Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The battle for control of the state Senate could be decided on Albuquerque’s West Side.
Three-term state Sen. Sander Rue, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Harold Pope Jr. in a race that could be pivotal to GOP hopes of winning back seats – if not a majority – in the 42-member chamber.
Rue, who has held the Senate District 23 seat since 2009, said he’s running on his legislative record, which includes spearheading the push for the state’s Sunshine Portal, an online database, in 2010.
“We’re utilizing technology to bring government back to the people,” he told the Journal.
For his part, Pope said he expects high voter turnout due to interest in this year’s presidential race could boost his chances for a victory.
“This district is changing, and I think it’s ready to flip,” said Pope, who would be the state’s first African American state senator.
A retired Air Force officer who credits the military for helping him overcome a difficult upbringing, Pope is making his first run for elected office.
He cited health care, economic recovery and early childhood education as the issues he would prioritize if elected to the Senate.
“I just feel we’re not mentoring and investing in New Mexicans,” said Pope, who noted that his military background also taught him how to work with others with different political views.
Likewise, Rue said he’s been willing to occasionally vote against fellow Republicans’ bills in the Legislature, adding, “We shouldn’t all be following like sheep behind a leader or leaders.”
He is also co-chairman of the legislative Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee – along with Democratic state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque – which has explored ways to reduce recidivism, in part by expanding drug addiction and mental health treatment programs.
“We need to do more than just opening the door and letting people out on the streets,” Rue said.
But he also said more work must be done to keep violent repeat offenders in custody amid high crime rates, especially in the Albuquerque area.
Rue was unopposed in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, but he won reelection by a narrow margin in 2016.
During that year’s presidential election, Senate District 23 voters actually preferred Democrat Hillary Clinton to Republican Donald Trump – with Clinton getting 44.9% of the votes cast and Trump getting 41.2%, according to the online DailyKos news site.
Rue has raised nearly $46,000 for his reelection campaign, according to a campaign report filed Tuesday, and has roughly $61,000 in his campaign account. He received contributions from several fellow GOP senators, a Florida-based private prison company and oil giant Chevron Inc.
Pope has raised more than $106,000 for his campaign, based on a report filed Tuesday, with donations from the New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, several union groups and various Democratic lawmakers.