By Deborah Baker / Journal Staff Writer
PUBLISHED: Monday, November 3, 2014 at 6:41 pm
All 70 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for election, but the focus will be on just a few districts as Republicans try to gain control of the chamber for the first time in 60 years. Democrats currently have a 37-33 advantage. Some races to watch:
House District 4
Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage (R) vs. Harrison Todacheene (D)
Clahchischilliage won the seat two years ago, ousting Democratic incumbent Ray Begaye in the Democrat-leaning, Navajo-majority district. Todacheene is a former project manager for the Navajo Nation; Clahchischilliage once headed its Washington, D.C., office.
House District 7
Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R) vs. Teresa K.E. Smith De Cherif
Fajardo is a small-business owner elected to the seat in this Valencia County swing district in 2012. Smith de Cherif is medical doctor and a member of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.
House District 15
Sarah Maestas Barnes (R) vs. Rep. Emily Kane (D)
Kane, an Albuquerque Fire Department captain, is a freshman who beat a Republican in 2012 by just 2 percent in a district almost evenly split in terms of Democrat-Republican voting. Maestas Barnes is a lawyer and small-business owner making her first run for the Legislature.
House District 23
Rep. Paul Pacheco (R) vs. Catherine Begaye (D)
Pacheco, a retired Albuquerque Police Department officer, won by just 78 votes two years ago in the closely divided Albuquerque district. Begaye, a Navajo, is a lawyer who frequently represents children in abuse and neglect cases.
House District 24
Conrad James (R) vs. Rep. Elizabeth Thomson (D)
It’s a rematch: Thomson, a physical therapist, unseated James, a research scientist, two years ago by 270 votes. The Albuquerque district is evenly split in terms of voting for D’s and R’s, and it could be close. A possible complication: eight people got wrong ballots and may have erroneously voted in the race.
House District 30
Rep. Nate Gentry (R) vs. Robert Coffey (D)
Gentry, the GOP’s minority whip and an influential player in this year’s legislative races, is challenged in the Albuquerque district by a Highland High School teacher. A barrage of ads from ProgressNow New Mexico has hit Gentry for previously disclosed DWI and drug charges and a hunting citation from 2012.
House District 36
Andy Nuñez (R) vs. Rep. Phillip Archuleta (D)
It’s a rematch with a twist: Archuleta defeated longtime legislator Nuñez in 2012 in a three-way race, but Nuñez was an independent that year, having left the Democratic Party. Nuñez, mayor of Hatch, is back as a Republican. Archuleta, of Las Cruces, had a leg amputated and missed the 2014 session but says he’s fine now.
House District 37
Rep. Terry McMillan (R) vs. Joanne Ferrary (D)
McMillan, in his second term, beat Ferrary two years ago by only eight votes in a Las Cruces area contest. He is a physician and surgeon; she is a former employee of the state Department of Transportation and a traffic safety consultant.
House District 43
Geoff Rodgers (R) vs. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D)
Garcia Richard won the Los Alamos area seat in 2012 from Republican Jim Hall, who had been appointed a year earlier after the death of longtime GOP Rep. Jeannette Wallace. She is an elementary school teacher. Rodgers chairs the Los Alamos County Council.
House District 50
Rep. Vickie Perea (R) vs. Matthew McQueen (D)
Perea was appointed to the seat last year by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez after Democratic Rep. Stephen Easley of Santa Fe died. It’s a sprawling, Democrat-dominated district; Perea, a former Albuquerque city councilor, lives near Belen while McQueen is a lawyer from outside Santa Fe.
House District 53
Ricky Little (R) vs. Mariaelena Johnson (D)
The Doña Ana County seat is open because Democratic Rep. Nate Cote didn’t run again. Little, a small-business owner, held the seat in 2011-12, until Cote beat him. Johnson is a community organizer. Both are from Chaparral.