June 6, 2016

New progressive group pushes in legislative races

A new progressive group is stepping into two legislative races in districts with large Native American populations.

The Working Families Party announced support for two incumbents: Representative Wonda Johnson and Senator Benny Shendo. Both Democrats are facing a challenge in Tuesday’s primary against more conservative opponents.

The organization is airing radio ads supporting the candidates.

Former State Rep. Stephanie Maez told NM Political Report the Working Families Party chose to support Johnson and Shendo because of their past support for “progressive policy positions.”

She also said that the organization would add more endorsements for the general election.

Shendo’s race is one of the most-watched, as he faces former State Rep. Sandra Jeff. Jeff, a Democrat who drew the ire of many of her colleagues in her caucus when she sided with Republicans.

Johnson faces Kevin Mitchell. Johnson actually beat Jeff in the Democratic primary in 2014, largely because Jeff was booted from the ballot for not having enough valid signatures on her petitions. Jeff ran a write-in campaign but lost.

Mitchell has ties to Jeff, though he wouldn’t comment when asked about the ties by the Gallup Sun earlier this year.

The Working Families Party is airing radio ads highlighting how Johnson and Shendo support policies like raising the minimum wage.

Jeff voted against a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage while in the House. She said at the time she agreed with raising the minimum wage, but not with putting such a raise in the state constitution.

The Working Families Party’s policy platform includes supporting automatic voter registration, repealing the 2013 corporate tax cuts and tapping the state Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood education among other progressive policies.

The Working Families Party is active in nine states, including New Mexico, and Washington D.C. New Mexico’s organization is so new, as of press time the state isn’t included on the party’s website.