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New minor party pushes for 'fusion voting' in New Mexico

Morgan Lee
Associated Press
Democratic Senators Clemente Sanchez of Grants, left, and John Arthur Smith, of Deming, listen to a tribute from colleagues during a special session Saturday, June 20, 2020. The session may be their last after losing in the June 2 primary to more progressive contenders. The New Mexico Legislature met in a special session to address a gaping budget hole linked to the coronavirus and economic upheaval.

SANTA FE - A political group that helped a slate of progressive-minded legislative candidates prevail in New Mexico's Democratic primary has registered as a political party.

The New Mexico Working Families Party on Thursday announced its certification by state election regulators as a minor political party, taking its place alongside the Green, Constitution and Better for America parties.

Party leaders said they hope to establish so-called fusion voting in which more than one political party can support a common candidate on the general election ballot.

They also want minor party members to be able to vote in major party primaries. The state operates a closed primary election system in which only registered major party members can vote.

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Working Families Party state director Eric Griego said in a statement that the organization is dedicated to challenging candidates who are out of step with core progressive issues or beholden to corporate special interests.

The group helped upstart candidates defeat powerful incumbent Democrats in key leadership and committee posts including Sens. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, John Arthur Smith of Deming and Clemente Sanchez of Grants.

Democratic State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, of Doña Ana County, speaks during a meeting of the state Senate Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Santa Fe, N.M.  State legislators convened for a special session to redo the budget following the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Working Families Party-backed successful Democratic primary challengers for Senate that including Leo Jaramillo of Espanola, Siah Hemphill Correa of Silver City, Pam Cordova of Belen, Neomi Martinez-Parra of Lordsburg and Carrie Hamblen of Las Cruces.

Founded in 1998 in New York, the organization has branches and chapters in 15 states mostly in the eastern U.S.

Campaign finance disclosures show the local affiliate has spent more than $300,000 in the 2020 election cycle.

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New Mexico has three major parties that appear on primary ballots — though Libertarian Party members do not hold any state elected office.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson's strong local showing as a presidential candidate in 2016 helped the Libertarian Party qualify as a major party.