June 7, 2022

NM primaries were a mixed bag for state House incumbents

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Voters decided on the nominees for the New Mexico House of Representatives in every district in the state on Tuesday. While many incumbents either successfully defended their seats from others in their own respective parties or did not face opponents at all, other races ended with ousted incumbents or new candidates. 

Here are some races that we watched closely.

District 12 

Art De La Cruz handily won his three-way primary race against Democrats Melissa Armijo and Nicole Olonovich with 53 percent of the votes. De La Cruz is a former Bernalillo County Commissioner and was appointed to his current seat to fill a previous vacancy. 

De La Cruz was endorsed by two education organizations, a public sector labor union and a real estate development organization. De La Cruz, while a Democrat, received criticism from progressives for his support of the proposed Santolina development in Bernalillo County.  

District 17

Rep. Deborah Armstrong, citing family needs, opted not to run for the seat she has held for four terms. The district also saw significant boundary changes last year when the state Legislature redrew state House districts. 

Former Albuquerque city councilor Cynthia Borrego won the Democratic primary for House District 17 against her opponent Darrell Deaguero by 22 points. Deaguero’s loss is somewhat notable as he was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. Retired Air traffic Controller Ellis McMath, won the Republican primary for District 17 against civil engineer Joshua Ellis.  

District 19 

House District 19 saw an expected win for progressives with a wide-margin win for Janelle Anyanonu, who was endorsed by Heinrich, along with Planned Parenthood Votes and a long list of other progressive organizations. Anyanonu will face Republican Kathleen Jackson in November. 

The district’s seat was left open when Kay Bounkeua announced she would not run for election for a full term. Bounkeua was picked to replace former House Whip Sheryl Williams Stapelton after New Mexico Attorney General’s office charged Stapleton with a number of felony counts including money laundering and resigned from the Legislature. 

Anyanonu won the primary against Colton Dean by 50 percentage points. 

She will face Republican Kathleen Jackson, who did not have an opponent.

District 26 

House District 26 was also left open when incumbent Georgene Louis decided not to run for reelection after she was charged with drunk driving earlier this year. 

Backed by a list of progressive groups, former legislator Eleanor Chavez won the primary election easily against Cherise Quezada, who is a former staffer for Louis. Quezada is also married to Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Micheal Quezada. 

Chavez will go on to face Republican Patrick Sais, a self-proclaimed “Die-hard Trump Supporter” in November. 

District 38 

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, left her historically Republican seat open when she decided to run for governor. 

House District 38 saw two Republicans and two Democrats vying for their respective party’s nominations. 

Sandra Hammack, a former Socorro County Republican Chair, easily won the Republican primary by 54 points against science teacher Melba Aguilar. 

Tara Jaramillo, who was endorsed by progressive groups also won easily, defeating  Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker.

District 40 

Rep. Roger Montoya, D-Velarde, likely lost his spot in the Legislature last night after getting 14  percent fewer votes than his opponent and former legislator Joseph Sanchez as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. A political advocacy group, that is not officially associated with Sanchez, targeted Montoya, namely for his work in adult movies as a young adult. Montoya recently announced he would turn his attention away from his campaign in order to help victims of wildfires in his district in Northern New Mexico. 

Montoya has held the seat since 2020 when he ran to fill the vacancy left by Sanchez when Sanchez made an unsuccessful run for Congress.

Sanchez will face Republican Jerald McFall in November. 

District 44

Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, saw a newly drawn district after the Legislature’s special redistricting session last year, which she repeatedly raised concerns about during the special session. But she was still able to secure her party’s nomination and will face Democrat Kathleen Cates in November.  

District 46

Incumbent Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, easily won her three-way race against Democrats Ryan Salazar and Henry Roybal. Romero will go on to face Jay Groseclose in the November general election. 

Romero was previously criticized for spending taxpayer money on lavish meals and baseball tickets. More recently, though, Romero was an instrumental part in passing the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, which legalized adult-use cannabis in New Mexico. 

District 51

Incumbent Rep. Rachel Black was just two points behind her opponent Republican John Block as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. The winner will face Democrat Sharonlee Cummins in November.  

District 70 

Incumbent Rep. Ambrose Castellano, D-Serrafina was two percentage points ahead of his progressive-backed opponent Anita Gonzales as of 11:00 p.m. on election night. No Republican filed to run in the district.