Dems face off in key ABQ House races - Albuquerque Journal

Dems face off in key ABQ House races

The New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe. (Morgan Lee/Associated Press)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Four Democratic primaries in Albuquerque are set to help shape the composition of the state House as moderates and progressives compete for influence within the party and the Legislature.

None of the four House seats has an elected incumbent seeking reelection, and three of the four seats lean heavily Democratic, making the primary all the more consequential.

The races dot the city – with seats on the West Side, South Valley and International District at stake.

The contests are playing out as Democrats are set to choose new leadership after House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe steps down at the end of the year.

Two of the potential candidates to replace him as House Speaker – House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, a progressive from Albuquerque, and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a moderate from Gallup – have been active in some legislative races, doling out campaign contributions.

But the candidates in Albuquerque districts say they are seeking election on their own terms and responding to the issues that resonate with voters.

Northwestern ABQ

Democratic legislative candidate Cynthia Borrego, a former Albuquerque city councilor and business owner, said she has been struck by the number of dogs she sees when she knocks on doors – a sign of voters’ concern about city crime.

“I have liberals supporting me, conservatives supporting me, and moderates supporting me,” she said, “and I’m really proud of that.”

Borrego is competing with Darrell Deaguero, president of a union for construction workers, to represent House District 17, which covers neighborhoods around Coors and Paseo del Norte NW.

Deaguero said concern about children – their safety and future – is an overriding issue he hears about from voters. He said he would let his issue positions and accomplishment speak for themselves, rather than apply a moderate or progressive label to his campaign.

“When you’re on a job site, no one asks if you’re a Democrat or Republican, let alone if you’re a progressive or a moderate,” he said in a written statement to the Journal. “People just want to know if you’re going to follow through and deliver for them, and that’s why I’m running.”

District 17 is now held by Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong, but she isn’t seeking reelection and the boundaries have shifted substantially.

Borrego has drawn financial support from Chevron, and other oil and gas companies, and from Lundstrom, chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. Deaguero, by contrast, is backed by many labor unions and Martínez, the House majority leader.

In a Journal issue questionnaire, Borrego said she supports changing New Mexico laws to make it easier to hold individuals charged with certain violent offenses behind bars until trial. Deaguero said decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, with a “rigorous threshold for detainment” based on a number of factors.

The winner of the Democratic primary will advance to face either Ellis McMath or Joshua Taylor Neal, who are competing for the Republican nomination.

District 17 has been held by a Democrat since at least 1983, though the redrawn boundaries suggest it could be a swing district this fall. Democrats have had a 1.4 percentage point advantage over Republicans in the new district boundaries, according to an analysis of elections over the past decade by Research & Polling Inc., the state redistricting contractor.

Southwestern ABQ

In a nearby district covering southwestern Albuquerque, Democratic voters are weighing another contested primary.

Former Rep. Eleanor Chavez, executive director for a union of hospital workers, is competing with Cherise Quezada, president of the Route 66 West Neighborhood Association and wife of Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada.

Chavez has picked up financial support from the Conservation Voters New Mexico Action Fund, labor unions and a number of progressive-leaning Democrats.

She would bring extensive experience to the seat, she said, having already served in the House from 2009-12. She describes herself as progressive.

“I’ve always been involved in the community,” Chavez said. “I feel like I have my finger on the heartbeat of the community.”

Quezada, by contrast, has received donations from Lundstrom and other business-friendly Democrats. She said she, too, has plenty of experience, having served as a staff member for the City Council and state House.

She describes herself as “pro-business,” and both progressive and moderate, depending on the issue.

“I think there needs to be a balance – that’s what I’d love to bring to the table,” Quezada said. “Any decision you make has unintended consequences.”

Martínez, the House majority leader, has donated to both candidates.

House District 26 covers neighborhoods near Unser and Interstate 40. It is currently represented by Democrat Georgene Louis, who isn’t seeking reelection following a drunken driving arrest.

The district is heavily Democratic and the winner of the primary will advance to face Republican Patrick Sais.

Valley race

Another key primary race is in House District 12, based in the South Valley, where Art De La Cruz is running to keep the seat after he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Brittney Barreras, who stepped down earlier this year.

De La Cruz, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, is campaigning for the Democratic nomination alongside challengers Melissa Armijo, executive administrator at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, and Nicole Olonovich, CEO of an energy company.

The fundraising leaders in the race are De La Cruz – whose donors include Martinez, a teachers union and a number of local businesses – and Armijo, whose supporters include Conservation Voters and a number of Democratic legislators.

No Republican or Libertarian candidates filed to run for the seat.

International District

In House District 19, based in the International District, two Democrats are seeking the nomination to succeed Rep. Kay Bounkeua, who is not seeking reelection.

Janelle Anyanonu, an office manager and member of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee, is facing off against Colton Dean, a paramedic and sterile processing technician.

Anyanonu has a substantial fundraising lead, with about $19,600 in her campaign account, including donations from Conservation Voters and at least four Democratic lawmakers. Dean has about $2,200 in his account.

The winner will face Republican Kathleen Jackson in the fall. It’s one of the most heavily Democratic-leaning House districts in the state, according to analysis by Research & Polling Inc.

Altogether, voters in Albuquerque are weighing eight contested primary races for the House. All 70 seats in the House are on the ballot this year.

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