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Chaves County Democrats elect new chair

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Najila-Riyadh Tolentino poses for a photo outside the Roswell Daily Record. Tolentino, a recent Goddard High School graduate, was elected chair of the Democratic Party of Chaves County last week. (Alex Ross Photo)

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A recent Goddard High School graduate has been chosen by local Democrats to lead the local arm of their party.

Najila-Riyadh Tolentino, 18, was unanimously elected chair of the Democratic Party of Chaves County when 23 delegates cast their votes in the 2021 central committee’s officers elections held last week. Voting was conducted entirely absentee from March 10-12, with the results announced during a March 13 Zoom meeting.

Delegates also elected local realtor Alicia Gilmore as vice chair of the county party. Neither she nor Tolentino were challenged in their bids for the leadership posts.

Tolentino will succeed Stephanie Thomas as chair and Gilmore will take the party’s number two position, which had been held by Daniel Johnson.

Following the announcement of the results, Tolentino said she opted to run for chair less than two weeks before delegates began to cast their ballots. Initially she had planned to run for one of the county’s seats on the state party’s central committee, but decided to run for the party’s top spot after being encouraged to do so by several other people within the local party.

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“Knowing that someone thought I would be a good fit for the position and the fact that my age was not turning them away did a lot for me,” Tolentino said.

A 2020 high school graduate, Tolentino helped organize one of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations this past summer in downtown Roswell. A Biology major, she began her first semester of college at Metropolitan State University in Denver, but out of a desire to remain in Roswell she plans to begin attending Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell this Summer. She also currently works at Target.

Tolentino says she hopes to bring greater diversity to the party, especially in terms of age, as those most active in the party tend to be older. November’s election, she said, illustrated that youth have a strong passion for politics.

“In my experience both ends of the spectrum have a lot of untapped youth who want to get involved, but either don’t know how or feel they do not have the space to do so,” she said.

Young people and those who are older, she said, both have something to contribute to the party.

“There’s a lot we can learn from the older generations, as well as strength in numbers and tons of drive from the younger ones,” Tolentino said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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