House and Senate Primary Races in the North of Doña Ana County:
Voters Will Have Experienced Representation: Part I Nunez and Small
Last night at the Blue Moon Bar in Radium Springs, candidates for House District 36 and Senate District 36 spoke to a gathering of voters. Andy Nuñez will be the Republican candidate for District 36 and Nathan Small will be the Democratic candidate. Neither faces opposition in the primary election. In Senate District 36 Lee Cotter, the Republican incumbent, will face either Oscar Vasquez Butler or Jeff Steinborn, who face each other in the primary.
Nuñez has been around a long time, and is well known to voters of District 36 (click here for a map), having served in that position for many years as a Democrat, as a Republican, and as an Independent. This year he is running as a Republican, in a district that tends to vote heavily Democratic, but which knows him well. Party identification will probably not make much difference in this race except among the least informed voters. He has specialized in water issues, and is usually seen as a friend of the farmers of the North valley of Dona Ana County. He also serves as mayor of Hatch.
Nathan Small, from Las Cruces, was one of the first persons elected from within an organization that calls itself the Progressive Voters Alliance. He served two terms on the city council, and is known for his contributions to the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument. He was named citizen of the year by the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2012. He is employed by the NM Wilderness Alliance. It is hard to imagine someone with such strong Liberal credentials standing up to the popularity of Andy Nuñez in such a conservative district, but Small is one whose hard work, experience in elections, and likeability make him a serious competitor in this race.
There is a sub-text to this race, probably more important to the political class than to the voters. Democrats would love dearly to retake the House this year, having lost it in the last election for the first time in many decades. Nuñez is well known in the House, and many legislators of both parties would welcome him back. But his presence would add one more Republican to the mix, making the task of dumping Don Tripp as Speaker more difficult. Small is therefore one of the candidates the Democratic Party would dearly love to get elected, and funding sources will probably be mobilized all over the state to that end. This year, however, voters have shown deep disdain for the preferences of the political class (Hillary and Jeb Bush being primary examples the political class a year ago thought would waltz breezily into the nominations) and if this disdain holds for HD District 36 it might not be a big factor. I've known the district since Walter Parr won it I believe in 1976, and it has gone for Democrats and Republicans alike since then. Voters will look each candidate in the eye and vote as they please, not as they are told and not because of the labels attached.
Another element in the race is the traditional conservatism of the district, dominated not by the voting strength of the farmers, but by their powerful influence. Small is at least nominally a creature of the Progressive Voters Alliance, a Liberal political action group that has been around since the Kerry campaign in 2004. Andy is a Conservative's Conservative, fiscally, socially, and vocally. The very word Liberal brings a scowl to his face, even if tempered by the more cautious term Progressive. So there are a number of cross-currents running through the main stream of this race.
One moment last night captured these crosscurrents. Asked the Marijuana question, Small, Steinborn, and Butler all proved they could thread the needle of this question ("on the one hand... but then on the other...") Not Andy: "I am against marijuana, legal, illegal, industrial, medical, or any other way," he said. Is there a part of this answer you don't understand?
Next: Vasquez Vs. Steinborn
Next: Vasquez Vs. Steinborn