Wednesday, June 08, 2016

NM Primary '16: Hillary Hangs On, R's Unite Behind Trump, It Breaks Good For Quezada, Hall Ousts PRC's Montoya, Plus: Statewide Legislative Primary Action  

A late turnout surge closed the gap for Bernie Sanders but Hillary hung on and claimed a New Mexico victory in a presidential primary race that pointed out her weaknesses as much as her strengths.

Statewide results here. Bernalillo County results here.

At 2 a.m. Clinton was leading Sanders 51.54% to 48.46%. In the raw vote Clinton was getting 110,404 to Sanders' 103,790. It was a decent win for Clinton but it was accompanied by a narrow loss to Sanders in Bernalillo County, the state's largest, revealing the work that is ahead for her to bring the party together. Sanders claimed the county 51 to 49. If he had done a couple of points better he may have carried the state.

The narrowness of her victory perhaps sets the table for Hillary to give the state some love. She decided not to personally visit here, instead dispatching former President Clinton for visits that appeared to help her in Dona Ana and Rio Arriba Counties but not so much in big BernCo where voters were treated to visits by both Sanders and Republican Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, he was getting about 71 percent of the vote in a contest that was closed out five weeks ago when he secured enough delegates to win the GOP nomination. Still, Republican pollster Bruce Donisthorpe told our KANW 89.1 FM audience that the results showed Trump was having success uniting the GOP here.

None of the national pundits has heavily Hispanic New Mexico as a "swing state" and Clinton could see most of the Sanders support flow to her soon after the national nominating convention. Still, there are cracks to be filled, and with the unpredictable Trump candidacy looming, she'll want to get the caulk out--just in case.


It appeared early Wednesday that we were headed for a total turnout of over 33 percent of the  963,000 Democrats and Republicans eligible to vote. Independents can't vote in the primary. That turnout appeared to be the largest for a state primary since 1994 when 47% of those eligible cast ballots. For a change, the turnout surpassed most of the expert predictions and was a pleasure to see.


The banner race in Bernallio County was the three way contest for the Democratic nomination for the South Valley county commission seat, and it did not disappoint.

The race was nip and tuck all night long until Steven Michael Quezada, the celebrity actor of "Breaking Bad" fame and an elected member of the ABQ School Board, put it away. He scored a 36% to 33% win over progressive Adrián Pedroza with Robert Chavez finishing third.

Dem analyst Sisto Abeyta told our radio audience Quezada benefited from Pedroza centering his campaign almost solely on the controversial Santolina development for the Westside. He said:

 Pedroza started the evening off strong leading the Southeast Areas of the District, but Quezada held his own in the communities of Pajarito, Los Padillas, Five Points, and Armijo. He then took the lead on the West Mesa areas of the South Valley. Quezada and Pedroza were attacked in the final hours of his campaign with mudslinging. Quezada overcame the negative campaign tactics because of his deep roots in the community. 

Pedroza vehemently opposed Santolina but a PAC backed by the developers weighed in for Quezada who said he was keeping an open mind on the project whose master plan has been approved by the commission. However,  other aspects of the development will still come before the commission. Or maybe not. With the metro area population stagnating major developments like Santolina don't seem imminent.

There is a Republican hopeful for the heavily Dem commission seat but the race was effectively settled last night.


This one was over before it started. Raúl Torrez raised an unprecedented amount of cash for a BernCo district attorney's race--nearly $500,000 when you throw in the $107,000 independent super PAC money from billionaire George Soros. Ed Perea didn't stand a chance against that money wave. He succumbed to Torrez 67 to 33. Torrez will be heavily favored to defeat Republican nominee Simon Kubiak in November.

Former Attorney General Partricia Madrid Tuesday night was touting Torrez as a rising star in the Dem Party, but Dem consultant Mark Fleischer says the allegations that Torrez, while serving as an assistant US attorney, altered a transcript involving a drug bust could haunt him in the future.

