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Politics Notebook: Las Cruces-area senator to be challenged

A high-stakes electoral battle is brewing in southern New Mexico, as Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, announced this week that he plans to run next year for the Senate seat held by Lee Cotter, a Las Cruces Republican.

While both candidates still have to win their party’s 2016 nomination, a Steinborn-Cotter contest could be key in determining control of the Senate. Democrats hold a 24-18 advantage in the chamber, but Republicans are hoping to pick up enough seats next year to win a majority.

Based on 2010 redistricting data, voters in Senate District 36 – which stretches from Las Cruces to Hatch – tended to slightly favor Democratic candidates in most recent statewide elections.

Steinborn, who is in his second stint in the House of Representatives, acknowledged the political risk of vacating his House seat but said the Senate seat is “a seat where I think we can do better for Doña Ana County.”

Cotter won election to the Senate in 2012, defeating former Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia, a Democrat. In a statement, Cotter said he would focus on economic development and education issues if re-elected.

— By Dan Boyd,

Polarized on environmental issues

Thirty-seven state lawmakers scored 100 percent on Conservation Voters New Mexico’s legislative scorecard for 2015, released this week.

Twenty House members and 17 from the Senate – all Democrats – made the list, as the environmental group toted up votes on 13 pieces of legislation in the House and 10 in the Senate from this year’s 60-day session.

Eleven Republican lawmakers, nine in the House and two in the Senate, rated a zero from the group for their votes.

That was a record at both ends of the spectrum, marking a legislative session the group said was especially polarized.

It’s the 11th year the conservation organization has released voting records on issues it considers critical, affecting air, land, water and communities.

The scorecard is based on votes both on legislation it opposes and endorses.

With Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in office and a new Republican majority in the House, the group said it had to play defense on a wide range of initiatives and managed – with help – to defeat them.

CVNM Executive Director Demis Foster said those included weakening the Mining Act, curbing local governments’ ability to protect land and water, and altering the requirement that utilities provide some of their energy from renewable sources.

The group also pushed unsuccessfully for legislation creating a fund to set up a health baseline in uranium-affected communities.

Find the full rankings online at

— By Deborah Baker,