Happy post-election day, New Mexico. We’re here with the highlights (and lowlights) of select races in Albuquerque and Las Cruces. From city council and mayor races to school boards, here’s what you need to know today!
School Board and the Fight for Freedom
You might have noticed a lot more public discourse about school board elections this year and there’s a good reason for that. Starting in 2020, extremist groups like Moms for Liberty set their sights on school board elections and unfortunately won. We’ve seen first hand the damage that can be done to students, teachers and families when those elected have politics as their primary motivator, rather than education. Around the country, policies like Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill to many other states banning multicultural curriculum and books in public schools, New Mexico has not been immune to Moms for Liberty and others’ hateful attempts to harm public education. In multiple communities across New Mexico we’ve seen failed, far right attempts to ban books and attacks on librarians and teachers who don’t support their extremist views. And we’ve seen Moms for Liberty endorsing candidates. So how did the students, parents, and educators fare in two of the largest school districts in the state?
Las Cruces School Board
Las Cruces wasn’t immune to the national trends we’ve been seeing this year. The latest of which was an effort by MAGA Republicans and Moms For Liberty activists to ban a queer novel in Las Cruces schools earlier this fall. Many of the conservative candidates vying for elected seats in Las Cruces joined in on the effort to ban literature and we’re happy to announce their failure at the polls.
Las Cruces Public Schools saw a major win by electing into office all three school board candidates that were endorsed by community organizations and the National Education Association. Patrick Nolan, District 1, held his seat after being appointed in April 2023, Teresa Tenorio, District 4, won another term after defeating a candidate that was strongly supported by the MAGA Republican group Coalition for Conservatives in Action, and Ed Frank, District 5, defeated the lone conservative on the school board by only 28 votes and we may end up with a recount. Las Crucens can rest assured that their public school curriculum, reading materials, and inclusion of queer and trans kids will remain protected for now.
Albuquerque School Board
Janelle Astorga won APS District 1 against Robert Trujillo, after what turned into a fairly public race. Shortly after entering the race as a candidate, information about an extremely violent encounter in Robert Trujillo’s past was brought to light. While Trujillo addressed the incident on his campaign website, transparency and remorse over the incident just wasn’t there. A lot of misinformation was presented about Astorga, and we for one are glad that Albuquerque voters were able to sift through that and get to the truth.
The election of Ronalda Tome-Warito to District 2 should be the most celebrated win for this school board cycle, as Tome-Warito is the first Native American to be elected to APS school board. In APS’s 132 years, never having had a Native American serving on the school board is unacceptable. We are thrilled that Tome-Warito will bring much needed representation to the largest school district in our state. Not only that but Tome-Warito defeated Moms for Liberty and NRA long-time incumbent, Peggy Muller Aragon.
Likewise, Heather Benavidez also defeated a Moms for Liberty candidate for APS District 4. With the three progressive candidates winning their seats, the district now has one progressive vote over conservative school board members. Congratulations to students, parents, and educators for ensuring that the Albuquerque Public Schools will still center students and educators in their policy decision.
Las Cruces Mayoral and City Council
Las Cruces saw wins and losses for progressive candidates. Kasandra Gandara, District 1 City Councilor for the last eight years lost after five rounds of tallying to former Las Cruces Fire Chief Eric Enriquez. Mayor-elect Enriquez edged out Gandara despite never even having voted in a city election and spending half of his campaign budget on services from out of state companies. Accountability for Las Cruces’ new mayor will be more important than ever considering his half-hearted approach to campaigning. Incumbent Tessa Abeyta, District 2, lost her seat by only 54 votes to Bill Mattiace, upsetting the once all progressive City Council. On a brighter note, incumbent City Councilor Johana Bencomo was easily re-elected to serve a second term as District 4 councilor and local writer, Cassie McClure, was elected to her first term to serve as councilor for District 1. Overall, the Las Cruces City Council still has more progressives than conservatives and while we are disappointed that it’s not a full progressive slate, we’re confident that progressive policies that center communities will still pass.
Albuquerque City Council
Of the four Albuquerque City Council seats on the ballot this election, three of them were seats vacated by longtime city council members. Albuquerque has not yet adopted rank choice voting, which in short means we have to return to the ballot box for District 6 which will now be determined in run off elections in December.
Keep checking back to our progressive voter guide in the coming weeks for 2023 runoff election updates.
In a three-way race for a vacated seat, we’re as surprised as the next person that we have a winner for Albuquerque City Council District 2. Joaquin Baca secured the seat for this district and was endorsed by five progressive partners and multiple elected officials in New Mexico.
After strong competition from Abby Foster, Brook Bassan, unfortunately retained her seat for District 4. While the council still leans more progressive, we can expect the same flip flopping and disinformation that we’ve seen up to this point from Bassan.
Albuquerque voters for District 6 will have another chance at selecting their councilor in a runoff election between Nicole Rogers and Jeff Hoehn. ProgressNow New Mexico recommended Rogers, as did seven other progressive organizations and a multitude of elected officials, and voters showed they did too. In a four way race, Rogers secured 40% of the vote. The tight race between Rogers, who is publicly financed and supported by community partners, and Hoehn, who is privately financed by special interest groups such as National Association of Realtors and the New Mexico Restaurant Association (which doesn’t feel very progressive to us), will now face a final showdown between the two sometime in December. And finally, pro-cop candidate Daniel Champine held the seat for conservatives on the council by winning District 8.
After a rather grueling municipal election season, we can say that there were some amazing wins, and some losses that hurt but that we know we can recover from. The good news is that both Las Cruces and Albuquerque School Boards and City Councils lean progressive so there’s still hope for good policies to pass that center our communities.