March 11, 2020

Challenges to House Democrats, crowded open seat races after filing day

State House hopefuls filed paperwork Tuesday to place their names in the June primaries. Nine incumbents, all Democrats, will face challengers in the primaries and most will face at least one foe in the November general election. Five more open seats will feature contested primaries, in some cases for both Democrats and Republicans.

Candidates who win June’s primaries will appear on the November general election ballot.

New incumbents face challenges

Two Democrat incumbents who will face opponents  in June were appointed this year to fill vacancies, so it will be the first time they face voters.

In House District 27 in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, Marian Matthews will face medical doctor William Orr in the primary. Matthews, an attorney, replaced Bill Pratt in the state House after Pratt passed away last year.

Republicans Jill Michel, a business owner and foster family advocate, and retired immigration officer Robert Godshall are seeking the Republican nomination. Godshall ran for the seat in 2018, replacing Larry Larrañaga after the longtime legislator passed away, and lost to Pratt by less than 200 votes.

In House District 42 in Taos County, Taos Mayor Dan Barrone will also face voters for the first time. Barrone replaced Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales when Gonzales was named to the state Senate to replace Carlos Cisneros, who passed away. Barone will face two other Democrats in the primary, Taos Land Trust Executive Director Kristina Ortez and Taos County Commissioner Mark Gallegos. 

Republicans will also have a rare contested primary in the district, as consultant Paul Anthony Martinez of Questa and Red River Mayor Linda Calhourn will seek the party’s nomination. They are the first Republican candidates to file in the district since 2010. In fact, no one except for Gonzales has been on the ballot since 2010—in any party.

The Democratic primary in House District 34 in southern New Mexico will feature a rematch of the past two elections. Incumbent Raymundo Lara, finishing his first term, narrowly defeated Bealquin Gomez in the 2018 party primary. But two years previous, Gomez—then the incumbent— defeated Lara in a three-way Democratic primary. Now the two will face off again. Unlike in the previous three elections, the winner will have an opponent in the general election: Dawn E. Ladd of La Mesa.

Longtime legislators facing challenges

Miguel Garcia has served in the state House since winning election in 1996 and will face a rare primary challenge in House District 14 in the South Valley of Albuquerque. Garcia will face his first primary challenger since 2002, former police sergeant and business owner Robert Chavez. No Republican filed to run.

House District 13 Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, also a Democrat, has served in the state House since 2013, representing the West Mesa district. She faced a contested primary in 2018, receiving nearly 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race. This year, she will face just one opponent in the primary, UNM Master’s Degree student Edwina Cisneros. Republican Kayla Marshall, who ran for the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education in 2017.

More Democrats facing challenges

In Albuquerque’s House District 17, Deborah Armstrong will face her first primary opponent. She first won election in 2014. Armstrong will face Laura Lucero y Ruiz de Gutierrez of Albuquerque in the primary. Lucero y Ruiz de Gutierrez previously filed to run against Sen. Bill O’Neill in 2016, but withdrew before the primary. Republican Kimberly Kaehr-MacMillan and Libertgarian Scott Goodman each also filed to run for the seat.

In the sprawling House District 50, which includes portions of Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valenca counties, incumbent Matthew McQueen will face Rebecca “Becky” King Spindle, the granddaughter of former Gov. Bruce King, in the Democratic primary. McQueen hasn’t faced a primary opponent in any of his three races. Libertarian Jerry Gage of Vista del Rio and Republican Christina Estrada of Estancia each also filed to run.

In House District 69, Harry Garcia is seeking his third term. Garcia was appointed to replace former Speaker of the House Ken Martinez when Martinez left the seat in 2016, then won a four-way Democratic primary. This year, Garcia will face just one opponent, ReGina J Zuni of Isleta. Republican Roy Randall Ryan of Grants, a retired police officer, also filed to run for the seat.

In House District 65, incumbent Derrick Lente will face former State Rep. James Roger Madalena. Lente won the open seat in 2016 after defeating Darryl F. Madalena, James Roger Madalena’s son, in the Democratic primary. Lente ran unopposed in the general election, then again in the 2018 Democratic primary and general elections. The elder Madalena is seeking to retake the seat he held from 1985 to 2017. Republican Phillip D. Salazar of Dulce also filed to run for the seat.

Open seats

Five candidates who opted not to run for reelection led to contested primaries in the races for the open seats.

In Albuquerque’s House District 20, Democrat Abbas Akhil opted not to run for a second term. Two Democrats, political consultant Meredith Dixon and Singing Arrow Neighborhood Association president Ilena Estrella are seeking to replace Akhil. Republican Michael Hendrricks, who was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 2018, is seeking to retake the district while it was held by Republicans for over two decades before Akhil defeated Jim Dines in 2018.

In House District 40, a large district covering parts of Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties, incumbent Joseph Sanchez opted to run for the open U.S. House seat instead of a second term. Two Democrats, artistic director of Moving Arts Española Roger Montoya and Village of Cimarron Councilor Matthew Gonzles, are seeking the seat. Española City Councilor Justin J. Salazar-Torrez, a Republican, is also seeking the seat.

Longtime legislator Jim Trujillo announced last year that he would not seek another term in House District 45 in Santa Fe. Five Democrats are seeking the liberal district. They are Santa Fe County Treasurer Patrick Varela (the nephew of former state Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela), former Santa Fe City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, activist Linda Serrato, City of Santa Fe Land Use Director Lisa Dawn Martinez and Yolanda Sena of Santa Fe. Libertarian Helen Milenski, who previously ran for Los Alamos County Council, is also seeking the seat.

In House District 61, David Gallegos is leaving the Lea County district he has held since 2012 to run for Senate. That led three Republicans to file paperwork to run for the seat. Civil engineering, surveying and materials engineering company executive Randall T. Pettigrew, Rebecca Jill Jones of Hobbs and Jal Public Schools Superintendent David “Brian” Snider are seeking to replace Gallegos. No other candidates filed.

Rep. Tomás E. Salazar announced last year that he would not seek another term, after serving since 2013. Former West Las Vegas School Board member and former Luna Community College Board trustee Ambrose Castellano, former Santa Fe County Commissioner Robert Anaya and Anita Amalia Gonzales of Las Vegas are the three Democrats seeking to replace Salazar. Estancia mayor Nathan Dial is also seeking the seat, as a Republican.

Correction: This story originally said ReGina J. Zuni was from Albuquerque. She is from Isleta.