One of New Mexico’s most intense legislative races is playing out in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque, where negative attacks are filling mailboxes as voters weigh whether to return Democratic Rep. Marian Matthews to the Roundhouse.
She faces Robert Godshall, a Department of Homeland Security retiree, in a rematch from 2020, when she defeated him by 2 percentage points.
The district – redrawn after the census – is one of the most evenly divided in the state, with a slight Republican lean, according to an analysis of voting trends by Research & Polling Inc., the state’s redistricting contractor.
Matthews and Godshall each describe themselves as well-suited to represent a district where crime and economic growth are critical issues for voters.
Matthews, a retired lawyer who has started and owned businesses, worked as a prosecutor for the state Attorney General’s Office and taught entrepreneurship at Central New Mexico Community College.
She describes herself as a moderate Democrat who isn’t afraid to challenge members of her own party. In this year’s 30-day legislative session, for example, she carried legislation that sought to make it easier to keep certain defendants accused of a crime behind bars while they await trial – a bill defeated, at least in part, due to opposition from Democratic legislators.
“My political party doesn’t send me to Santa Fe,” Matthews said. “My constituents send me to Santa Fe.”
She said she hopes to carry revised anti-crime legislation in next year’s session.
Godshall, who owns part of a small brewery, retired from a career in federal law enforcement, including work for the Border Patrol and as a special agent dealing with immigration.
Crime, a burdensome tax system and over-dependence on government benefits, he said, have created a “very sad state of affairs” in New Mexico.
“It seems to be building to a crescendo – the number of people who are thinking about leaving this state or are going to leave this state” unless there’s a change in political leadership, Godshall said.
He said he would bring first-hand experience to the debate over policing and crime.
“If you’re engaged in enforcing laws, you’re going to have to use force,” he said. “It’s a fact of life.”
Each candidate has faced negative mailers. Godshall said he has been targeted by ads that distort his position on abortion.
For the record, he said, he supports abortion restrictions at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy and isn’t convinced there should be exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
“I’m against killing babies,” Godshall said. “How can I punish the fetus for something it’s not responsible for?”
But he said he was open to an exception in cases where a mother’s life is at risk.
Matthews, in turn, said mailers have misstated how she voted on some bills, among other inaccuracies.
In one case, she said, “they had me voting for a bill that was passed almost a year before I was a legislator.” The bill dealt with occupational licenses for sex offenders, and it was voted on before she became a legislator.
House District 27 covers a chunk of the far Northeast Heights, including parts of the Tanoan Country Club and Academy Hills area.
Matthews has represented the area since 2020.
She has had a substantial financial edge over Godshall during the campaign.
Her campaign reported a $109,000 cash balance in a report filed Oct. 11, while Godshall had $29,000.
Democrats held a 45-24-1 edge in the House in this year. Republicans last held a majority in the House during the 2015-16 sessions.