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Three candidates seek ABQ, East Mountains Senate seat

SANTA FE – Voters in a district that spans from the neighborhoods of Southeast Albuquerque to the rural terrain of the East Mountains will send a new member to the state Senate next year.

Senate District 19 candidates, from left, Libertarian John D. McDivitt, Democrat Claudia Risner and Republican Gregg Schmedes.

The Republican incumbent, Jim White, lost his reelection bid in the June 2 primary to Rep. Gregg Schmedes, a Tijeras surgeon who is giving up his House seat in a bid to join the Senate.

Schmedes is now in a three-way race, facing Democrat Claudia Risner and Libertarian John McDivitt, both retired naval officers.

Republicans have held Senate District 19 for at least 28 years, though Risner has a financial edge over Schmedes heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

Schmedes, 39, emerged as one of the most prominent conservative voices in the state House over the past two years, often taking the lead in floor debates to question and oppose Democratic legislation. But he said he’s a good listener, too, a skill vital to his work as a physician.

“I’ll do whatever I can to give my constituents a voice,” Schmedes said in an interview.

Risner, 63, said her work in the Navy – where she rose to the rank of captain in a 29-year career – demonstrates her leadership talent and ability to work with all kinds of people toward a common goal, regardless of political affiliation.

“I think that’s what we need to do – work together,” Risner said. “I’m not a divisive person.”

In some naval jobs, she said, she was the first woman to hold the position.

McDivitt, 70, is retired from the Navy, too, though he also had a career in financial services. A Libertarian since 1974, he said he’s tired of political polarization and the animosity partisans have toward the other side.

“I can easily cross the aisle,” McDivitt said. “If I’m elected, I’ll sit in the middle of the aisle.”

Senate District 19 covers the Four Hills area in Albuquerque and stretches into the East Mountains, covering Edgewood, Moriarty, Cedar Crest and Stanley.

Risner reported about $51,000 in cash on hand and $38,000 in recent contributions, according to campaign filings this week. Among her donors are lawyers, retirees, physicians, union groups and Democratic legislators.

Schmedes reported about $18,000 in cash after about $13,000 in contributions in the most recent period. Among his donors are retirees, the oil company Chevron, Albuquerque Federated Republican Women and Republican state senators.

McDivitt reported no financial activity.

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