Our radio panel was obsessed with the Soros $107,000 super PAC money on behalf of Torrez, with Madrid defending saying it simply means the Dems are catching up with the R's and their Koch brothers money, but former ABQ Dem  City Councilor Pete Dinelli condemned it, saying big money could now marginalize local, down ballot candidates who don't curry favor with the billionaire class.

And how about that slim win by Marco Serna in a three way battle for district attorney in Santa Fe and environs. Serna, the son of legendary NM politico Eric Serna, labored in the shadow of his father and the controversy that brought. But the 33 year old broke free with an impressive win over two determined foes. He is on his way to victory over his GOP foe in November in the heavily Dem area.


Cynthia Hall
Our upset special was Cynthia Hall defeating incumbent Public Regulation Commissioner Karen Montoya for the Dem nomination for the ABQ area PRC seat. That happened and then some.

Hall cranked out a near landlisde, beating Montoya 57 to 43. Hall had plenty of help from environmental groups that pumped money into her race. No R is running. Independent Bob Perls might, but Hall better start studying up on that PNM rate case because it's headed for her lap.


Well, it was hers--but not for long. We speak of appointed ABQ Dem State Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena. She was favored to take her Dem primary but teacher Debbie Sariñana gathered educators and burned up the shoe leather to oust Lechuga-Tena who was appointed to the House seat last year by the BernCo Commission to fill a vacancy in the SE Heights district. Sariñana took it 43 to 38 with Amanda Kincaid getting the rest. It didn't help Lechuga-Tena that her appointment was made possible by Republicans on the county commission. No R is running so Sarinana is headed to the Roundhouse in January.


You put three Hispanic men up against a female Latina with an Anglo surname and you can't be shocked when she takes it. The very troubled and controversial Bernalillo County Treasurer's office will get a new face come November. Nancy Bearce, who wears the hat of employee benefits administrator, blew the doors off and defeated Treasurer Manny Ortiz, former Treasurer Pat Padilla and Treasurer's office employee Chirs Sanchez to take the Dem nod.

The office has been a revolving door between Padilla and Ortiz and voters appeared tired of them and the corruption allegations that surrounded the office. In other words, Bearce didn't win this only on ethnicity. Voters, God love them, seemed to be actually paying attention. She took 39 percent of the vote in a four way race. The R nominee will be the very heavy underdog in this traditional Dem slot.


A wild one in a race where the Guv's political machine was involved.

District 32 in the Deming area had both a Dem and GOP primary that featured 2 contenders vying to replace the seat being vacated by long-time State Rep. Donna Irwin (D-Deming).

Candy Sweetser handily captured the Dem nod with a 57%-43% win over Frederick Sherman. But the Republican race dragged into the nite as Vicki Chavez held an 888-876 lead over Scott Chandler when voting was concluded Tuesday night. The results--50.14%-49.66%-- could lead to an automatic recount.

Chandler was not the favorite of the Governor and her political machine, nor the Republican Establishment in the Legislature. Tea Party activists rallied for Chandler and he ran a great race until he ran out of gas at the end. Chavez’s ardent support of border security issues was critical to her success in the final days of the campaign, as was help from Gun Rights supporters, Right To Life supporters and the Militiamen.

GOP pollster Bruce Donisthorpe has a report on other legislative primary races.

In Silver City, in the race for the Dem nod to replace retiring Rep. Diane Hamilton (R-Silver City), Mary Hotvedt finished the nite 31 votes ahead of her challenger Karen Whitlock. The winner will face Republican Rebecca Dow who handily won an 80%-20% primary for the GOP. The two victors will face each other in the November general election. This will be a key race in the battle by the Dems to wrest majority control of the state House from the GOP.

In Northwest New Mexico, State Senator George Munoz (D-Gallup, SD-4) easily cruised to re-election over his two challengers with 64% of the vote, while incumbent State Senator John Sapien (D-Bernalillo, SD9) won with 61% of the vote and will face Republican challenger Diego Espinoza in November in one of the hottest races in the state.

