For the last couple of months, word on the street is that Tijuana residents have been organizing multiple community movements trying – and I do not use this word lightly – to present an independent candidacy movement that would fill all the city government positions available that are up for election on the upcoming 2016 ballot. They are proposing a “bases loaded” approach which means that the ballot would include candidates for each sort of position, not just a single candidate for a specific position. Let’s take a step back and explain what an independent political candidate actually is. According to Wikipedia an independent or nonpartisan politician is an individual politician not affiliated to any political party.
The San Diego Union –Tribune ran a great story in June 2015 about recent activity in Baja around independent politicians and how the people who are driving the conversation nationwide have their eyes set on Tijuana given the nature of its constituents. Their follow-up story focuses on the registered independent candidates that are in the mayoral bid and are looking for community support to get on the ballot.
The Associated Press also ran a story on how Mexico’s first independent candidate led in exit polls and how he eventually won the election to become the first elected governor of a state that did not come from a political party.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Gaston Luken, front-runner in the independent candidate race in Tijuana. When I asked if he sees himself as another option among a group of possible candidates, from political parties and other independent options he said – “I see myself more of a catalyzer than a solution. No one person is the solution. We want to empower our community and the way to do this is by creating a community–focused government run by citizens for citizens not for political parties and their interests.”
One of the first things that comes to mind when people get asked what they want from their government is a transparent and political baggage-free administration, and how the candidate is different from the current establishment.
“Transparency will be key, and not only on finances and results but by letting people know and weigh in on how we run our government. For example, who will be our cabinet and team, what will be our focus areas for our term, how do we make businesses friendlier? Our goal is to regain the trust of our community, no shady deals, no friends being appointed to city jobs etc. Once the people know we are reliable, that confidence will help us empower them and together is where real change can happen,” said Gaston Luken.
The rest of the conversation continues in part two of this blog series and I’ll also share what the local political parties are saying about the Tijuana community effort and its roots. Stay tuned!