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Newly minted Republican running in 3rd CD; Valerie Espinoza won’t

SANTA FE, N.M. — A newly minted Republican and founder of a political action committee called Democrats for Democracy announced this week that he would run for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Ben Ray Luján, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Brett Kokinadis said in a news release that he’s changed his party affiliation to Republican to seek Luján’s seat and that he wanted to focus on “finding commonality” among New Mexicans.

Brett Kokinadis (from LinkedIn)

“I see this as an opportunity — an olive branch — to unite New Mexicans. Many politicians talk about working across the aisle; I’m jumping across it to build a bridge for New Mexico’s future,” he said in the news release.

Kokinadis, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, said in the release that he was “pushed out of the Democratic Party for “talking facts.”

“I didn’t buy into the mantras, the division, and hate,” he said.

But on Tuesday, a conservative Republican blogger sent a news release of his own, pointing out provocative statements Kokinadis allegedly made in the past on Twitter two years ago. He included a link to screen shots of tweets purportedly made by Kokinadis.

“Kokinadis’ tweets span from threats to President Trump’s life, calling for the commander in chief to ‘have a stroke,’ and making misogynistic comments about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying she looked like ‘trash’ as she addressed the nation, commenting that she came on stage ‘after cleaning the bathrooms,'” wrote John Block, whose blog is called “NM Politics with John Block.”

Kokinadis is the first Republican to declare his candidacy for the CD3 race.

Two Democrats — District 40 state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Raton businessman Mark McDonald of Raton — have said they will be candidates to succeed Luján in Congress. Several other Democrats have said they are considering running.

One who’s decided to not run for the seat is Public Regulation Commission member Valerie Espinoza, who on Wednesday announced during a PRC meeting that she won’t throw her hat into the ring. She had said previously she was considering making the race.

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Valerie Espinoza

“New Mexico is my forever home,” she said in a brief phone interview after the meeting. “I could have gone to work in Washington, D.C. 20 years go but I chose New Mexico. This time, I choose northern New Mexico.”

Espinoza said she’s happy to stay here and continue to represent the people of New Mexico as PRC commissioner.

“It’s important for me to continue to represent the rate payers in northern New Mexico on the PRC. We don’t just represent our district, we represent the state at large with our decisions we make here,” she said.

Espinoza’s term on the PRC ends at the end of 2020. She doesn’t know what she’ll do after that, but said she’s been a public servant most her life and will probably continue in such a role.

“I realized (running for Congress) was an opportunity knocking on my door, but there are many more opportunities here in the Land of Enchantment,” she said.

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