SANTA FE – Two-term state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, an Albuquerque Republican who represents a key legislative swing district, will not seek re-election this fall, she confirmed Monday.
In an interview, Maestas Barnes told the Journal she had been thinking since shortly after the 2016 election cycle about whether she would run again and ultimately decided she needed to spend more time with her family, which includes two young daughters.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is for legislators who have small children to serve,” she said. “I think if you do the job correctly, it’s a full-time job.”
Her decision means a total of at least seven House members will not seek re-election this year, either because they are stepping down or are running for higher office. All 70 House seats are up for election this year, and candidate filing day is today.
It could also complicate Republicans’ hopes of retaking control of the state House, though Maestas Barnes has endorsed Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter in the race to take over her seat in the chamber.
It’s unclear whether Winter would have to step down from the City Council if elected, but he has already served a one-year stint as New Mexico secretary of state while maintaining his council seat.
The House District 15 seat Maestas Barnes holds covers parts of Albuquerque’s North Valley, Northeast Heights and Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. It’s regarded as one of the state’s most competitive districts and has been held by five people since 2001.
Maestas Barnes has sponsored several high-profile measures during her time in Santa Fe, including a 2015 bill requiring that Amber Alerts be sent to cellphones when children vanish, a 2016 bill dealing with drunken driving penalties for repeat offenders and 2017 legislation that changed how prosecutors can charge individuals accused of possessing child pornography.
She also pushed a bill to expand New Mexico’s “Baby Brianna Law,” which covers intentional child abuse resulting in death, but that proposal stalled repeatedly in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Maestas Barnes said Monday that she still plans to advocate for the bill after stepping down from the Legislature – her term expires next January – and will work in the coming months on a soon-to-be-formed council studying hunger-related issues in New Mexico.
Meanwhile, Democrats will be looking to build on their 38-32 majority in the House in this year’s election cycle. Republicans won control of the House in 2014, but Democrats reclaimed it in 2016.
Maestas Barnes, first elected in 2014, was one of the few GOP legislators in swing districts who were able to fend off Democratic challengers in 2016, as Democrats picked up five Republican-held seats.