SANTA FE – When incumbent GOP state Rep. Conrad James announced last year that he would not seek re-election to his House seat in 2016, it opened the door for new faces in what’s been one of New Mexico’s top legislative battlegrounds.
Two Albuquerque Republicans – Christina Hall and Ryan Boyle – are vying for their party’s nomination to represent House District 24. The winner will face former state Rep. Elizabeth Thomson, a Democrat, in the general election.
Hall, a chiropractor and former Miss New Mexico, quickly landed the endorsement of James and appears to be the pick of many in the Republican Party establishment.
In campaign spending reports filed last month, she reported receiving a total of $9,850 in contributions from 11 sitting GOP lawmakers or their political committees, including a $2,500 donation from House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro.
“It makes you feel good to have those people behind you and trusting you,” she said in a recent interview when asked about the campaign contributions. “I believe that my beliefs line up very well with those of voters in my district.”
She also expressed confidence in her chances of winning the seat, saying, “I don’t believe many people go into a race believing they’re going to lose.”
Hall said she’s not relying merely on endorsements and has been busy campaigning – both knocking on doors and sending out mailers – in the urban Northeast Heights district.
Boyle, who’s wrapping up his degree at the University of New Mexico and plans to be a teacher, is running as an outsider candidate, claiming in a recent social media posting that, partly because he doesn’t have deep-pocketed backers, his votes would not be “bought and paid for.”
He’s also expressed opposition, via a Journal questionnaire, to at least one piece of legislation backed this year by House Republicans, a bill that would have authorized cities and counties to enact curfews for children under age 16.
Hall, in her questionnaire, said she supports the concept.
Boyle reported taking in $760 in last month’s campaign report filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. That included a contribution from Don Kidd, a former state senator from Carlsbad.
Although this is his first bid for elected office, Boyle does have some political experience, having worked for Republican congressional candidate Mike Frese during the 2014 election cycle. Frese ultimately lost that race to incumbent U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.
Meanwhile, the House District 24 seat is seen as key to determining whether Republicans will keep control of the House in this year’s general election and could be one of the state’s most expensive races – both in terms of candidate and outside spending.
The seat has bounced back and forth between GOP and Democratic hands in each of the past three elections. Much of that back and forth has been between Thomson and James, with James winning the seat in 2010, losing it to Thomson in 2012, and then winning it back by ousting the Democratic incumbent in the 2014 general election with more than 52 percent of the votes cast in the race.
Republicans enter this year’s election cycle with a narrow 37-33 majority in the House, with all 70 seats up for election.