Dems compete in important ABQ House races
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE — Four Democratic primaries in Albuquerque are set to help shape the composition of the House of Representatives as moderates and progressives compete for influence within the party and the legislature.
None of the four seats in the House of Representatives have an elected incumbent seeking re-election, and three of the four seats are heavily Democratic-leaning, making the primary election all the more meaningful.
Races are scattered across the city with venues on the West Side, South Valley and International District.
The contests are playing out as Democrats are set to elect a new leadership after House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe resigns at the end of the year.
Two of the potential candidates who could replace him as Speaker of the House — House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, a progressive from Albuquerque, and Representative Patricia Lundstrom, a moderate from Gallup — have been active in some legislative races and distributing campaign funds.
But candidates in Albuquerque’s districts say they are seeking the election on their own terms, responding to issues that resonate with voters.
Democratic House candidate Cynthia Borrego, a former Albuquerque city councilwoman and business owner, said she was struck by the number of dogs she sees knocking on doors — a sign of voters’ concerns about crime in the city.
“I have liberals who support me, conservatives who support me and moderates who support me,” she said, “and I’m really proud of that.”
Borrego competes with Darrell Deaguero, president of a construction workers’ union, for representation in House District 17, which includes the neighborhoods around Coors and the Paseo del Norte NW.
Deaguero said concern for children — their safety and future — is a priority issue he hears from voters. He said he’s letting his issues and accomplishments speak for themselves, rather than labeling his campaign a moderate or progressive label.
“When you’re on a construction site, nobody asks if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, much less if you’re progressive or moderate,” he said in a written statement to the Journal. “People just want to know if you’re going to stick around and deliver for them and that’s why I’m running.”
District 17 is now held by Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong, but she is not seeking re-election and the boundaries have shifted significantly.
Borrego has received financial backing from Chevron and other oil and gas companies, as well as Lundstrom, Chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. Deaguero, on the other hand, has the support of many unions and Martínez, the House Majority Leader.
In a questionnaire for the magazine, Borrego said she supports changing New Mexico’s laws to make it easier to keep people accused of certain violent crimes behind bars pending trial. Deaguero said decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, with a “strict threshold for incarceration” based on a number of factors.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face either Ellis McMath or Joshua Taylor Neal fighting for the Republican nomination.
District 17 has been held by a Democrat since at least 1983, although the newly drawn boundaries suggest it could be a swing district this fall. Democrats had a 1.4 percentage point advantage over Republicans in the new county lines, according to an analysis of last decade’s elections by Research & Polling Inc., the state’s county redistricting contractor.
In a nearby county in southwest Albuquerque, Democratic voters are weighing in another contentious primary.
Former Rep. Eleanor Chavez, executive director of a hospital workers’ union, competes with Cherise Quezada, president of the Route 66 West Neighborhood Association and wife of Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada.
Chavez has received financial support from the Conservation Voters New Mexico Action Fund, labor unions, and a number of progressive Democrats.
She would bring extensive experience to the seat, she said, having previously served in the House of Representatives from 2009 to 2012. She describes herself as progressive.
“I’ve always been involved in the community,” Chavez said. “I feel like I have my finger on the heartbeat of the community.”
Quezada, on the other hand, has received donations from Lundstrom and other pro-business Democrats. She said she too has a lot of experience, having served as a staffer for the City Council and State House.
It describes itself as “business-friendly” and, depending on the topic, both progressive and moderate.
“I think there has to be a balance — I’d like to bring that to the table,” Quezada said. “Every decision you make has unintended consequences.”
Martínez, the House Majority Leader, has donated to both candidates.
House District 26 includes neighborhoods near Unser and Interstate 40. It is currently represented by Democrat Georgene Louis, who is not seeking re-election after being arrested for drunk driving.
The district is heavily Democratic and the primary election winner will face Republican Patrick Sais.
Another key feature race is taking place at House District 12 in the South Valley, where Art De La Cruz is running to retain the seat after being appointed to fill the unexpired term of Brittney Barreras, who resigned earlier this year .
De La Cruz, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, is campaigning for the Democratic nomination alongside challengers Melissa Armijo, Executive Administrator of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, and Nicole Olonovich, CEO of an energy company.
The leading fundraisers in the running are De La Cruz – whose donors include Martinez, a teachers’ union and a number of local businesses – and Armijo, whose supporters include Conservation Voters and a number of Democratic lawmakers.
No Republican or Libertarian candidate ran for the seat.
In House District 19, which is based in the International District, two Democrats are seeking the nomination to replace Rep. Kay Bounkeua, who is not seeking re-election.
Janelle Anyanonu, an office manager and member of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee, is up against Colton Dean, a paramedic and sterilization technician.
Anyanonu has a significant fundraising lead with about $19,600 in her campaign account, including donations from conservation voters and at least four Democratic lawmakers. Dean has about $2,200 in his account.
The winner will face Republican Kathleen Jackson in the fall. It is one of the most Democratic home districts in the state, according to an analysis by Research & Polling Inc.
In all, Albuquerque voters are weighing in for eight hard-fought House primary elections. All 70 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election this year.