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Four hopefuls campaign for Albuquerque legislative seat

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Spirited campaigns by four candidates – two Democrats and two Republicans – are underway to represent a chunk of Albuquerque’s far Northeast Heights in the state House.

The area was represented by the late Rep. Larry Larrañaga, a Republican, for 24 years, but it’s now emerging as a swing district, after Democrats narrowly won the seat in 2018.

Currently representing District 27 is Democratic Rep. Marian Matthews, a retired lawyer who was appointed following last year’s death of Democrat Bill Pratt.

Matthews is being challenged for the nomination by William Orr, a physician and health care consultant.

On the Republican side, voters will choose between two small-business owners – Jill Michel, a foster parent and advocate for foster children, and Robert Godshall, a retired federal immigration officer.

The winner of each party’s nomination will advance to face the other in the Nov. 3 general election.

Matthews, who served as a deputy attorney general under Democrat Tom Udall, said she brings a broad background to the job. She has served as criminal prosecutor, taught business law and worked for PB & J Family Services, which works to prevent child abuse.

“I’m very much a problem-solver,” Matthews said. “I’m not hung up on ideology so much as I’m hung up on how do we get the best result for a reasonable amount of money that’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Orr, a geriatrician who also has worked as health care administrator, said he would bring a doctor’s perspective to the House at a time when public health is critically important. He said he is well-prepared to evaluate health care policy and cooperate with others to craft strong legislation.

“I’m a progressive,” Orr said, “but I’m not dogmatic. You’ve got to take what you can get and negotiate with people.”

Matthews had a financial advantage heading into the final weeks of the campaign, according to campaign finance reports filed this month. She had about $25,000 in her account and had raised about $13,000 in recent donations. Orr, in turn, had almost $11,000 in his account and $300 in recent donations.

GOP candidates seek ‘positive change’

The Republican campaign features Michel and Godshall, both of whom say they would bring a needed voice to the Roundhouse.

Michel, a foster parent in New Mexico for 11 years, said she was disappointed by the partisanship when she visited the Capitol last year to advocate for the creation of a child-welfare ombudsman, a proposal that failed.

If elected, she said, she would bring a sense of compassion to her role as a legislator.

“I think New Mexico is ready for some positive change up in Santa Fe,” Michel said. “I think I’m a good candidate for that because I haven’t been a politician. I think that’s a strength.”

Godshall, who is retired from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said his experience in law enforcement would help him address a top issue in the district – crime. State and local governments, he said, should cooperate with federal authorities by turning over foreign nationals arrested for a crime.

Godshall said he would also promote a business-friendly climate and push to limit government spending.

“I’m not a one-trick pony,” he said. “I have firm conservative roots.”

Godshall had about $19,000 in his campaign account, but just $600 in recent donations. Michel reported a balance of about $8,000, but about $6,000 in recent donations, according to reports filed with the state.

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