SANTA FE — Former state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde appeared poised Tuesday to reclaim his old seat by knocking off incumbent Rep. Roger Montoya of Velarde in a closely watched Democratic primary race in rural northern New Mexico.
Two other incumbent legislators — Republican Rachel Black of Alamogordo and Democrat Ambrose Castellano of Las Vegas — were locked in tight races, according to partial, unofficial results.
But a host of Democratic incumbents appeared set to fend off primary challenges across the state, including Reps. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, Susan Herrera of Embudo and Kristina Ortez of Taos.
They had faced opposition from more moderate Democrats, and their victories could maintain the progressive tilt in the majority party caucus that has existed for the last several years.
The exception to the trend came in House District 40, where Sanchez had a lead of nearly 600 votes over Montoya.
The former representative held the seat from 2019 through 2020 before stepping down to launch an unsuccessful bid for an open congressional seat.
“A lot of the people I know in the district have the same beliefs I do — they’re moderate Democrats,” Sanchez said during a Tuesday evening interview.
Meanwhile, most House Republicans who faced primary challenges also appeared headed for victory, though Rep. Black was trailing John Block in a House District 51 matchup, according to unofficial results.
Block had a 2 percentage point lead in the race — 51% to 49% — with more than 3,000 votes counted.
In northern New Mexico, Castellano had a 2 point edge over Democratic challenger Anita Amalia Gonzales.
Open seats in ABQ
Tuesday’s results will cement the nominees in a number of Democratic-leaning open seats.
Art De La Cruz, a former Bernalillo County commissioner who was appointed to the state House earlier this year, was the apparent winner to represent a South Valley-based seat, defeating two challengers. No Republican filed to run for the seat.
In southeast Albuquerque, Janelle Anyanonu, an office manager and member of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee, was on her way to winning the Democratic nomination to represent the International District. She would face Republican Kathleen Jackson in the fall.
Ex-state Rep. Eleanor Chavez had a substantial lead for an open seat on the West Side of Albuquerque currently held by Democrat Georgene Louis, who is not seeking reelection. She would face Republican Patrick Sais in the general election.
“What carried us was this was a grassroots-powered campaign,” Chavez said in an interview. “We knocked on doors. We made phone calls. We got out there and talked to voters.”
For an open seat in Northwest Albuquerque, Republicans and Democrats both picked nominees Tuesday.
Democrat Cynthia Borrego, a former Albuquerque city councilor and business owner, had a big lead for her party’s nomination, while Republican Ellis McMath, a concealed carry firearms instructor, was poised to win the GOP nomination.
Primaries affect legislature
All 70 state House seats are up for election this year, and many of the district boundary lines were redrawn in December during the once-per-decade task of redistricting.
The primary ballot featured 22 contested House races. Seven Democratic incumbents faced challengers from within their own party, and four Republican lawmakers had a primary challenge.
While the primary election results won’t affect political control of the chamber, they could impact policy decisions on abortion, gun control and other issues expected to come before the Legislature during next year’s 60-day session.
Currently, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 45-24 margin in the House.
The chamber also has one independent member, Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell, who is not seeking reelection this year after leaving the Republican Party in 2021.