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Uncontested races are unfair to voters


The geographic political divisions in New Mexico have become so entrenched that both parties have just stopped trying in areas of the state where the other side has the advantage.

Of the 42 seats up for re-election in the state Senate this year, only 15 will be decided in the general election. Democrats will claim 17 seats, and Republicans will win 10 without posting a yard sign, shaking a hand, making a campaign promise or kissing a baby.

Democrats have apparently given up on the seat they held from 1989 to 2020 when John Arthur Smith was in office. Republican Sen. Crystal Diamond Brantley is among the many incumbents this year running unopposed.

In the House, Republicans and Democrats will square off in just 33 of the 70 races on election day. Democrats will win 20 seats uncontested, Republicans will take 15 and Libertarian candidates will compete for two seats.

Like many Las Cruces voters, I’ll have a say in who represents me in one chamber, but not the other. My senator, Carrie Hamblen, faces a challenge. But my representative in the House, Micaela Lara Cadena, does not.

Other local legislators to get a free pass are Rep. Doreen Gallegos, Sen. Joseph Cervantes and Sen. Bill Soules. Rep. Angelica Rubio will face a challenge in the Democratic primary, but the winner will be uncontested in the general election.

I’ve written several columns in the last few months reminding voters that all seats in the Legislature will be on the ballot this year, and encouraging them to ask their candidates tough questions about whatever issue I was writing on. But candidates running uncontested need not worry about tough questions, or the voters, for that matter.

I understand the frustration of Republicans in Dona Ana County, or Democrats in the southeast and northwest corners of the state. But they can’t stop trying. Fielding a candidate means at least being able to join in the debate.

The show I conhost on Las Cruces community radio will invite all candidates running in contested local races to come on the air. To be honest, it’s one of the few times we offer that platform to conservative voices. But they’ve got to be in the race.

There will be other candidate forums and debates held throughout the county in the weeks leading up to the election. Those in the minority need to take every opportunity they get to make their case as forcefully as possible. Even if it falls on deaf ears, you keep chipping away.

And who knows? There’s always a chance that the favorite will slip up and open the door for a worthy challenger.

This will be perhaps the most depressing presidential election of my lifetime. I’m advising friends not to pay attention to the top of the ticket. Most folks have made up their minds on that one. We should focus instead on the down-ticket races that often have a greater impact on our daily lives. I just wish there were more races to focus on. 

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com. Walter Rubel's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.