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Independents, write-in compete for legislative seat

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In this file photo, the House gallery sits empty while the Capitol is closed to the public during a special session. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Voters in a South Valley-based legislative district have a chance to make history this year.

They will choose among a write-in candidate and two independents to succeed Democratic Rep. Patricio Ruiloba in the state House.

Ruiloba was blocked from the ballot this year after a judge ruled that he hadn’t followed the proper procedure for collecting petition signatures.

No other major-party candidates filed to get their names on the ballot.

Instead, voters will see two names on the ballot – Brittney Barreras and David Grijalva, neither of whom is affiliated with a political party. Voters will also have the chance to write in the name of Democrat Art De La Cruz, a former Bernalillo County commissioner.

No independent or write-in candidate has ever won election to the Legislature, although the late Joe Skeen won election to Congress in 1980 as a write-in candidate.

An independent has served in the House, but he wasn’t elected that way. Former state Rep. Andy Nuñez of Hatch served from 2001 to 2012 and 2015 to 2016, mostly as a Democrat, but he changed his affiliation to independent at one point, and his final term was as a Republican.

De La Cruz, as a write-in candidate, will give Democrats a chance to keep Ruiloba’s seat under their party’s control. He now works as a land-use consultant but served eight years on the Bernalillo County Commission, through 2016.

In an interview, De La Cruz said he had no intention of running for office again. But friends and community leaders reached out after Ruiloba was barred from the ballot.

“It wasn’t something I was seeking,” De La Cruz said. But “I do want what’s best for the district.”

Barreras, who works in sales for a mobile phone service provider, described herself as “progressive and independent-minded.” She grew up in the South Valley, she said, and is raising a daughter in the district.

“What matters to me are results,” Barreras said in a written statement to the Journal. “I’m running because I don’t want kids growing up in the district today to feel like they are getting left behind.”

Grijalva wasn’t immediately available to answer questions.

Election Day is Nov. 3. Every legislative seat is on the ballot.

Democrats hold a 46-24 majority in the House and a 26-16 edge in the Senate.

Ruiloba has served in the House since 2015 and is chairman of the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee.

House District 12 covers stretches of Isleta, Blake, Arenal and Dennis Chavez in Southwest Albuquerque.

Twenty-two percent of New Mexico’s registered voters are not affiliated with a major party. Democrats make up 46% of the voter rolls, Republicans are 31% and Libertarians 1%.


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