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It’s a ‘battle royal’ in Democratic primary

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

It’s King versus McQueen.

New Mexico political royalty Rebecca “Becky” King-Spindle, the granddaughter of the late former Gov. Bruce King, is challenging Matthew McQueen in District 50 of the New Mexico House of Representatives, where he is running for his fourth term.

Both are Democrats. The winner of the June 2 primary will face off against Republican Jerry Gage and Libertarian Christina Estrada in the November general election.

It’s unusual for a Dem to challenge an incumbent of the same party, but it’s happening in the sprawling district that cuts across four counties. House District 50 includes Eldorado, Lamy, Edgewood and Mountainair, and stretches all the way down to Rio communities near Belen.

McQueen is an attorney and has been involved in such high-profile cases as trying to keep the Pilot Flying J from building a truck stop outside of Santa Fe.

King-Spindle and her husband Tom Spindle are ranchers, carrying on the tradition of the King family in New Mexico.

“If you need any beef, we’ve got it,” said the Stanley-based candidate in a recent telephone interview.

Asked why she’s taking on a fellow Democrat who is an incumbent, Spindle-King said, “Well, you’ve got to start some time.”

The 46-year-old is currently a member of the Moriarty-Edgewood school board, a position she said she will give up if she wins the District 50 seat.

Spindle-King, who attended New Mexico State University, said she feels the need to enter public service because New Mexico’s children are being shortchanged. The state continually ranks 49th or 50th out of 50 states on child well-being.

“I feel the spirit of my grandmother, Alice King, calling to me,” said Spindle-King.

As first lady of New Mexico, Alice King is credited with being a driving force behind the creation of the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department. She was also chairwoman of the New Mexico Children’s Trust and a supporter of the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital.

McQueen admitted to being caught off guard by Spindle-King’s candidacy.

“It came as a surprise being challenged by a political dynasty,” he said.

Born in Southern California, McQueen said he has been a resident of New Mexico since 1992. He first won his seat in 2014, beating Republican Vickie Perea, who was appointed to the seat after the death of Democratic Rep. Stephen Easley.

In a telephone interview, McQueen stressed his interest in conservation and real estate, as well as his experience in navigating the state’s oil booms and busts. Right now, low oil prices are driving some companies out of the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico as Russia and Saudi Arabia engage in an energy price war and consumer demand slackens due to coronavirus travel restrictions in many states.

“As companies cap wells, it’s clear that bonding amounts are insufficient,” McQueen said.

Translation: New Mexico taxpayers could be left holding the bag for cleanups after the oil companies leave.

Another pet issue of McQueen’s is tax fairness. In the past legislative session, he sponsored a bill that would reform a law passed 20 years ago that puts a 3% cap on increases to annual property valuations. Under McQueen’s bill, which died in committee, the 3% limit on increases in annual net taxable value would continue to apply. But the amount would increase to 10% for properties whose owners are not primary residents.

Given the shortfall in revenue that the state is facing due to cratering oil prices, now down to approximately $24 a barrel, legislators might give McQueen’s idea more attention in the future. He has vowed to introduce a similar bill in the next session.





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