Las Cruces City Council candidates running for seats in Districts 1, 2 and 4 gathered at Amaro Winery to watch the results of their respective municipal elections—and women came away with wins in all three races.
Michael Hernandez spoke with some of the night's winners including City Councilor Kasandra Gandara, NM CAFé organizer Johana Bencomo and former Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce secretary Tessa Abeyta Stuve.
Johana Bencomo appears to have defeated District 4 candidates Robert Palacios and Antoinette Reyes to take over the seat vacated by Jack Eakman. Bencomo said public safety is the number one concern she hears from residents.
“People are concerned about the rising crime and violence in Las Cruces and I’m a social worker and community organizer so my first instinct is to listen to the people directly impacted and to really look at the issue holistically, right. And that’s what I want city council to do and focus on not just enforcement but programs for mental health services, programs for addiction, programs for folks who are experiencing economic instability," Bencomo said.
"And so for me, that’s going to be one of the most critical things on top of things like infrastructure, right. People in District 4 are really concerned about the neglected streets in their neighborhoods and that’s something that I think really needs to be looked at," she added.
Bencomo said she also supports investing in a crisis triage facility to address mental health.
Tessa Abeyta Stuve looks to have beaten three other candidates in the District 2 race. She said she plans to continue assessing the needs of each precinct in the district.
“Since our area is so diverse and each community is so different, I want to make sure that I am aware of all the needs of those precincts," Abeyta Stuve said. "The second thing, and I know it’s heavy on everybody’s mind is making sure that we have a safe community for all of our residents. So, I want to continue being a part of the talks on how to make our community as safe as possible."
Abeyta Stuve added she wants to strengthen the City’s relationship with New Mexico State University.
“I came to Las Cruces 17 years ago to be an Aggie and I found my home here and I want to make sure that other students feel the same," Abeyta Stuve said.
The freshman councilor replaces Greg Smith, who vacated the seat to run for mayor.
Kasandra Gandara appears to have won a second City Council term, defeating challenger Shelley Nichols-Shaw.
But Gandara said she never took her council experience for granted as she canvassed for votes. Moving forward, her top priority is improving services for seniors.
“My first priority is to continue to represent the people, specifically I want to address the issues of our seniors. Making sure that they have the service array to have a quality of life," Gandara said.
Gandara added she wants to provide support to women starting businesses.
“Women entrepreneurs–ensuring that they have equity across the board. I will start with a possible summit bringing people together to ensure that women have all that they need if they want to start a new business,” Gandara said.
With apparent wins by Gandara, Bencomo and Abeyta Stuve, women will comprise a majority on the council.
View the full list of election results for Doña Ana County on the New Mexico Secretary of State's website here.