Political eyes are on New Mexico. Our state is considered a political swing state where the two major parties have similar levels of support among voters. One reason for this is because our growing Hispanic population does not align itself with one political party. This leaves voters in the state open to national solicitations which can swing the vote, as they say.
Hispanic voters in New Mexico supporting both political parties has historical precedence. Democrat Bill Richardson, served two terms as governor, followed by stalwart Republican Susana Martinez. But because of the special significance of this year's general election, Weekly Alibi is clearly and affirmatively supporting Democratic candidates across the board in an effort to repudiate the dangerous policies proclaimed at all levels of the GOP.
With a media-sucking presidential race keeping citizens in suspense, it is easy to forget the importance of down-ballot races. These state and local races elect people who have real impact on our day-to day-lives. And national politicos and pollsters watch these races closely for indications that the party balance nationwide is shifting or could be tipped one way or another.
In our state, this office is third in line to succession after the governor and the lt. governor. The secretary of state calls the House of Representatives to order and rules over it until the body elects a speaker. The many other roles the SoS performs include overseeing the state’s elections, functioning as the state’s ethics regulator by monitoring lobbyists and campaign finance reporting, maintaining records vital to commerce and industry and documenting the records of all bills passed by the State Legislature.
Weekly Alibi endorses Democrat Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver for the position of New Mexico Secretary of State. Toulouse Oliver is facing Republican challenger State Representative Nora Espinoza, but Toulouse Oliver has 10 years of experience as Bernalillo County Clerk. Over those 10 years she has overseen changes that made our elections more efficient, including the creation of voting convenience centers that allow voters to go to a variety of voting sites across the county to cast their votes.
The winner of this race will serve out the remaining two years left in the term of former SoS Dianna Duran, who resigned after pleading guilty to embezzlement charges related to her gambling addiction.
The State Senate has all of its 42 seats up for grabs. There are 18 unopposed Democrat State Senate candidates and 9 Republican uncontested races. Fifteen races feature two major party opponents going head to head.
Currently Democrats hold a six seat majority in the N.M. Senate, which they are expected to keep. In some of the key area State Senate races Weekly Alibi endorsements go to the following Democrats: John Sapien, District 9; David J. Simon, District 10; William O'Neill, District 13; Daniel Ivey-Soto, District 15; Bill G. Tallman, District 18; Harold W. Murphree, District 19; Gregory B. Frazier, District 21; Joy. I. Garratt, District 23; Michael Sanchez, District 29 and Liz Stefanics, District 39.
Over in the House of Representatives, all 70 seats are up for election. Democrats in 26 races are unopposed and 16 Republicans will get a free ride as well. Republicans have had a majority in the House since 2014. Prior to that, Democrats controlled the house for 60 years. Democrats will need to garner three seats to gain control during this election.
Because of that possibility, candidates in key races have been identified by national political party campaign groups as targets for funding. Here are Weekly Alibi's Democratic picks for House of Representatives in Albuquerque and the surrounding area: G. Andres Romero, District 10; Ane C. Romero, District 15; Antonio Maestas, District 16; Giovanni A. Haqani, District 20; John Wallace, District 22; Daymon B. Ely, District 23; Elizabeth L. Thomson, District 24; Ronald. E. Krise, District 27; Ronnie Martinez, District 29; Natalie Figueroa, District 30; Robert L. Scott, District 31; Matthew McQueen, District 50 and Harry Garcia, District 69.
According to Ballotpedia, one national Republican campaign group planned on spending $40 million to influence the outcome of our legislative races, so these contests are particularly important to voters who want to keep our state true blue.
In the local courts, several judges are up for retention or election. In Bernalillo County’s Second Judicial District Court race, Democrat Cindy Leos is our pick over the appointed Republican, former prosecutor David Williams.
In the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, Democrat Christine Rodriguez has this newspaper's endorsement over appointed incumbent and former cop and prosecutor Republican Chris Schultz.
The New Mexico State Supreme Court consists of five justices. Those who have been appointed must run in a partisan election to keep the seat. Those already seated on the high court must run every eight years for retention; judges must garner at least 57% of the vote to be retained. Currently there are four Democrats and one appointed Republican. There are two seats up for votes on this ballot. Incumbent Republican Judith Nakamura was appointed by Republican Governor Susana Martinez in 2015. But Democrat challenger Michael Vigil is Weekly Alibi’s pick to sit on the high bench. Justice Barbara J. Vigil is up for her retention election and should be retained. For the New Mexico Court of Appeals, Weekly Alibi picks Democrat Julia Vargas over Republican-appointed Incumbent Stephen French. Three appeals judges—Jonathan Sutin, M. Monica Zamora and Timothy Garcia—should be retained.
Bernalillo County Commission is made up of five members limited to two four year terms. It is currently made up of three Democrats and two Republicans.
There is one contested race up for election to fill the shoes of outgoing Commissioner Art de la Cruz. District two takes in much of the West Mesa. It is the location of the newly approved Santolina megadevelopment as well. Weekly Alibi endorses Burqueño, Albuquerque Public Schools board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada, who grew up in the district he is running to represent. In district three, commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, a Democrat, is running unopposed.
Finally, Bernalillo County Clerk candidate Linda Stover (D) is clearly the best choice for this important position, while Nancy Marie Bearce (D) is our pick for Bernalillo County Treasurer.