Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Voters in a patch of the North Valley and Northeast Heights will help determine this fall whether Democrats expand their majority in the state House, or if Republicans can reclaim it.
The race for House District 15 is wide-open, with the Republican incumbent, Sarah Maestas Barnes, opting against a re-election bid.
Democrat Dayan Hochman, an attorney who specializes in aviation and space law, is making her first run for public office – motivated partly, she said, by a racist encounter she had the day after Donald Trump won office. Hochman is Jewish.
She faces an experienced Republican, Brad Winter, who has repeatedly won over voters as a 19-year member of the Albuquerque City Council. His council district is based in the Northeast Heights but overlaps substantially with the House seat.
Winter said his background as an educator for 30 years – and a one-year stint as New Mexico’s secretary of state – would be an asset for him as a member of the state House.
“I just consider myself a moderate who does everything I can to serve my constituents,” Winter said in an interview. “I think I can go up there and hit the ground running.”
Hochman said she, too, has valuable experience, having interacted in court with every level of government.
“I think in the legal community, I’ve established a reputation as being extremely reasonable and fair,” Hochman said.
She said she never expected to run for office. But she got involved when – the day after the 2016 presidential election – she encountered a woman who spit on her car and told her that Jews should prepare for another exodus.
“I have a fire in my belly burning pretty bright now after the experiences I’ve had,” Hochman said. “I think we need new voices, I think we need new perspectives, and I think we need new energy.”
Winter, in turn, said his constituents know he has a track record of working to address local traffic, public safety and other concerns. He is retired from Albuquerque Public Schools – having risen through the ranks from teacher to superintendent – and plans to remain on the City Council if he’s elected to the House.
Winter said he has a nonpartisan approach. He’s been elected City Council president four times, with significant support from Democrats.
“I think I’m very good at working with folks,” Winter said.
Hochman has a substantial financial edge. She reported about $52,000 in cash on hand last week, and Winter reported about $18,000.
District 15 is viewed as a battleground for the state House every two years. Maestas Barnes won re-election in 2016 by about 6 percentage points, but a Democrat won the seat as recently as 2012.
Democrats hold a 38-32 edge in the House.
Q-and-A’s online: To find out a candidate’s positions on key issues, go to ABQJournal.com/election2018. The site also includes links to Journal stories on statewide, legislative and county-level races, district maps, key election dates and other voter resources. It will be updated regularly with new candidate profile stories and other information.