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Fourth Democratic senator faces primary challenge

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Pam Cordova, Democratic candidate for Senate

SANTA FE – Retired teacher Pam Cordova launched a campaign Tuesday to unseat state Sen. Clemente Sanchez in next year’s Democratic primary – the latest in a series of challenges to powerful Senate Democrats who have sometimes clashed with their more liberal colleagues.

Sanchez, chairman of the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee, has represented District 30 since 2013. The district includes Grants, where Sanchez is from, and covers parts of Valencia and three other counties.

Cordova, who’s retired from Belen Public Schools, has been active in a variety of Democratic groups, including the state, local and national chapters of the Federation of Democratic Women.

“I think the district needs a senator more in line with its Democratic values,” she said Tuesday.

Cordova said she would work to boost funding for early childhood education, promote economic development and support abortion rights.

Sanchez has faced criticism from the left as one of eight Democrats who joined all 16 Republicans in the Senate this year to block the repeal of a 1969 anti-abortion law.

Sanchez said the abortion vote reflected the will of his district, much of which is rural; that he isn’t taking the race for granted; and that he will continue to work hard to get things done.

“We don’t own these seats,” he said. “Our constituents put us there.”

Sanchez said he has a proven record of working with people on all sides to get things done, including a 2019 law that phases in a $12 hourly minimum wage by 2023.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants

“I work pretty darn hard for my district,” he said.

At least three other Senate Democrats who voted against the abortion bill also face primary challenges next year, including Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming and Sen. Gabriel Ramos of Silver City.

The primary is June 2.

The abortion vote, of course, is just one factor in the primary challenges to some Senate Democrats. The Senate has blocked or scaled back a variety of initiatives passed by the House.

Democrats hold majorities in both legislative chambers.

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