 former state and D.C. staffers talked about how the senator had changed their lives. These people who are now teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, policy makers, and leaders in business, government and non-profits spoke about how he had kindled in them a passion for public service, how he led by example and how he embodied what it meant to be a servant leader.
Black wrote, “It became apparent to me that the Senator’s true legacy was not in a certain policy he passed, structure he set-up or even in a piece of land he protected, but it was embodied in the thousands of people he supported, taught and mentored over the years, who each day carry on this good work by making sure that the same spirit of public service, compassion and protection of the common good continues beyond any one particular piece of legislation or body of work.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Garcia Richard said, I present to you tonight a man who has not one legacy of public service, but a thousand growing in his footsteps … Sen. Jeff Bingaman.”
State Democratic Party Chair Debra Haaland delivered the evening’s Keynote Address.
“… Thank you Sen. Bingaman. Thank you for your incredible record of public service, and for the commitment and dedication you provided not only to the people of New Mexico but to the American people as well,” Haaland said. “You went to the United States Senate to uphold the values of the Democratic Party and today those values are still being represented by strong New Mexicans like Sen. Martin Heinrich, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and State Auditor Tim Keller to name just a few.”
Haaland said she is honored to be the first Native American woman to be elected as state party chair in New Mexico history. Her path began more than a decade ago when she answered a call to service, she said.
“I decided that getting out the vote in Indian Country, in our most underrepresented communities, mattered to me a great deal. I believe the foundation of our party is based on making a commitment to what matters to each and every one of us,” Haaland said. “We do what is asked, regardless of our station in life. We knock on doors, make phone calls, register voters, and give what we can financially in the name of democracy. We do all of these things in the interest of finding the right answer, in the belief that we are doing the right thing.”
Haaland told the crowd, “Our responsibility to the future: our purpose, and direction, is to clearly understand how we can provide a path to prosperity for all New Mexicans and do so without sacrificing our values.
“In this era of divisiveness and polarization it is not an easy time to step out there and take a stand for what you believe in. But we can be agents of change that represent the interests of the men, women and children of New Mexico, regardless of where we came from, or where we are…”.
Here in Los Alamos County and across the state, we know the changes we seek and in 2016 we have the opportunity to make those changes reality, she said.
“My goal for the Democratic Party of New Mexico is to help lead us to victory in taking back our state house, preserving and strengthening our control of the state Senate and making sure that all five of New Mexico’s electoral votes are cast for the Democratic nominee in 2016,” Haaland said.
As state party chair, Haaland introduced Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last week in Albuquerque at the personal request of the event’s host, Ambassador Ed Romero.
“I had the opportunity to spend time with one of the world’s most recognized leaders. Secretary Clinton was personable, engaging and enthusiastic in a way that made me proud to know she could very well be the next president of the United States,” Haaland said. “I’m anxious to have similar opportunities to welcome national Democratic candidates to our state, so that we can strengthen our brand and increase enthusiasm for Democratic candidates across New Mexico. We deserve that opportunity.”
Haaland added that in the words of John F. Kennedy, “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., delivers a video message during Saturday’s event, congratulating Sen. Jeff Bingaman on his prestigious JFK Award and commends the members of the Los Alamos Democratic Party on their many good works. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Local Democratic Party Chair Robyn Schultz welcomes the crowd to Saturday’s event. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
State Party Chair Debra Haaland delivers the Keynote Address. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Dist. 43 Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard speaks about Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s distinguished career. From left, Robyn Schultz, Bingaman and his wife Anne and Kyle and Michael Wheeler. Seated out of view at the head table are Los Alamos historian Nancy Bartlit and State Party Chair Debra Haaland. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Sen. Jeff Bingaman thanks the Democratic Party saying he is honored to be in the company of past recipients such as Bun Ryan and last year’s recipients Michael and Kyle Wheeler. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Democratic Party of Los Alamos Vice Chair George Chandler with his wife Los Alamos County Probate Judge Christine Chandler. Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Dr. Tom Csanadi and his wife Marvel Harrison speak with Sen. Jeff Bingaman at Satuday’s JFK Dinner at the Los Alamos Golf Course Community Building. Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Dr. Richard Sayre with Rosalie Heller, artistic director emeritus of the Los Alamos Concert Association. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta, 18, is recognized as a young mover and shaker. He graduated from Los Alamos High School last year where he served as student body president. He just completed his freshman year at UNM where he is majoring in political science. He intends to go on to earn a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law as part of his mission to become the first president of the United States of Indian descent. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero with his wife Sandra Lucero. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Longtime Los Alamos Democrat Kay Reiswig with Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
One of the youngest Democrats in the room, Los Alamos High School student Alex Csanadi, 17, speaks with Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Sen. Jeff Bingaman with Los Alamos Democrats Kyle Wheeler, left, and Nancy Bartlit. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Sen. Jeff Bingaman with Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta of Los Alamos. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Longtime Los Alamos Democrat Carl Newton, left, chats with Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Cottonwoods on the Green co-owner Patrick Mockler-Wood and his team cater the sold out event Saturday evening at the Golf Course Community Building. Photo by Carol A. Clarkladailypost.com
Cake topped off the 2015 JFK Dinner. Carol A. Clarkladailypost.com