June 6, 2018

Three Dem legislators lose in primaries

Three incumbent Democratic state House members lost in their primaries Tuesday according to unofficial numbers.

In a Santa Fe area district, Carl Trujillo was perhaps the most embattled incumbent. A lobbyist accused him of sexual harassment last month, though Trujillo denied the allegations. He now faces an investigation by the state Legislature in accordance with the state’s new sexual harassment rules.

Trujillo was beat out by former Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Executive Director Andrea Romero. Romero faced her own problems, with allegations that she misspent public money, but led Trujillo by 5 percentage points according to numbers at press time.

The seat was once held by longtime legislator and former Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, the father of U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

In a Northern New Mexico district including much of Rio Arriba County, Debbie Rodella faced a challenger from the left, and faced criticism largely over votes she cast against automatic voter registration, gun safety legislation and payday loan bills. The national liberal blog Daily Kos endorsed Susan Herrera, who appeared to defeat Rodella and cleared 55 percent of the vote as of press time.

Rodella chairs the House Business and Industry committee, a key stopping point for payday loan legislation in the past.

Rodella hadn’t faced a challenger in over a decade. She previously defeated Moises A. Morales Jr., by a narrow margin in 2006.

In House District 34, Bealquin “Bill” Gomez lost the seat narrowly to Gadsden Independent School District program coordinator Raymundo Lara. Lara won by just 34 votes in a low-turnout race.

Gomez is in his second term after narrowly defeating longtime legislator Mary Helen Garcia in 2014. Then he won a three-way primary in 2016, beating out Lara and Paul Maxwell.

The winners of all three primaries will not face a Republican opponent in November’s general election.

State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero won her primary against Robert Atencio and Damion Cruzz, though she didn’t clear 45 percent of Democratic voters.

No Republican ran in the race.

Open races

In other races, legislators opted not to run for reelection for one reason or another.

In House District 33, Democrat Bill McCamley instead ran for State Auditor. He lost to Brian Colón in the Democratic primary Tuesday. Micaela Lara Cadena emerged from a three-way Democratic primary over Mary Martinez White and Guenevere Ruth McMahon with over 50 percent of the vote.

Republican Charles Wendler will face Cadena in the general election in the Democratic-leaning district.

In House District 43, Stephanie Garcia Richard left to run for State Land Commissioner and won the primary Tuesday night, narrowly defeating sportsman and conservationist Garrett VeneKlasen, while State Sen. George Munoz trailed behind.

Two Los Alamos County Councilors faced off in the Democratic primary, with Christine Chandler Chandler leading Peter Sheehey. If she holds on, Chandler will face optometrist Lisa Shin in the general election.

Republican Jim Smith left the House District 22 seat earlier this year, and is now a Bernalillo County Commissioner. UNM Hospital Doctor Gregg Schmedes easily defeated Merritt Allen in the Republican primary and will face Democrat Jessica Velasquez in the general election. The seat leans towards Republicans.

In House District 40, Joseph L. Sanchez won the Democratic primary with nearly 50 percent of the vote, defeating Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo and New Mexico Acequia Association executive director Paula Garcia. Sanchez will not face a Republican and will replace Nick Salazar, who held the seat since 1973.