In Albuquerque’s SE Heights, Sen. Mimi Stewart easily cruised to her first election in the state Senate by capturing almost 59% of the vote against Democratic-turned Republican-turned Democrat challenger Shannon Robinson, who used to hold the seat. There is no opposition on the November ballot, so Stewart was officially elected. She was appointed to the seat to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller who is now state auditor.

In the East Mountains and Far NE Heights of Albuquerque, Republican challenger and former state Rep. James White won an easy 4-way battle to win the nomination to replace GOP Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort who is retiring this year. White secured 51% of the vote and his closest challenger was Anthony Linn Thornton with 30%.

Out in Indian Country – in state Senate District 22 that runs from Crownpoint east to Jemez Pueblo through the Navajo Reservation and includes several Pueblo Tribes--the Dem nomination went to incumbent Benny Shendo, Jr. who was re-elected to the seat with a 63%-37% victory. Former state Rep. Sandra Jeff was attempting to make a legislative comeback after losing her House seat in the 2014 election when she was disqualified from the ballot after filing day by Doreen Johnson, who herself was re-elected Tuesday to HD-5 with a close 52%-48% victory.(No R's are running in these seats).


Jeff Steinborn
In Albuquerque’s NE Heights, the Republicans held a primary to decide who will take the nomination to hold retiring Rep. Conrad James’ seat (HD-24) and Christina Hall won by a 59%-41% margin. Hall will face former Dem state Rep. Elizabeth Thomson who used to hold the seat in what will be an epic battle in November. In Albuquerque’s Mid-NE Heights, Dem state Rep. Christine Trujillo cruised to an easy 76%-24% win over challenger Chris Berkheimer.

In Las Cruces, Rep. Jeff Steinborn easily captured the Dem nomination for the Senate District 36 seat held by Republican Sen. Lee Cotter. Steinborn, who gave up his House seat to run for the job, won by a comfortable 65%-35% margin. The legislative seat Steinborn vacated was won by challenger and progressive Dem Angelica Rubio, who won a 3-way primary for the long-time Dem House seat.

 In HD-34 in Las Cruces Rep. Bealquin Gomez won a close but clear win with about 44% of the vote over two challengers.

In the sprawling 6-county Senate District 39 -- which runs from Santa Fe to Lincoln County (North to South) and the outskirts of San Miguel County to Valencia County (East to West) with Torrance County in the center--former Santa Fe state Senator and County Commissioner Liz Stefanics won a 4-way fight to win the Dem nod and the right to challenge incumbent GOP Senator Ted Barela of Estancia. He was appointed by Gov. Martinez to fill the seat after former state Senator Phil Griego resigned in 2015. Candidate Hugh Ley even bought TV ads in the Albuquerque and Las Vegas markets to reach voters, but he only captured 18% of the vote.

In Northern New Mexico, the state’s longest-serving member of the state House, Rep. Nick Salazar was re-elected with an impressive 57%-43% win over challenger Barney Trujillo.

In Santa Fe, in the race to fill retiring state Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, a longtime Dem member of the House, educator and challenger Linda Trujillo caught lightning in the bottle and captured 39% of the vote in a 3-way race over challengers Paul Campos and Jeff Varela, the son of Rep. Varela. The race was neck and neck until the final few days when Trujillo surged ahead to victory.

Working it on KANW
Finally, in NW New Mexico, Harry Garcia wins the hard-fought 4-way Dem primary to fill the seat of retiring State Rep. Kenny Martinez, the former Speaker of the House. Garcia captured about 37% of the vote, while his closest challengers, Lloyd Felipe and Terry Fletcher were in the low-20s and Bennie Shelly – the former President of the Navajo Nation – finished 4th with 19% of the vote.

Looking ahead to November, the Dems are hoping to recapture the State House as the Republicans hold a 37-33 margin and have several seats to defend in the General Election. Over in the Senate, the Dems are looking to maintain their 24-18 lead and perhaps even add a seat or two to their margin.

Thanks for that, Bruce, and to all of those who joined us for our Primary Election Night coverage.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

website design by limwebdesign