SANTA FE — Thirty of New Mexico’s 70 seats in the state House are uncontested in this year’s elections, at least so far.
But a new advocacy group unveiled Thursdays aims to change that — by supporting independent candidates, promoting open primaries and taking other steps to encourage competitive races.
In a news conference outside the Roundhouse, supporters of Unite New Mexico said they hope to address what they describe as a partisan environment in which Democrats and Republicans have little reason to cooperate or respond to anyone but their party’s own base.
One goal, supporters said, is to elect a “fulcrum” of independent candidates in the House and Senate, who can influence policy in a state with relatively few competitive races. Democrats hold majorities in both chambers.
“We’ve got two major parties dividing us rather than uniting us,” said Bob Perls, a former state representative and co-founder of Unite New Mexico.
To that end, his group introduced two independent candidates for the House this fall, both running in northern New Mexico:
— Tweeti Blancett, a former state representative, is campaigning in House District 40, an open seat that includes Mora, Chimayo and Eagle Nest. She would face the winner of the Democratic primary, a race that features Paula Garcia, Barney Trujillo and Joseph L. Sanchez.
— Jarratt Applewhite, a former Santa Fe school board member from Lamy, is running in District 50, where he would face Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo.
More independent candidates may yet emerge. They don’t file petition signatures to secure a spot on the ballot until late next month.
Assuming Applewhite is qualified for the ballot, he would push the number of uncontested races in the House down to 29.
One of the uncontested races doesn’t have an incumbent. Former state Rep. Phelps Anderson, a Republican, is in line to succeed Republican Rep. Bob Wooley of Roswell.
No independent has ever won election to the state Legislature.