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Democrats on Attack Ahead of New Mexico Governor Primary

Democrats on Attack Ahead of New Mexico Governor Primary
(Trustieee/Dreamstime)

Tuesday, 05 June 2018 11:17 AM

Candidates pushed toward the finish line Tuesday in wide-open primary races for New Mexico governor and two congressional seats.

The three-way Democratic primary for governor devolved into attacks about private business dealings and trustworthiness in the days before voters headed to the polls. The state's lagging economy, dissatisfaction with public education and concerns about urban crime took center stage in the campaign.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a three-term congresswoman and former state Cabinet secretary, cast herself as the most energetic and seasoned candidate for the state's top job.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, from the southern city of Las Cruces, ran on his legislative record of holding government agencies accountable and his own experience running family businesses and a law practice.

Former media executive Jeff Apodaca, the son of a former governor, set his campaign apart with calls to legalize medical marijuana and divert more state trust funds toward in-state investments.

The winner of the Democratic primary will take on U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the sole Republican candidate for governor. GOP Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run for a third consecutive term.

New Mexico, a largely rural state with the nation's highest concentration of Hispanics, has shifted between Republican and Democratic governors for decades — though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 15 percentage points. Hillary Clinton won the state by 8 percentage points in 2016.

A switch to a Democratic governor in November likely would shut Republicans out of redistricting decisions in 2021 and consolidate Democrats' control for a decade to come.

New Mexico is one of 33 governor's offices nationwide held by Republicans, and 26 of those are up for election this year.

Apodaca and Cervantes have called on Lujan Grisham to drop out because she profited from state contracts until mid-2017 as a partner in a business that runs New Mexico's high-risk insurance pool. It's an insurance plan of last resort for severely ill patients and immigrants who don't qualify for federally subsidized health care.

Lujan Grisham says her involvement in Delta Consulting enabled her to help the sick and vulnerable.

She, in turn, alleged that her primary competitors failed to provide health care coverage to campaign workers or withhold payroll taxes, indicating their workers are contractors.

Neither Pearce nor Lujan Grisham are running for re-election to Congress. Five Democrats were vying for Lujan Grisham's seat in a race rich with ethnic diversity.

Former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland, a tribal member of Laguna Pueblo, is vying to become the first Native American woman in Congress.

She faces former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez, former law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, immigration and family law attorney Damian Lara and business consultant Paul Moya.

Janice Arnold-Jones is the GOP candidate in the general election, and Lloyd Princeton is running as a Libertarian. A Republican hasn't represented the district encompassing the Albuquerque metro area since 2009.

In a vast southern congressional district now represented by Pearce, the Republican contenders are businessman and former state party chairman Monty Newman, state Rep. Yvette Herrell and former U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs official Gavin Clarkson.

The Democratic nomination is being pursued by Madeline Hildebrandt, a history teacher from Socorro, and Xochitl Torres Small, a water-rights attorney and former congressional staffer.

Voters also were choosing Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, state auditor and public land commissioner — a post that controls oil and mineral development on state trust lands.

Democrats also are defending a 38-32 majority in the state House of Representatives.

Incumbent Democratic state Rep. Carl Trujillo of Nambe has been accused of sexual misconduct by a lobbyist for an animal welfare group as they worked on legislation in 2014.

Trujillo has denied the allegations, and four House colleagues and an outside attorney are investigating. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe is challenging Trujillo in the primary, in a district where no Republicans are running.

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Candidates pushed toward the finish line Tuesday in wide-open primary races for New Mexico governor and two congressional seats.
new mexico, democrat, primary, election
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2018-17-05
Tuesday, 05 June 2018 11:17 AM
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