Legislative races take shape in state as candidates register

March 11, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Political candidates registered to run for state House and Senate positions in New Mexico on Tuesday, as at least seven lawmakers leave open seats in the Democrat-dominated Legislature.

Moderate Democrats include Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and Senate finance committee chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming are confronting primary challenges by progressives within their party, as Republicans plot a comeback after losing several seats in 2018 midterm elections.

The entire House and Senate up for election, with the primary vote for federal, state offices and partisan local offices scheduled for June 2.

In 2018, the Democratic Party expanded its House majority to a 46-24 advantage, while flipping the governor’s office and consolidating control over New Mexico’s congressional delegation and every statewide office outside the judiciary. The Libertarian Party is fielding more than a dozen candidates for the Legislature in search of its first seat.

Republicans are challenging first-term House Democrats across the state, including Reps. Melanie Stansbury of Albuquerque, Micaela Lara Cadena of Mesilla and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.

A northern Senate seat held by Sen. Richard Martinez of Ojo Caliente, who served jail time last year for drunken driving, has attracted competition from Republican Diamantina Prado Storment of Chama, Libertarian Lee Weinland of Los Alamos and Democratic Leo Jaramillo of Española, according to a preliminary list of candidate registrations compiled by state election regulators.

Martinez is running for reelection after relinquishing his position as chairman of the Senate judiciary committee in the aftermath of his court conviction.

Two Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. George Munoz of Gallup, the sponsor this year of approved public pension reforms for state and local government workers. Republicans will challenge incumbent Democratic senators across Albuquerque, including Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, Mimi Stewart, Daniel Ivey-Soto, Bill Tallman and Michael Padilla.

Among the lawmakers not planning to seek reelection are Sens. John Sapien, D-Corrales, and Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque. Departures on the House side include Reps. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec; Abbas Akhil, D-Albuquerque; Tomás Sanchez, D-Las Vegas; Joseph Sanchez, D-Alcalde; and Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe.

Open races including Sapien’s district that overlaps Corrales and Placitas will have competitive primary races for both Republican and Democratic nominations. Six Senate candidates are seeking to succeed Payne in the the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque.

Papen is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Tracy Lynn Perry and Carrie Hamblen. Democrat Neomi Martinez-Parra and Republican Crystal Diamond are competing for Smith’s Senate seat.