Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Two years ago, Democrat Karen Bash ousted a Republican incumbent to win election to a Northwest Albuquerque state House seat.
Now she’s the one trying to hang on, as Republican Giovanni Coppola, a political newcomer, has his sights set on shifting the House District 68 seat back to the GOP column.
The race has featured hard-hitting mailers sent by a Democratic-leaning independent expenditure group that highlight Coppola’s past arrests on drunken driving and drug-related charges.
In response, Coppola issued a statement acknowledging past mistakes, while also saying he has learned and grown from the incidents.
Coppola, who helps run a family business that sells janitorial supplies, grew up in Santa Fe and said he was encouraged to run by his late grandfather, Gregg Bemis, who ran unsuccessfully for both Congress and the Legislature.
“I love this state, but I’m really concerned about where we’re headed,” Coppola said, adding many of his friends have left New Mexico for opportunities in neighboring states.
Bash, a former pastor and small business owner, says she has more life and work experience than her younger opponent.
“My entire career has been about helping people,” Bash said.
She cited education and food insecurity as among her top priorities, and added she would oppose spending cuts to public schools and push school districts to implement pre-kindergarten programs if elected to a second two-year term in the House.
“We haven’t been able to solve all those problems, so there’s work to be done,” said Bash, who ran a bed-and-breakfast in Albuquerque after moving to New Mexico from Iowa before deciding to run for the Legislature.
While the two rivals disagree on some issues, they both favor adding New Mexico to the list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult users.
Coppola, whose stance on the issue puts him at odds with many other Republicans, said he believes in personal responsibility, limited government and free will.
“I think we need as many economic windfalls as possible,” he told the Journal.
The House District 68 seat had been located in rural northern New Mexico, but was moved after redistricting in 2011 due to population shifts.
As currently drawn, the district encompasses a swath of Northwest Albuquerque, including the Paradise Hills neighborhood, and is one of the Legislature’s true “swing” districts in which registered Democrats and Republicans are narrowly split.
Bash has reported raising more than $62,000 for her re-election campaign this year, based on campaign filings, with hefty contributions from labor unions, a prominent medical cannabis producer and the political arm of Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider.
For his part, Coppola has raised nearly $55,000 and gotten donations from the New Mexico Restaurant Association, the National Rifle Association’s political arm and several Republican lawmakers.