Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A dozen members of the state House won’t seek reelection this year, opening up competitive seats in Valencia County and Northwest Albuquerque.
The departures also create a network of contested primary races around the state.
Eight Democratic incumbents and five Republicans – largely in rural parts of New Mexico – will face challengers from their own party in the June 7 primary election, according to documents filed Tuesday.
The races took shape as candidates faced a Tuesday deadline to declare their campaigns.
Altogether, 12 lawmakers did not file for reelection – an increase from the eight open seats on filing day in 2018.
The departures include Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell, who was the lone House Republican in 2021 to vote in favor of repealing an anti-abortion law. He changed his party affiliation afterward to independent.
Anderson, an energy executive, said Tuesday that it was the right time to retire after having served eight years in the House in two stints. The newly drawn House maps also would have paired him with another incumbent if he had run for reelection.
He expressed no regrets about starting as a Republican and finishing as an independent.
“The Republican Party is determined to grow smaller while independents only grow in voter registration,” Anderson said in a written statement.
Also forgoing reelection are four Republicans – James Strickler of Farmington, Kelly Fajardo of Los Lunas, Zachary Cook of Ruidoso and Randal Crowder of Clovis.
Fajardo’s decision creates an open seat in a competitive part of Valencia County.
Seeking to succeed her are Belen City Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Bernal Jr., a Democrat, and Tanya Mirabal Moya, a Republican from Los Lunas.
Fajardo has represented the area for 10 years.
“I have always said that the seat I hold is the people’s seat and holding political office is a privilege, not a right,” she said.
All 70 seats in the state House are on the ballot this year. Democrats hold a 45-24 edge over Republicans, plus one independent.
On filing day:
• The open House District 17 seat on the West Side of Albuquerque attracted four candidates, including former City Councilor Cynthia Borrego, a Democrat.
She is set to face Democrat Darrell Deaguero in the primary. The Republican candidates are Ellis McMath and Joshua Neal. It’s a seat substantially redrawn during redistricting.
• The open House District 19 seat covering part of southeastern Albuquerque has drawn three Democratic candidates. They are Janelle Anyanonu, an office manager and member of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee; Colton Dean; and Eric Sutton, managing attorney for the Fair Lending Center at United South Broadway Corp. The winner would face Republican Kathleen Jackson. Kay Bounkeua, an Albuquerque Democrat who has represented the district since last year, is not running to keep the seat.
• Former Rep. Eleanor Chavez and Route 66 West Neighborhood Association President Cherise Quezada are competing for the Democratic nomination in the Albuquerque-based House District 26 seat that will be vacated by Rep. Georgene Louis following her drunken driving arrest. Republican Patrick Sais is also running.
• Eight Democrats face primary challengers: Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Doreen Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, Eliseo Alcon of Milan, Roger Montoya of Velarde, Susan Herrera of Embudo, Kristina Ortez of Taos, Andrea Romero of Santa Fe and Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas.
• Five Republicans face primary challenges: Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Corrales, Rachel Black of Alamogordo, Greg Nibert of Roswell, Randall Pettigrew of Lovington and Larry Scott of Hobbs.
• Six Democrats are not seeking reelection: Deborah Armstrong, Karen Bash, Bounkeua and Louis, all of Albuquerque; Daymon Ely of Corrales; and House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe.
• Republican Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences is opting to run for governor.