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Policy analyst, retired city manager face off for Senate seat

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Two candidates with a background in public policy are competing to represent a broad chunk of Northeast Albuquerque in the state Senate.

The Democratic incumbent, Bill Tallman, is a retired city manager whose career stretched across a number of Rust Belt communities, the East Coast and Santa Fe.

Republican Ryan Alexandra Chavez is now a policy analyst and special projects manager for the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, with a previous stint working for then-Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.

Tallman and Chavez are campaigning in Senate District 18 – a patch of the Northeast Heights represented by Republicans for about 20 years before Tallman won the seat by 2 percentage points in 2016.

Tallman, 80, said he prides himself on being pragmatic and responsive to constituents, not an ideologue. Some of his legislative work has focused on the procurement code and accountability standards.

“Because I came out of government,” he said, “I like to pride myself on good government. Good government is good politics, as far as I’m concerned.”

Chavez, 27, said she would bring a young professional’s perspective to the job, backed up by her experience as a native New Mexican who grew up in the state’s public schools. Her work with the Hispano Chamber gives her a firsthand look, she said, at how New Mexico’s regulatory environment harms small businesses.

“One of the things I’m proudest of,” Chavez said, “is that I like to listen to people, so I can understand the whole picture.”

Senate District 18 stretches from Academy to Constitution, much of it between Wyoming and Juan Tabo.

New Mexico state senators are elected to four-year terms. Democrats now hold a 26-16 majority in the Senate and a 46-24 edge in the House, where members serve two-year terms.

Both candidates have nuanced views on legalizing recreational marijuana – a priority of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

In response to Journal questionnaires, Tallman said he supports legalization if there are proper safeguards and regulations built into the legislation. Chavez said that she would focus on “making sure we do it correctly if we do it” but that she hasn’t yet seen a bill she could support.

The candidates are split on a proposal to repeal the state’s 1969 anti-abortion law, now largely unenforceable because of Roe v. Wade. Tallman favors taking the law off the books while Chavez opposes its repeal.

Tallman had a financial edge in campaign finance reports filed in mid-September.

He reported having about $80,000 in cash in his account after receiving about $56,000 in recent contributions. Among his recent contributors are lawyers, lobbyists, union groups and fellow Democratic senators.

Chavez had about $66,000 in her account after about $40,000 in recent contributions. Among her contributors were members of the Yates family in Artesia; Republican state senators; and oil, gas and energy companies.

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