High school teacher defends NE Heights seat in House - Albuquerque Journal

High school teacher defends NE Heights seat in House

House District 30 candidates Kurstin Johnson, left, and Natalie Figueroa

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Until the 2018 election, an Albuquerque state House seat in the Northeast Heights had been reliably Republican for the previous 20-plus years – with just two years of Democratic control mixed in.

But the seat was one of many in the Albuquerque metro area claimed by Democrats in 2018 amid a blue wave that swept most incumbent GOP lawmakers in the state’s largest city out of office.

Now, Republican Kurstin Johnson is trying to win it back in an election cycle that could be more favorable to Republicans by defeating incumbent Rep. Natalie Figueroa, a high school teacher elected to the seat four years ago.

Johnson, a real estate broker, said she was compelled to run for the House District 30 seat after interacting with homeowners planning to move out of Albuquerque due to violent crime and a visible homeless population. “It’s gotten out of hand if people are willing to move away from here,” she said in an interview.

She also said she was bothered by how the Democratic-controlled House stymied some crime-related bills during this year’s 30-day legislative session without acknowledging the grief of victims’ family members who testified in support of the measures.

Figueroa, for her part, also cited crime as a priority, but said improving the criminal justice system will require more than just stiffer penalties. She said expanded behavioral health treatment, more law enforcement officers and a more efficient court system should all be parts of the solution.

“There is so much more that we have to do about public safety,” said Figueroa, who cited the passage of a bipartisan bill dealing with selling stolen car parts as among the steps lawmakers have already taken.

Figueroa also cited her work to improve broadband connectivity in New Mexico and said she would push for the creation of an independent redistricting commission, if reelected.

The House district is one of the state’s most competitive after being redrawn last year after the release of the decennial census. It was shifted slightly north and now stretches from Comanche NE to San Antonio NE, taking in Arroyo Del Oso golf course.

Both candidates have raised hefty sums in the race, with Johnson having taken in nearly $180,000 in donations and Figueroa having reported about $125,000 in contributions as of last month.

While the race has featured a barrage of hard-hitting campaign mailers, both candidates say they do not have personal issues with their opponent. But they disagree on a range of issues, including abortion and whether legislators should be paid a salary.

Figueroa, who teaches part-time at Volcano Vista High School, said most voters are smart enough to see through misleading mailers. She also said her students are part of her motivation to seek reelection. “Hearing them talk about what they want for the future informs me a lot as a legislator,” Figueroa said.

As for Johnson, whose husband, Wayne Johnson, is a former state auditor and Bernalillo County commissioner, the run for state House is something she felt compelled to do, given her hometown’s trajectory.

“It’s rare to find a welcome mat any more – it’s more common to find cameras and gates,” she said.

Home » 2022 election » High school teacher defends NE Heights seat in House

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.