Voters in New Mexico are removing sitting members from the legislature, which has positive implications for paid family leave

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico voters unseated several sitting lawmakers in the state's primary elections, as ballots were counted Wednesday.

Former school board member and educator Jon Hill of Las Cruces defeated state Rep. Willie Madrid of Chapparal in Tuesday's primaries. Hill campaigned in support of environmental and progressive initiatives — including the need for paid family leave legislation after a bill failed on a 34-36 vote in the state House this year, with several Democrats, including Madrid, voting against it. The district borders Texas and crosses the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Uncertified election results also show Anita Gonzales of Las Vegas, New Mexico, clinching the Democratic nomination for a rural district that unites far-flung communities from Moriarty to Pecos. She defeated two-term state Rep. Ambrose Castellano of Serafina, an opponent of paid family leave legislation. Nearly 70% of county residents identify themselves as Latino.

More than two dozen incumbents had challengers in the primaries, under a closed system that limits participation to voters who register with major parties, leaving out minor party voters or unaffiliated voters, but not libertarians.

In House District 69, incumbent Democratic Rep. Harry Garcia of Grants, a social conservative on abortion issues and gun rights supporter, lost his bid for a fifth term. Attorney Michelle “Paulene” Abeyta of To'hajiilee of the Navajo Nation won the nomination for a district where two-thirds of registered voters identify as Native American. Abeyta has no Republican competition in the general election.

In Senate District 13, incumbent state Sen. Bill O'Neill of Albuquerque was defeated in the Democratic primary by Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley in a contest among seasoned politicians in a heavily redrawn district that includes downtown Albuquerque.

O'Malley cited concerns about crime and homelessness as top priorities, while drawing support from unions representing teachers and public employees.

O'Neill, a juvenile justice advocate, brought a literary flair to the Legislature by publishing a book of poetry about prominent Statehouse personalities and a two-person play, “Save the Bees,” about friendship between two ideological legislators. The play's contradictions inspired public readings and performances throughout New Mexico and beyond.

Tuesday's primaries included the first Senate elections since 2021 redistricting and were held implications for Native American communitiesthe the state's oil industry and the #MeToo movement.

Native American candidates made strides toward greater legislative representation with victories in two closely watched Democratic primaries. District attorneys fended off primary challengers in crime-ridden Albuquerque, as well as in Santa Fe, where special prosecutors are preparing to bring Alec Baldwin to justice in July on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

And two Republicans who fueled Donald Trump's failed attempts to overturn the 2020 election won GOP nominations for Senate and advanced to competitive general election contests.

Democratic voters in Albuquerque County ousted Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto in the aftermath of the election. allegations of sexual harassment and bullying behavior that he disputed.

He was defeated by progressive challenger Heather Berghmans, who will face GOP contender Craig Degenhardt in November. The district extends from the intersection of Interstates 25 and 40 toward the northeastern heights of the city.

In House District 62, Republican candidate Elaine Sena Cortez of Hobbs won a three-way primary to secure a seat at the heart of southeastern New Mexico's oil economy, currently held by petroleum engineer Larry Scott, without democratic competition in the general elections. Scott won the decisive Republican nomination for an overlapping Senate district, defeating recently appointed state Sen. Steve McCutcheon of Carlsbad.

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