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SANTA FE – A national Republican group is wading into two New Mexico state House races, seeking to tap into voters’ concerns about crime to flip a pair of Democratic-held seats.
The two seats targeted by a political committee affiliated with the Republican State Leadership Committee include the Albuquerque-based House District 28 seat currently held by Democrat Pamelya Herndon, who was appointed to the seat last year.
Republican Nicole Chavez is running against Herndon and a mailer sent by the group cites Chavez’s personal experience with crime, as her son Jaydon Chavez-Silver was killed in a 2015 drive-by shooting in which he was not the intended target.
The mailer also describes Herndon as a “do-nothing liberal,” even though Herndon has pushed unsuccessfully for legislation making it a crime to fail to keep firearms out of children’s reach.
The other race the national GOP group is targeting is the House District 32 seat currently held by three-term Rep. Candie Sweetser, D-Deming, as a radio ad attempts to link her to President Joe Biden.
However, Sweetser, a moderate Democrat, has crossed party lines in recent years to vote with Republicans on proposals dealing with abortion and diverting more money from the state’s largest permanent fund.
Sweetser is being challenged this year by Republican Jenifer Jones, a registered nurse and Deming resident who has worked as a legislative assistant for Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte.
In all, the political committee plans to spend about $80,000 on mailers, radio ads and other campaign spending.
The spending represents a hefty sum for legislative races, which have gotten more expensive in recent years but are typically lower-profile than statewide races.
The spending infusion comes as Republicans in New Mexico – and other states – have sought to make crime a prominent theme in this year’s election cycle.
While violent crime rates in New Mexico have declined since 2019, they remain far above the national average, according to legislative data.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature this year voted to stiffen penalties for some firearm-related offenses and increase funding for law enforcement recruitment and retention efforts, but some other crime-related proposals stalled at the Roundhouse.
All 70 state House seats are up for election this year. Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by a 45-24 margin in the chamber, which also has one independent member – Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell.
A spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee said Tuesday the group could spend more money in other House districts in the run-up to the Nov. 8 general election.