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3 House Democrats lose in primaries

Bill Gomez, Debbie Rodella and Carl Trujillo.

Three Democratic members of the state House — two moderates in northern New Mexico and one in the southern part of the state — lost their re-election bids to challengers from within their own party late Tuesday, according to unofficial election returns.

The results, if confirmed, would push the Democratic caucus in the House a little to the left.

Rep. Debbie Rodella — a 25-year member of the state House and a powerful committee chairwoman — was defeated by Susan Herrera, a retiree making her first run for office.

Also losing their re-election bids were Democratic Reps. Carl Trujillo of Nambé and Bealquin “Bill” Gomez of La Mesa.

In each of the races, the winner of the Democratic primary is in line to have a free ride in the fall. No Republicans or Libertarians are running in those districts.

Herrera grabbed about 56 percent of the vote in her race against Rodella.

Rodella, chairwoman of the House Business and Industry Committee, has been a leading moderate voice on some issues, such as the minimum wage.

But Herrera ran an aggressive campaign, suggesting Rodella doesn’t share traditional Democratic values. Rodella voted against legalizing same-sex marriage, for example.

The district covers much of Española and Rio Arriba County, a sizable piece of Taos County and part of northern Santa Fe County.

Rodella hadn’t faced a contested race in a dozen years.

Here’s a look at some of the key races:

- Trujillo, a scientist and business owner, faced off against Andrea Romero, a Santa Fe entrepreneur, in a race that was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment against Trujillo and questionable travel reimbursements by Romero.

Trujillo is the subject of an internal House investigation into allegations levied by a lobbyist — that he propositioned her, touched her inappropriately and retaliated when she rejected his advances. Trujillo says the accusations are lies.

Romero has had controversy of her own. She agreed this year to repay some expenses to a regional coalition in Los Alamos — where she worked as the group’s executive director — after auditors questioned spending on baseball tickets and alcohol.

Romero won nearly 53 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

- Gomez lost his re-election bid by 34 votes to Raymundo Lara in a southern New Mexico district. Lara is a school administrator, and Gomez is a retired professor.

Lara won about 51 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

– Democratic Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero defeated two primary challengers: retired police officer Robert Atencio and Damion Cruzz, a hospice nurse and entrepreneur.

The district covers part of Southwest Albuquerque, near 98th and Central Avenue.

Roybal Caballero had faced criticism about her commitment to living in the district. She acknowledges that she jointly owns a home in El Paso — which she inherited — but says she lives full time in her Albuquerque district.

No Republican is running.

All 70 seats in the state House of Representatives are on the ballot this year. Nine seats are open, with no incumbent seeking re-election.

Meanwhile, 26 incumbents have a free ride this year, with no opposing candidate in either the primary or the general election.

Democrats now hold a 38-31 edge in the state House, with one seat vacant. Tuesday’s election won’t alter the balance of power, of course, but it will establish the matchups for the Nov. 6 general election.


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