AP NEWS

Liberal New Mexico lawmaker facing challenge from ex-aide

November 18, 2019
FILE - In this May 5, 2016 file photo, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, speaks at a press conference by the Democratic Party of New Mexico in downtown Albuquerque, N.M. Caballero, one of the most liberal lawmakers in New Mexico, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from a former campaign worker. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)
FILE - In this May 5, 2016 file photo, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, speaks at a press conference by the Democratic Party of New Mexico in downtown Albuquerque, N.M. Caballero, one of the most liberal lawmakers in New Mexico, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from a former campaign worker. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, one of the most liberal lawmakers in New Mexico, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from a former campaign worker.

Edwina Cisneros announced she would seek to unseat Roybal Caballero from her southwest Albuquerque seat, and Cisneros is getting support from key Democrats

Cisneros, 40, said she decided to run against her former boss after deciding the district was not receiving its fair share of funding for roads, infrastructure and other projects.

She blamed Roybal Caballero for failing to direct funding to the district and accused the lawmaker of instead helping fund projects in the southern part of the state.

“We hardly ever see her at community meetings or around town,” said Cisneros, who worked as Roybal Caballero’s field coordinator in 2018.

Cisneros repeated a claim often leveled against Roybal Caballero that she appears to not live in the district she represents. Public records show Roybal Caballero listing an Albuquerque mobile home off Route 66 as her New Mexico residence and also having a home in El Paso, Texas.

Roybal Caballero, 69, called it “laughable” that Cisneros is repeating the accusation.

“Ms. Cisneros knows better. She came to my home to offer congratulations on my victory during the last campaign cycle,” Roybal Caballero said.

Roybal Caballero held her re-election fundraising kickoff last month in El Paso. hosted by the Mescalero Apache tribe.

She said those who oppose her are angry that she’s not “a puppet for the big developers” and speaks her mind without fear.

“I’ve also fought to tackle community concerns about clean air and water, and the outrageous scourge of predatory lending,” Roybal Caballero said. “I know that the big corporations might not like that, but I was elected to fight for my constituents, not the rich and powerful.“

State Sen. Michael Padilla and Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, both Democrats, said they support Cisneros and called Roybal Caballero ineffective. They said she refused to work with other elected officials to help a district in dire need of roads, lights and jobs.

“She’s never around,” Padilla said, referring to Roybal Caballero.

Quezada said Roybal Caballero has never provided a penny to help with capital projects. “That’s why I was jumping for joy when I found out Edwina was going to run against her,” Quezada said.

Elected in 2012, Roybal Caballero has earned a reputation as an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights and labor.

She has sponsored bills seeking to limit federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws and for a $15 statewide minimum wage. Those bills have failed.

In 2015, she was forced to apologize after comparing a pair of GOP-backed bills aimed at revamping driver’s license laws to the Holocaust.

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Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/russcontreras