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NM GOP legislative leadership calls it a day

NM GOP legislative leadership calls it a day
The deadline for filing for candidacy in New Mexico just passed and there were several major surprises, including the sheer number of incumbents not running. Nearly a third of the state Senate is not standing for re-election – 13 of 42 members, and 10 of 70 members of the House of Representatives are not running to keep their seats.

Three of the departing House members are running for vacant Senate seats, one of whom, former House minority leader and current House minority whip James Townsend of Artesia, is unopposed in both the primary and the general election. The House majority leader and longest serving member of the House, Representative Gail Chasey of Albuquerque, is stepping down. The only remaining Republican member of the House from the City of Albuquerque, nine-term Representative Bill Rehm, is retiring.

In the 2021 redistricting gerrymander, most of the attention went to the CD2 debacle where Albuquerque’s South Valley and Roswell now share district boundaries. But we shouldn’t forget the Legislature. Two Republican state Senators, Greg Baca of Belen, and Joshua Sanchez of Bosque, were redistricted into the same district. Baca, the Senate minority leader, announced on filing day he would not seek re-election, clearing the way for Sanchez to file in his new district.

Merritt Hamilton Allen
Merritt Hamilton Allen

With Townsend unopposed and several sessions of House leadership under his belt, he could be a freshman Senator with a very credible leadership bid. Other more senior Senators, including Mark Moores of Albuquerque, Ron Griggs of Alamogordo, Steve Neville of Aztec, and Cliff Pirtle of Roswell are all leaving the Senate.

Here in the East Mountains, where this column is first published, first-term state Senator Gregg Schmedes has declined to run for re-election after bursting onto the political scene out of nowhere in 2018 with seemingly limitless drive and ambition. I’ve only had three very brief conversations with Schmedes, despite being his opponent in 2018, so I really don’t know his reasons for pausing his political career. If I was to hazard a guess,

I would imagine he either: doesn’t see an immediate path to statewide office; he is frustrated at the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature and the resulting inability to push through any element of his agenda; he needs to earn a living full-time for his family.

This is all somewhat interesting. The real shock from filing day for me came with House minority leader Ryan Lane of Farmington and his decision not to run. Lane was a surprise victor as minority leader in 2023 in just his second term. Firmly conservative but less combative, Lane seemed more willing to have conversations with the opposition rather than just picking fights. The candidate who has filed to run for his seat, Republican William Hall, will be unopposed.

So all of House minority leadership is leaving and the Senate minority leader, and stakes are high for fundraising, particularly in the House, where more candidates have to run twice as often.

Calling Rebecca Dow. She is running again for her old seat in Sierra County, which has changed a bit in redistricting, but she still happens to reside in. She vacated the seat to run for governor, but I do not doubt she will prevail. She is not only an excellent campaigner for herself, but for others; House Districts 32 and 39 and Senate District 35, all in the southwest, have gone red after decades of Democratic control thanks to her influence. While in the House, she worked both sides of the aisle to push through key legislation. Crucially, in 2024, she is a vocal advocate for CYFD reform.

She is formidable.

I will admit to some bias. District 38 was my mother’s, Dianne Hamilton’s, seat for 18 years. When she retired, party leadership wanted someone else to run – someone from Silver City, someone male, pretty much anyone other than Dow. Hamilton held firm. Dow was ultimately the successful candidate, and her success in District 38 and throughout the southwestern part of the state cannot be denied. It’s one thing to hold GOP seats in NM. It’s quite another to flip them.

Dow also has a characteristic that is badly needed in the Legislature going forward: she knows when to fight and when to persuade. Too often in today’s GOP, it’s all fight and no persuasion. With a crippling minority and no real path forward to a red wave in the 2024 elections here, the next class of NM GOP legislative leadership must do more than scream a one-sided agenda; they must convince some of their colleagues across the aisle and more New Mexicans that they are right.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appeared regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run one head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: NM GOP legislative leadership calls it a day

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