Candidates file in New Mexico legislative races
SANTA FE — Legislative candidates lined up to run for election Tuesday in a one-day registration spree for every seat in New Mexico's Republican-controlled House and Democratic-dominated Senate.
Incumbent and aspiring lawmakers filed petitions to participate in party primaries on June 7. The November general election will decide all 112 seats in the Legislature. Tuesday is the only day candidates can file their paperwork to register.
New Mexico is one of eight state legislatures with chambers divided along party lines. A handful of contested seats — as few as three in the House — could tip the Legislature's balance of power.
Republicans won control of the House in Santa Fe in 2014, ending 60 years of Democratic majorities at the same time that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez won re-election.
The House has 70 members, with 37 Republicans and 33 Democrats. The Senate has 42 members, with 24 Democrats and 18 Republicans.
House Republicans have highlighted public safety initiatives in response to a series of high-profile violent crimes, while Democrats are calling attention New Mexico's lagging economy and laying the blame on the Republican governor and legislative allies.
Among tightly contested Senate districts, four Democrats and a Republican are seeking the seat held until last year by Democrat Phil Griego, who resigned amid a real estate scandal. He has been charged with fraud for his role in the sale of a state-owned building.
Martinez appointed to the vacancy Republican Sen. Ted Barela, a former mayor of Estancia who will run for re-election in a district spanning mainly rural communities in six counties.
The Democratic contenders are Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, who held the seat for a term starting in 1993 before being unseated by Griego in a 1996 primary, along with rancher Mike Anaya of Lamy, Ambrose Castellano of Serafina and Hugh Ley of Terrero.
Former Navajo Nation President Bennie Shelly filed to run as a Democrat for the sprawling western House district that was represented for more than a decade by Rep. Ken Martinez. The former Democratic House speaker is retiring.
Shelly will run in the primary against three other Democrats: Lloyd Felipe of Acoma Pueblo, Harry Garcia of Grants, and Terry Fletcher of Grants.
Closely fought Senate races are expected in two Dona Ana County legislative districts where Sens. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, and Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, are running for re-election. Republican Cecilia Levatino filed to challenge Soules. Two Democrats are seeking to challenge Cotter: Rep. Jeff Steinborn, who is resigning from the House to run, and Oscar Vasquez Butler, a former Dona Ana County commissioner.
At least seven House members are departing.
Democrat Elizabeth Thomson will try and recapture the urban east Albuquerque district she lost in 2014 to Rep. Conrad James, who is leaving the House. She'll face Carolyne de Vore-Parks in the Democratic primary. Two Republicans, Christina Hall and Ryan Boyle, also are seeking James' seat.
Registering to run for Steinborn's House seat in Las Cruces were Republican Joseph Bishop and Democrats Ray Jaramillo and Angelica Rubio.
Candidates also were registering Tuesday to run for two of the five seats on the Public Regulation Commission, a powerful panel that oversees utilities and communications and transportation services.