Most incumbent lawmakers held onto their seats in the primaries

Upset in northern New Mexico House district an exception

By: - June 10, 2022 4:30 am

Joseph Sanchez stands outside the polling place in Chimayó on Tuesday. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

Almost all of the lawmakers in the New Mexico House of Representatives running for re-election emerged victorious in the primary on Tuesday, except for one prominent upset in northern New Mexico.

Joseph Sanchez defeated incumbent Roger Montoya for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 40, which includes much of the area affected by the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon wildfire. Sanchez won by a 14-point margin.

In an interview outside the polling place in Chimayó on Tuesday, Sanchez said he visited nearly every part of the district on Primary Election Day and did not rely on any polling for his campaign.

New Mexico generally lacks opportunity and has high poverty, Sanchez said, and he doesn’t see businesses jumping to move here or the state’s education system gaining traction.

“I don’t see our situation improving,” he said. “We need to take bold steps to turn the situation in our state around.”

Voters previously elected Sanchez, an electrical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to the District 40 seat in a three-way Democratic primary over former Rio Arriba County commissioner Barney Trujillo and New Mexico Acequia Association founder Paula Garcia. 

He went on to defeat independent candidate Tweeti Blancett in the general election in 2018.

Sanchez resigned from his seat in the House and then unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020, coming in third behind Teresa Leger Fernandez and Valerie Plame.

In this year’s general election, Sanchez will run against Republican Jerald McFall, who was unopposed in the primary.

Unofficial results taken from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website are presented below.

Incumbents who held on

Sanchez was one of four conservative Democrats who challenged more left-leaning incumbents and received donations in March from Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, the powerful Democrat from Gallup who chairs the House Appropriations & Finance Committee.

While Sanchez defeated Montoya in the primary, the other three incumbents beat back their primary challenges: Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, Kristina Ortez of Taos, and Susan Herrera of Embudo.

The closest a challenger came to knocking off an incumbent in the Democratic primaries was Anita Amalia Gonzales, who lost to House District 70 incumbent Democrat Ambrose Castellano by just two percentage points.

That was the same margin as the last time Castellano went up against Gonzales for the seat in 2020.

Gonzales scored endorsements from many progressive organizations and labor unions in New Mexico, including the state chapter of Planned Parenthood and the local chapter of the Teamers, according to her website.

Other incumbents defeated challengers by large margins, or won in three-way races where voters were largely split between their opponents.

Incumbent Democrat Harry Garcia easily won re-election to represent House District 69 against write-in candidate Marvin Anthony Trujillo, who received only eight votes.

Garcia has held his seat since 2016, and will face Republican challenger Roy Ryan in the general election.

Democrat incumbent Anthony Allison held onto his seat and defeated Christina Aspaasby by a 30-point margin to represent House District 4.

Aspaas ran as a pro-oil and gas candidate, and told the League of Women Voters that the federal moratorium on oil and gas drilling on public lands should be lifted.

“Lower fuel costs and imagine what businesses would come to New Mexico,” Aspaas said. “Renewables and cannabis is (sic) not an answer to diversifying New Mexico’s economy.”

Incumbent Randall Pettigrew (64%) defeated Rebecca Jones (36%) for the Republican nomination to represent House District 61.

Pettigrew was a member of a Facebook group linked to the real-world New Mexico Patriots, according to a recent report. The New Mexico Patriots are one of the militia groups that started showing up at anti-police brutality protests in Albuquerque in 2020.

Pettigrew was also the lawmaker who carried an amendment he said was the result of “an agreement” between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Senate Republicans and the New Mexico District Attorney Association that ultimately tanked legislation that would have decreased how long someone convicted as a juvenile would have to be in prison before a parole board could consider their case.

Incumbent Jane Powdrell-Culbert (62%) defeated Frida Susan Vasquez (38%) for the Republican nomination to represent House District 44.

Powdrell-Culbert supports making it easier to incarcerate defendants before trial, opposes limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and said she thinks the governor’s emergency powers during health emergencies should be reduced, according to her Q&A with the Albuquerque Journal. 

In the general election, Powdrell-Culbert will face Democrat Kathleen Cates, who ran unopposed.

Incumbent Democrat Doreen Wonda Johnson defeated Kevin Mitchell for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 5 by a 10-point margin.

Johnson was among the House Democrats who voted along with Republicans this year to block a measure that would have reduced carbon emissions from transportation fuels, according to New Mexico Political Report.

Incumbent Democrat Art de la Cruz kept his House District 12 seat with 53% of the vote while his opponents Melissa Armijo (30%) and Nicole Michelle Olonovich (17%) got 30% and 17%, respectively.

De la Cruz, a former Bernalillo County commissioner, has represented District 12 twice before, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Successful challenges

Challenger John Block defeated Incumbent Rachel Black for the Republican nomination to represent House District 51 by a two-point margin. Black had gotten some heat for, as one conservative blog put it, “a laundry list of bad votes” while in office.

In the general election, Block will go up against Democrat Sharonlee Cummins, who ran unopposed.

Former lawmaker and union activist Eleanor Chavez (68%) defeated incumbent Cherise Quezada (32%) for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 26.

Chavez will run in the general election against Republican Patrick Sais, who ran unopposed. The incumbent, Georgene Louis, chose not to run for re-election this year.

Janelle Anyanonu overwhelmingly defeated Colton Dean for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 19 by a 54-point margin. Anyanonu got a lift in the form of endorsements from four sitting lawmakers, State House Majority Leader Javier Martinez, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, according to her website.

In the general election Anyanonu will go up against Republican Kathleen Jackson, who ran unopposed.

Other races in the House

Gregory Cunningham (66%) defeated Adelious de Stith (34%) for the Republican nomination to represent House District 29. Cunningham will run in the general election against Democrat Natalie Figueroa, who ran unopposed.

Tara Jaramillo (65%) defeated Ravi Bhasker (35%) for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 38. In the general election, Jaramillo will run against Republican Sandra Kay Hammack (74%), who defeated Melba Aguilar (26%).

Robert Godshall (61%) defeated Elisa Maria Martinez (39%) for the Republican nomination to represent House District 27. Godshall will run in the general election against Democratic incumbent Marian Matthews, who ran unopposed.

Cynthia Borrego (60%) defeated Darrell DeAguero (40%) for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 17. In November, Borrego will go up against Republican Ellis McMath (60%), who defeated Joshua Neal (40%).

Republican Lisa Meyer-Hagen (52%) defeated Adrian Anthony Trujillo Sr. to represent House District 11.

Rodolpho Martinez (51%) defeated Karen Whitlock (49%) for the Democratic nomination to represent House District 39. In the general election Martinez will run against Republican Luis Terrazas, who ran unopposed.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.