June 7, 2016

The 13 primary races to watch tonight



While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots.

While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward.

We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.

Senate District 17

Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.

It’s actually a rematch between the two; Stewart ran against Robinson in 1992 and Robinson won by 68 votes.

It isn’t the first time Robinson tried to get the seat back since losing in 2008. In 2012, he ran against Keller—but as a Republican.

There is no Republican candidate in the district.

Senate District 22

Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff

Andy Lyman

Former State Rep. Sandra Jeff

This election cycle will mark Democrat Sandra Jeff’s second attempt to get back into the the Roundhouse. In 2014 the former representative, while running for reelection, was knocked off the ballot when she failed to obtain the enough signatures in nominating petitions. She would go on to unsuccessfully run as a write-in candidate in the same race.

Now Jeff is running for Senate against Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, who is running for reelection for the first time. While Shendo has introduced a variety of legislation aimed at tribal issues, Jeff told NM Political Report earlier this year that Shendo has not adequately communicated with all of his constituents.

Jeff faced criticism from her party for voting against key issues for the party like a minimum wage increase. This year, Jeff was nearly taken off the ballot again for campaign finance discrepancies. With the help of Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, Jeff was able to pay a fine and get her name back on the ballot.

No Republican ran in the district.

Senate District 36

The attempt by Democrats to take back a seat long held by Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia starts with a primary pitting a state representative against a former Dona Ana County Commissioner.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn faces Oscar Vasquez Butler. When NM Political Report spoke to the two candidates in May, both expressed optimism that they would win the general election. Steinborn said that the Senate seat would give him a “bigger megaphone” to talk about issues. Vasquez Butler said that he would be able to help those in oft-ignored colonias and other rural areas in the district.

The winner of the SD36 primary will go on to run against Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, who successfully defeated Garcia in 2012.

Senate District 39

Sen. Ted Barela, R-Estancia, will not face a primary opponent this year, but will face one of four Democrats vying for the spot. Liz Stefanics, who was most recently a Santa Fe County Commissioner, is running against three other Democrats for the Senate seat she held in the early 1990s.

Stefanics and former San Miguel County Commissioner Hugh Ley have the cash advantage over Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya and Ambrose Castellano, a former member of the Luna Community College board of trustees.

The Democratic field is so crowded because of the resignation of Phil Griego after he admitted to violating the state constitution and Senate rules.

House District 21

Idalia Lechuga-Tena

Idalia Lechuga-Tena

There has been a rotating door in HD21 with its recent Representatives. Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, held the seat until the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the Senate vacancy left by State Auditor Tim Keller in 2014. The same Bernalillo County commission appointed Stephanie Maez to replace Stewart. She then resigned after serving less than one term.

Democratic Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena was then appointed to fill the vacancy left by Maez’s resignation, but not before she faced criticism for moving in and out of the district a number of times and for  voting in elections before she became a United States citizen.

This is the first time for Lechuga-Tena to actually run for the spot and she faces high school teacher Debbie Sariñana and Amanda KinKaid, a former staffer for House Democrats. KinKaid recently moved into the district because she saw an opportunity to help the district. Like many other races around the state, there is no general election opponent for HD21.

House District 25

Taking out an incumbent in a primary election is notoriously tough. Doing it while campaigning on an ankle bracelet and while spending some time in jail is even tougher.

That’s what Chris Berkheimer is attempting to do, facing Christine Trujillo. Progressive groups and unions have came to the aid of Trujillo, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only is she facing someone on probation, but she is a former president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Mexico. Trujillo herself had a minor run-in with police when she exhibited civil disobedience by joining a group of protesters in blocking traffic at a recent Verizon shareholder’s meeting. She was cited, but not arrested.

No Republican filed to run in the race.

House Distirct 35

As NM Political Report previously reported, there are three progressive Democrats running for the position currently held by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. Steinborn announced earlier this year that he would not seek another term as a Representative and would seek a Senate seat instead.

Political activist and campaign consultant Angelica Rubio, early childhood educator Ray Jaramillo and private investigator Paul “Pablo” Martinez are all vying to run against a Republican candidate who is unopposed in the primary.

Public Regulations Commission District 1

Former Public Regulation Commission Chairwoman Karen Montoya and former PRC legal counsel Cynthia Hall are facing each other in today’s election for the PRC District 1 seat. The two Democrats are the only two running for the spot, but former Democratic Representative Bob Perls previously told NM Political Report that he intends to run as an independent candidate after the primary election. In an email statement on Monday, Perls said he will be collecting signatures and donations at polling locations in order to secure a spot on the general election ballot and the opportunity to get public election funding.

District Attorney races

In the Santa Fe area, two Democrats are going up against each other to win the primary election for the First Judicial District Attorney. Incumbent Jennifer Padgett will face Marco Peter Serna and Maria Sanchez Gagne in the election today. The Second Judicial District, in the Albuquerque area will see Raul Torrez and Ed Perea vying for the chance to go up against Simon Kubiak. The current Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio is running against James Dickens.

Bernalillo County Commission District 2

The increasingly ugly race to replace term-limited Commissioner Art de La Cruz is a three-way battle on the Democratic side.

The story of the race is Super PACs with connections to Santolina, a massive planned community west of Albuquerque.

One Super PAC targeted Adrian Pedroza while also spending money boosting Steven Michael Quezada and Robert Chavez. Another Super PAC then went after Pedroza and Quezada, only leaving Chavez unscathed.

There is no Republican candidate in the race.

Bernalillo County Treasurer

Scandal has followed the Bernalillo County Treasurer’s office in recent years under the leadership of Manny Ortiz—but that hasn’t stopped him from running for another term. The Democrat faces Patrick Padilla, a former county treasurer who had his hand in the investment fiasco that cost the county millions of dollars.

They accounting manager Christopher Sanchez and activist Nancy Bearce. Sanchez works in the Treasurer’s office.

The Republican side has Kim Hillard and Christopher Mario Romero vying for the nomination, though Democrats are expected to hold the position.

Correction: We previously said this was the first time Mimi Stewart ran for State Senate. This is her second time running. She ran against Shannon Robinson in 1992. 

We also added a sentence about Robinson’s accomplishments that was in an earlier draft of the story but should have been removed during the editing process. 

This originally also failed to note that a super PAC backed Robert Chavez as well as Steven Michael Quezada in the Bernalillo County Commission race.