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Some NM House incumbents fail to secure nominations

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Marissa Higdon
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New Mexico voters elected nominees for each of the 70 state House districts in Tuesday’s primary. Andy Lyman, reporter with New Mexico Political Report, spoke with KUNM about what happened in a few of the notable races he had his eye on, including some where incumbents lost their seats.

ANDY LYMAN: One is district 38, which is sort of in the Truth or Consequences/Socorro area. It's actually Rep. Rebecca Dow's old seats. Of course, she ran for governor unsuccessfully. That one was sort of interesting to watch because it was sort of "all in." There was two Democrats, two Republicans. Of course, now there's one of each. The other interesting one was district 44. It's in the Corrales/Rio Rancho area. That's Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert. She sort of had some major concerns and vocalized those concerns during the last redistricting session over getting a redrawn district. I don't know if it's surprising to folks, or to her, but she won, and I think pretty handily. So, she's safe now in her new district.

KUNM: We did see a majority of incumbents win their primaries, but there were a few that lost the opportunity to defend their seats in November. Were there any races that surprised you?

LYMAN: A couple in particular: districts 40 and 51. Forty is up north. That was Roger Montoya, who was the incumbent against Joseph Sanchez, who was actually the former incumbent. So, it's basically just going back to Joseph Sanchez. But that one in particular got really contentious and sometimes a little bit ugly. There was some independent political committees that were going after Montoya, bringing up his past. He did some work in adult films when he was, I think, 18 or 19. You know, he's an openly gay man, open about his HIV status. And he was also working really hard to help his constituents through the fire, the folks that were really badly affected by that. But of course, Joseph Sanchez was sort of positioning himself as the anti-progressive. I mean, he's still a Democrat, but he was saying that the legislature has gone too far left. In one sense, it's not all that surprising, because it is the nature of those districts up there. You know, a little bit more moderate/conservative Democrats, but I was a little bit surprised after all that work that he did.

District 51, down in Otero County, was also surprising. The incumbent there, Rachel Black, lost to John Block, who is a conservative blogger, I guess you could say, and he's definitely positioning himself as a Trump conservative. But I was a little bit surprised because you don't always see contested primaries in districts like that.

KUNM: What we're talking about right now are unofficial results at this point. A few of the races were quite close. Should we expect any recounts?

LYMAN: District 51, that I was just talking about, in Otero County. It's a two-percentage-point difference there. But I don't think it's close enough, based on statute, for an automatic recount. Of course, Representative Rachel Black could always initiate one herself. The other one that's about the same difference in percentage points is district 70. And that is Rep. Ambrose Castellano. Again, I don't think it's close enough to warrant an automatic recount. But any of the candidates could always request a recount.

KUNM: Now, we know that the major party that's not in the White House can often make gains in the midterms. Democrats dominate both chambers in the New Mexico legislature. Does it look like the November House elections could shift that at all?

LYMAN: It's hard to say exactly, without a crystal ball, what November will bring us with that general election and who wins that. But I did see some moderate Democrats winning over more progressively-backed or progressive Democrats. So, we could see some shift in voting in that sense. But we also saw the opposite happen. Like, I mentioned Joseph Sanchez. He did vote against what became the law that essentially legalizes abortion in New Mexico if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. And then we've got Art De La Cruz, also in Albuquerque, who is a supporter of the Santolina development outside of Albuquerque in Bernalillo County. So, you've got folks there that maybe aren't going to vote with Republicans all the time, but they'll probably vote against their party on certain issues. So, it just really depends on I think the individual votes, but then of course the big answer will be in November when we see the actual makeup of those winners.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays, 5-7 p.m.). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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