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Commission race could alter balance of power

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Art De La Cruz describes his district as the home of the “worker bees.”

PAIZ: 'Wouldn't be a blanket vote'

PAIZ: ‘Wouldn’t be a blanket vote’

The South Valley, southwest mesa and other neighborhoods in his County Commission district are full of people who lay carpet, fix stucco and handle similar work, he said.

But it’s also a place with high unemployment, inadequate roads and utilities, and an incredible demand for services, especially for children, De La Cruz said.

The campaign for who will represent the district grew much clearer this week – as actor, comedian and school board member Steven Michael Quezada captured the Democratic nomination in District 2.

He will face Republican Patricia Paiz, a business owner and retired police officer, in the Nov. 8 general election.

The winner will not only represent a critical Bernalillo County district but also be in position to swing the balance of power on the five-member commission.

De La Cruz, a Democrat who could not run for re-election because of term limits, has become a swing vote of sorts on the commission. He joined his two fellow Democrats last year to raise taxes for new behavioral health programs, for example, but sided with Republicans to pass the Santolina Master Plan – a framework for growth on 21 squares miles of the West Mesa.

QUEZADA: 'Going to listen to everything'

QUEZADA: ‘Going to listen to everything’

Quezada or Paiz would be in line to inherit that role. Santolina, in particular, is due back for future approvals that could, if turned down, prevent development there, and the District 2 commissioner might cast the decisive vote.

Quezada said he isn’t necessarily a fan of Santolina but he hasn’t ruled out supporting it as a way to ensure well-planned growth.

Paiz said she doesn’t have enough information yet to say how she’d vote.

Both candidates said they would bring a nonpartisan perspective to the job.

“I just try to be an open and honest human being,” Quezada said. “I’m going to listen to everything.”

Paiz is campaigning under the slogan “Vote for the person, not the party.”

“I would weigh things out individually,” she said. “I wouldn’t just be a blanket vote for either party.”

District 2 voters lean heavily Democratic.

Quezada said that if elected to the County Commission, he won’t run for re-election to the school board. There would be some overlap, though, because commissioners take office in January and the school election is in February.

Quezada narrowly claimed the Democratic nomination this week with about 36 percent of the vote in a three-way race. It was a nasty, tense campaign at times. A late mailer was particularly harsh in its treatment of Quezada, but he says he won’t go negative himself this fall.

“I don’t want to attack anyone who’s willing to put themselves through this process,” Quezada said. “I can’t look down upon somebody who’s willing to do that.”