Voters ousted Public Regulation Commissioner Karen Montoya, Bernalillo County Treasurer Manny Ortiz and Democratic state Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena in Tuesday’s primary election, while eight other incumbent state legislators fended off their challengers.
Raúl Torrez, a former prosecutor, won the Democratic nomination for district attorney in Bernalillo County over Edmund Perea, a lawyer and former police officer, with a campaign that boasted high-octane contributions.
Montoya, who was seeking a second term on the utility regulatory panel, lost the Democratic nomination for Albuquerque’s District 1 to Cynthia Hall, a former PRC lawyer, according to a projection by Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff.
Hall had the backing of conservationists who claimed Montoya was too cozy with utility giant Public Service Company of New Mexico. Montoya countered that Hall’s policies would drive up utility bills.
In the wings in the PRC race is former Democratic state Rep. Bob Perls of Corrales, who plans to file as an independent.
Hall told the Journal that she stressed to voters the utility panel’s quasi-judicial role and the need to steer clear of politics and focus on issues such as implementing in a meaningful way the state’s renewable energy law.
In New Mexico’s largest county, voters threw out the incumbent treasurer, Ortiz, and opted for a newcomer to Bernalillo County government, Nancy Bearce, a La Mesa neighborhood leader with a background in state government.
Bearce, a Democrat, will face Republican Kim Hillard this fall.
Ortiz’s defeat comes after he faced intense criticism over the county’s investment strategy and the County Commission unanimously adopted a vote of “no confidence” in his work. Two other Democrats with ties to the office, former Treasurer Patrick Padilla and Christopher Sanchez, the office’s accounting manager, also sought the nomination.
Democrats “voted in large numbers for a total outsider,” said Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. “It demonstrated that the voters were paying attention to some of the controversy that had occurred within the office and chose to make a major statement and demand change.”
Other Bernalillo County races
• “Breaking Bad” actor Steven Michael Quezada won an incredibly close race for the Democratic nomination in a key County Commission district, according to unofficial election returns. He took about 36 percent of the vote in a three-way campaign.
“I was honored to be in this,” he said late Tuesday. “I’m very blessed to have pulled this off, if tomorrow that’s the way it ends up.”
Adrián Pedroza and Robert G. Chavez trailed Quezada by just a few percentage points.
The race has been dominated by debate over the massive Santolina development plan on the West Side.
A political action committee backed by the Santolina development team campaigned against Pedroza, and in favor of Chavez and Quezada.
But Quezada said Tuesday that he hasn’t made up his mind on the proposal.
“We’ll have to figure it out,” he said. “I’m willing to listen to both sides.”
Incumbent Art De La Cruz, a Democrat, cannot run this year because of term limits.
Quezada will face Republican Patricia Paiz this fall in the heavily Democratic district.
• In the district attorney’s race, Torrez had an enormous financial advantage. He raised about $354,000 in contributions on his own, and he had the backing of a political action committee funded by a $107,000 donation from George Soros, the Democratic billionaire.
Perea reported about $92,000 in contributions.
Torrez “ran a strong race, he had lots of endorsements of political bigwigs, and he had a tremendous campaign fundraising advantage,” Sanderoff said.
He will face Republican Simon Kubiak, a DWI lawyer and criminal defense attorney, in the general election.
Incumbent Kari Brandenburg, who has held the office for 16 years, decided against running this year.
• For county clerk, Linda Stover, former director of the New Mexico Rural Rehabilitation Corp., defeated fellow Democrat Roman Montoya, the deputy county clerk. She will face Republican Maryellen Ortega-Saenz.
3rd Congressional District
Voters in northern New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District chose retired police officer Michael Romero of Taos as the Republican nominee to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján in the general election.
Romero easily defeated Michael Lucero of Jemez Springs, a Los Alamos National Laboratory worker and rancher.
• Lechuga-Tena, who was appointed to the House last year by the Bernalillo County Commission, was defeated by Debra Sariñana in a three-way contest in House District 21 that also featured Amanda KinKaid. Sariñana will have no GOP opponent in November.
• Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, beat Democratic opponent Jodilynn Ortiz in Senate District 9 and faces Republican Diego Espinoza in the general election.
In the following races, there’s no Republican opponent in November:
• Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, defeated former state official Chris Berkheimer in House District 25.
• Rep. Nick Salazar, D-Ohkay Owingeh, the state’s longest-serving legislator, with 44 years in the House, defeated Rio Arriba County Commissioner Barney Trujillo in House District 40.
• Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, defeated Felisha Adams and Jordon Johnson in Senate District 4.
• Rep. Doreen Wonda Johnson, D-Gallup, beat Kevin Mitchell in House District 5.
• Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, a 20-year House veteran appointed to a Senate vacancy in 2014, defeated former Sen. Shannon Robinson in Senate District 17.
• Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, beat former state Rep. Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint in Senate District 22.
• In the Las Cruces area, Democratic freshman Rep. Bealquin “Bill” Gomez defeated Paul Maxwell and Raymundo Lara in House District 34.