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New Mexico Politics

State Senate leader from Las Cruces aims to hang on in Tuesday primary

AP file photo
State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. (center)

(Editor's note: Scroll down to the end of this article for the list of polling places in Dona Ana County.)

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — Several longtime Democratic state legislators who have resisted initiatives ranging from spending increases to the legalization of recreational marijuana are facing challenges Tuesday as liberal advocacy groups try to push the party toward a more progressive agenda.

New Mexico Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and Senate finance committee leader John Arthur Smith of Deming are among those who have primary opponents. Others include Clemente Sanchez of Grants, George Muñoz of Gallup and Gabriel Ramos of Silver City.

Those senators broke ranks with a majority of Democrats in 2019 to uphold the state’s dormant criminal ban on abortion. Critics also have said the incumbent Democrats helped to water down a House-approved version of the state’s 2019 minimum wage hike and have resisted spending increases from a state education trust fund.

The primary coincides with New Mexico’s first major steps toward reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, as a special legislative session looms on budget and economic recovery matters on June 18. The pandemic response is expected to quickly wipe out state reserves despite more than $1.2 billion in related federal assistance.

Papen is competing for the Democratic nomination for a sixth term against Carrie Hamblen and Tracy Perry, both of Las Cruces.

Neomi Martinez-Parra of Lordsburg, former vice chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, is challenging Smith.

Retired teacher Pamela Cordova of Belen is running against Sanchez, chairman of a committee on corporate affairs.

Muñoz is defending his seat from Democrat Noreen Kelly of Church Rock.

Ramos, appointed in 2019 to fill a vacant seat left by Lieutenant Gov. Howie Morales, is facing Siah Correa Hemphill, who was endorsed by the governor.

State Republican Party officials have said they’re positioning ahead of the general election to challenge Democrats in Albuquerque swing seats and on new fronts in Las Cruces and elsewhere.

Democrats hold a 46-24 majority in the state House and a 26-16 advantage in the state Senate.


Note: In response to the Covid-19 public health emergency and global pandemic, Election Day sites for the 2020 Primary election only have been consolidated to those below. These sites are open 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Primary Election Day, June 2nd.

  • Anthony City Hall - 820 Highway 478 Anthony NM 88021
  • Berino Elementary School - 92 Shrode Rd., Berino, NM 88021
  • Camino Real Middle School - 2961 N. Roadrunner Pkwy., Las Cruces, NM 88011
  • Chaparral Middle School - 290 Lisa Dr., Chaparral , NM 88081
  • Desert Hills Elementary School - 280 N. Roadrunner Pkwy., Las Cruces, NM 88011
  • Desert View Elementary School - 1105 Valle Vista St., Sunland Park, NM 88063
  • Doña Ana County Government Center - 845 N. Motel Blvd., Las Cruces, NM 88007
  • Hatch High School - 170 E Herrera Rd, Hatch, NM 87937
  • Jornada Elementary School - 3400 Elks Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88005
  • Las Cruces City Hall - 700 N Main St, Las Cruces, NM 88001
  • Las Cruces High School - 1750 El Paseo Rd., Las Cruces, NM 88001
  • Lynn Middle School - 950 S. Walnut St., Las Cruces, NM 88001
  • Mayfield High school - 1955 N. Valley Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88007
  • Mesilla Elementary School - 2363 Calle Del Sur, Mesilla, NM 88005
  • Mesquite Elementary School - 205 NM Hwy. 228, Mesquite, NM 88048
  • New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum - 4100 Dripping Springs Rd., Las Cruces, NM 88011
  • Santa Teresa Middle School - 4800 McNutt Rd., Santa Teresa, NM 88008
  • Sonoma Elementary School - 4201 Northrise Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88011
  • Sunrise Elementary School - 5300 Holman Rd., Las Cruces, NM 88012
  • University Hills Elementary School - 2005 S. Locust, Las Cruces, NM 88001
  • Vista Middle School - 4465 Elks Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88005
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