Democrats control the 42-member New Mexico Senate and Republicans control of the 70-member New Mexico House of Representatives, which until 2014 had been under Democratic control for 50 years. There is hope in both parties that each might gain control of the other chamber on Nov. 8 with wins in a few key races.
Running for the senate seat of District 15 in Albuquerque’s mid-Northeast Heights are incumbent Daniel Ivey-Soto and challenger Eric Burton.
Democrat Ivey-Soto is a lawyer who has represented the district since 2013. He’s a former elections director in the office of secretary of state. He sponsored a transparency law requiring 72-hour notice of public meetings. He’s working on a bill to establish a Public Accountability Board, which would have enforcement and decision-making capability over state and local officials.
Republican Eric Burton is a lawyer who co-owns a trust company and several other small businesses. He worked as chief of staff for the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee. “I would put myself in the category of a free-market capitalist conservative who leans libertarian on social issues,” he told the Albuquerque Journal.
In District 29, Republican Gregory Baca and the Democratic incumbent, Michael Sanchez, are competing to represent a wide swath of Valencia County and a small portion of Bernalillo County that includes Belen, Tomé and Isleta Pueblo.
Baca is an attorney, Gulf War veteran and owner of a self-service car wash. Sanchez has been a Senate member since 1993 and the Democratic floor leader since 2004. Sanchez supports a code of ethics for elected and appointed officials similar to the existing legislators’ code, which is a legislative rule. “Despite recent scandals and headlines involving certain officials, I believe they are the exception, while most serve with integrity,” he said.
In House District 23, Republican incumbent Paul Pacheco is being challenged by Democrat challenger Daymon Ely. The district is comprised of the portion of Albuquerque that runs along Coors Boulevard roughly from Montaño Road to Corrales.
Pacheco is a former police officer. He plans to archive and make legislative hearings available to the general public. He supported a bill last session that would create an independent ethics commission with the authority to hold public servants accountable for wrongdoing. He supports identifying accommodations within the state’s budget to fund early childhood development programs.
Ely is campaigning against over-testing children in schools and said he will seek pay increases for educators. He supports aggressive development of alternative energy and helping local businesses grow. He supports creating an independent ethics commission. “Given the history of corruption and ethical violations by some of our public officials, it is clear that we need a code of ethics in New Mexico,” he said.
Secretary of State
The resignation and eventual conviction of Dianna Duran for fraud involving her own campaign funds led to a special election for her office. The governor appointed Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter to fill Duran’s unexpired term. Winter is not running.
Vying for the job are Republican Nora Espinoza and Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver. The secretary of state oversees statewide elections and the state’s database of corporations. The secretary of state is second in the line of succession behind the governor and the lieutenant governor.
Espinoza, a former teacher, is a Republican state representative from Roswell who currently represents a vast area that stretches from Roswell to Corona to Carrizozo. In 2013 Espinoza tried to ban books on Mexican-American studies from public schools. She seeks to change campaign finance reporting by clearly defining who must report and what has to be disclosed, including dark money participants.
“The SOS must follow the law – not attempt to create law. The SOS must ensure election integrity without favoring any one group over another,” she said.
Toulouse Oliver has been Bernalillo County Clerk since 2007. She narrowly lost to Duran in 2014; she seeks to change campaign finance reporting by writing rules that are easier for candidates to comply with, and to help the public understand relationships between candidates and donors.
Toulouse Oliver said she’ll work with legislators to make changes that require “the highest level of disclosure for every dollar spent in support or opposition of candidates.”
New Mexico Supreme Court
Judith Nakamura and Michael Vigil are competing for a spot on the highest court in the state, which has jurisdiction over all lower courts.
Nakamura, who was appointed to a vacancy by Gov. Susana Martinez, is currently one of five Supreme Court justices. She previously was appointed by the governor to the Bernalillo County District Court. She’s a former Metropolitan Court chief judge who was honored by MADD as national judge of the year for combatting DWI. She seeks to improve resource availability and speed up the court process.
Vigil has been a judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals for 13 years. He was twice recommended as qualified for the New Mexico Supreme Court by a bipartisan nominating commission. He was appellate counsel in over 50 precedent-setting cases as a practicing attorney for 27 years.
Bernalillo County Commission
Patricia Paiz is running against Steven Michael Quezada for Bernalillo County Commissioner of District 2 to replace Art De La Cruz, who couldn’t run again due to term limits. The County Commission is in charge of the county government budget, ordinances and resolutions, as well as zoning and business regulation.
Paiz spent 20 years as a police officer. She’s a board member of Albuquerque Metropolitan Crime Stoppers. If elected, she plans to consolidate some departments, eliminate sprawl development and address the needs of Pajarito Mesa, an area of Bernalillo County with no running water or power.
Quezada has served as an APS Board Member and is a member of the Route 66 West Side Neighborhood Association. He said he will ensure that a voter-approved behavioral health tax is implemented prudently. He said he wants to protect the open space and farming of the South Valley. “We can never let another Pajarito Mesa happen in our community again,” he said.
Bernalillo County Treasurer
Republican Kim Hillard and Democrat Nancy Bearce are competing for the scandal-plagued office of Bernalillo County Treasurer. The treasurer is responsible for collecting property taxes and investment of funds.
The office has been held for the last 12 years by either Manny Ortiz or Patrick Padilla, both of whom have been accused of mismanaging county investments.
Hillard has a background in data systems administration and personnel management, and said she plans to restore confidence in the office. “Audits of past years that were negative must be reviewed and changes implemented,” he said. Hillard said he would ensure a balanced investment portfolio and the hiring of a well-qualified investment officer.
“The County Commission and treasurer must agree on the hiring of the investment officer, which brokers can do business with the County and how much cash must be retained,” he said.
Nancy Bearce served as a manager in employee benefits for the state government and Albuquerque Public Schools. She plans to review all procedures, policies and recent internal audits to ensure compliance with investment guidelines.
Bernalillo County Charter
Bernalillo County seeks to become a home-rule county, but to do so it must have its own charter. The charter serves, in a way, as a constitution for Bernalillo County, with rules on how government and tax dollars are managed. “This means more local control and accountability of local government,” a Bernalillo County news release states. “Notably, the charter would strengthen the county’s investment policies with more protections for taxpayers.”
Bail Bond Reform
Voters are being asked whether they want to amend the New Mexico Constitution to give judges the ability to hold accused criminals in jail without bond if they believe a suspect to be a danger to the public or pose a flight risk.
Additionally, the amendment states that defendants shall not be held in jail because of their inability to raise bail. Practically, that would mean that a judge, based on a defendant’s history, could release them on thier own recognizance. Studies in states in which such changes to bail laws have been made show that defendants released on no-money bonds show up for court at the same rates as those that post money bonds.
The New Mexico Supreme Court, which supports the amendment, argues that it will reduce the cost of pre-trial incarceration and save money for the state’s 33 counties, which operate the state’s local jails.
Sara MacNeil, a former reporter for the Daily Lobo, is an ABQ Free Press Weekly editorial intern.