Voters in battleground State House districts around the state appear ready to hand control of the State House back to Democrats after the Republican slate in key districts included record numbers of incumbents and candidates facing or involved in ethical or criminal investigations.
This year’s Republican candidates were recruited and managed by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry whose own criminal history for DWI, Assault and Drugs was bolstered by his serving on criminal probation in 2013 while a sitting legislator.
And faced with challenged candidates, Republican Super PACs launched a flurry of false attack ads, the Santa Fe New Mexican said had a “campaign of falsehoods” and using “demonstrably false” ads to help Republicans.
Democrats presented a new progressive slate of candidates who ran against Republican votes that turned over our public streams to private fishing outfitters, allowed fracking in neighborhoods at the request of the Oil and Gas industry and authorized new corporate tax breaks instead of hiring police to solve rising public safety challenges.
In 2014, Republicans won control of the State House for the first time since the 1960s.
As leaders, they:
- Raised record numbers of corporate and special interest donations
- Sponsored record numbers of bills to protect corporate bottom lines
- Brought in a new cohort of flawed and corrupted candidates
Among the most challenged Republican candidates for State House this cycle:
- Republican Paul Pacheco (R-Corrales, HD23) made news when a complaint to the Attorney General showed that he directed hundreds-of-thousands of public dollars to a construction project designed by his family, outside of his district
- Republican Sarah Maestas Barnes (R-N. Valley, HD15). Barnes’ family companies took in more than $400,000 from state contracts Maestas Barnes failed to disclose “as required by state law” KRQE reported.
- Republican Andy Nuñez (R–Hatch, HD36) is facing active investigations by both the Attorney General and Sec. of State after an investigation by ProgressNowNM found that Nuñez had engaged in ”double-dipping” using campaign funds to pay himself for official travel. He had also paid himself thousands in “cash” from his campaign accounts.
- Republican Terry McMillan (R-Las Cruces, HD37), a doctor, claimed he had never been under investigation until his own emails, obtained by public records request, showed that he disclosed to medical license staff that he had been under investigation and turned over dozens of patient files to investigators in the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud and Elder Abuse Division.
- Republican Rebecca Dow (Candidate, HD38, TorC/Silver City) made news not for being under investigation but for new court filings showing that a sexual predator abused children in her child care center multiple times after she allowed him to be left alone with children on overnight “lock-in” sleepovers. One victim’s family now says she threated her job if she sued because it would interfere with Dow’s political campaign. That case is ongoing in court.
In other districts, candidate’s previous encounters with law enforcement were front and center.
- Republican John Zimmerman (R-Las Cruces, HD39) was recruited by Gov. Martinez in 2014. In 2016, police reports surfaced showing multiple incidents where Zimmerman disrespected police officers and ran a car full of teenagers off the road in a road rage incident.
- Republican Leader Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque, HD30)’s extensive criminal history once again made news in his re-election campaign. Gentry earned the distinction of being the only legislator in recent memory to serve on active criminal probation as a sitting legislator.
By comparison, Democrats ran the most progressive slate of candidates in recent memory.
In HD15, progressive Democrat Ané Romero ran on her record as a mental health policy advocate and earned the endorsement of President Obama.
Running in HD23, Daymon Ely is a public ethics attorney, fighting corruption in public.
In HD24, Democrat Liz Thomson is a former state legislator seeking a new term. She ran on ending money in politics, protecting abortion access for women and rebuilding our broken mental health system.
HD30 voters met teacher Natalie Figueroa whose work as a teacher mentor building strong teachers and student-specific learning programs was in sharp contrast to GOP leader Gentry’s support for more standardized and privatized testing in classrooms.
Las Cruces City Councilor Nathan Small is running in HD36. He ran on his work helping to raise the minimum wage in Las Cruces, recruit new business and responsible environmental policy.
Joanne Ferrary has been a long-term advocate for raising the minimum wage statewide. She is running in HD37 against embattled incumbent Terry McMillan for their third matchup.
Voters in HD38 already knew Mary Hotvedt from her days as Grant County Democratic Party chair.
And in HD39, former State Rep. Rudy Martinez is staging a comeback touting his long-term record supporting renewable energy and labor rights for workers.