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AND THE WINNERS ARE ...

Election 2019

Nine-round bout sorts out crowded fields

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It took nine rounds, but in the end, the defending champion was still standing, as incumbent Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima was re-elected to an unprecedented fourth-consecutive term in the city’s first ranked-choice vote.

Miyagishima, who completes 12 years as mayor this month, led throughout the evening in a 10- candidate field. At the end of the first round of voting, Miyagishima had 37 percent to 19.5 percent for former mayor Bill Mattiace, 11.5 percent for Mike Tellez, 10.25 percent for City Councilor Greg Smith, 8.2 percent for Gina Ortega, 4.75 percent for County Commissioner Isabella Solis, 3.5 percent for Bev Courtney, 3 percent for former City Councilor Jesusita Dolores Lucero, 1.5 percent for Jorge Sanchez and .76 percent for Alexander Paige Fresquez.

With ranked-choice voting, candidates with the lowest vote totals were eliminated from succeeding rounds of tabulation, and Miyagishima ultimately won with an unofficial total of 6,808 votes or 55.08 percent, to 5,553 (44.92 percent) for Mattiace.

As he completes 12 years as mayor this month, Miyagishima surpasses former Mayor Ruben Smith for the second-longest tenure in that office. Sam Klein (1897-1953) holds the record with 14 years of service. Klein, who moved to Las Cruces from Douglas, Arizona, in 1926, was mayor 1932-34, 1938-44, 1946-48 and 1949-53.

Unofficial totals show 13,975 voted in the mayor’s race, compared to 10,245 in 2015.

Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin said 19,825 voters – 16.5 percent of the county’s registered voters – cast ballots on Election Day and in early voting. It was the city’s and county’s first combined local election ballot.

“With the consolidation of elections and the addition of same-day registration during early voting, participation in the 2019 Regular Local Election rose above the abysmal local election turnout of past elections,” Askin said. “But we still have more work to increase the level of participation to what we see in general election years.”

The Progressive Voters Alliance (PVA) continued its dominance of city elections, as endorsed candidates won all three city council races and presiding municipal judge.

In council races, incumbent District 1 Councilor Kasandra Gandara received 1,215 votes (68 percent) to 576 for Shelley Nichols-Shaw. Gandara won the seat by 18 votes in 2015.

In District 2 (relinquished by Greg Smith, who ran for mayor), Tessa Stuve received 1,151 votes (55 percent) to 936 (45 percent) for Philip VanVeen after three rounds of ranked-choice voting. After the first round, Stuve had 43 percent, VanVeen 35 percent, former City Councilor Jack Valencia 17 percent and Jason Estrada 5.4 percent.

In District 4, Johana Bencomo received almost 63 percent after two rounds of ranked-choice voting to 37 percent for Rob Palacios. Bencomo had 49 percent after the first round to 29.4 percent for Palacios and 21.6 percent for Antoinette Reyes. Incumbent Jack Eakman, who won the seat by 11 votes in 2015, did not seek re-election.

Current Municipal Judge II Joy Goldbaum was elected presiding municipal judge with 57.3 percent of the vote to 42.7 percent for former Magistrate Judge Richard Jacquez. Incumbent Presiding Judge Kieran Ryan did not seek re-election.

In LCPS Board of Education races, incumbent Ed Frank lost the District 5 seat by 80 votes, receiving 1,088 votes to 1,168 for Carol Cooper. Maria Pacheco received 980 votes and Gloria Martinez 850 votes. In District 4, Teresa Tenorio, who with Frank was endorsed by NEA-Las Cruces, received 873 votes to 785 for Janice Williams, 387 for Jeffrey Silva, 352 for Margaret Mendoza, 185 for Jesus Favela and 151 for William Zarges.

This year’s school board election turnout attracted 6,819 voters in the two contested districts compared to 2,277 votes across three districts in 2017 – a 299 percent increase.

By 68-32 percent, voters passed a continuation of LCPS’ three-mill levy, which generates about $10 million a year for the school district. The vote was 10,876-5,029.

Voters also approved a $16 million general obligation bond for Doña Ana Community College by 13,039 (71 percent) to 5,294 (29 percent).

“We thank the voters of Doña Ana County for supporting the general obligation bond that will allow DACC to continue to offer a wide range of educational opportunities for citizens of our county,” said DACC President Monica Torres. “This funding will allow DACC to update critical infrastructure as well as to make facilities and equipment improvements at all of our locations.”

In DASWCD races, Kurt Anderson defeated incumbent Jerry Schickedanz in District 1, 9,813-6,894; incumbent D.J. Martinez received 8,861 in District 2 to 7,578 for Fernando Clemente; and District 5 incumbent Joshua Smith beat Christopher Cardenas by 9,639-6,813.

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