Politics - Governement

Key figures in State House vacating their seats

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Key Republicans in the state's legislature have decided they won't be running for re-election.

With Susana Martinez headed out the door, coupled with President Trump backlash, Democrats are looking to gain a stronghold on power in Santa Fe.

All 70 seats in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives are up for grabs this year. Of the eight legislators who have said they have no desire to return to the Roundhouse, five are Republicans.

"There's a lot of speculation as to what's driving that," said Gabe Sanchez, a political science professor at UNM. 

Sanchez says with a Republican president and outgoing Republican governor, both with low approval ratings, Democratic voters may be more motivated to turn out this cycle.

"I think for a lot of Republicans, it's not just necessarily just about 'Can I get re-elected?' It's 'What will things look like with a Democratic governor?' with increasing Democratic majority within the House. 'Will we really have an power or influence over things we want to get done?'" Sanchez said.

The five Republican representatives leaving the legislature are Minority Leader Nate Gentry, James Smith, Yvette Herrell, Dennis Roch and Sarah Maestas Barnes.

"It's most important to me and my family that I dedicate my time to them," Rep. Maestas Barnes said.

Maestas Barnes doesn't agree with Sanchez that she's had a hard time keeping her seat, but she does agree that Republicans may be worrying about who will replace Susana Martinez.

"I think we do have concerns. We want to elect a governor that will work with everyone. Republicans and Democrats," she said.

Gentry said he, too, needs to spend more time with family.

Herrell and Smith are seeking other offices. Roch is retiring.

There's also three Democrats who have announced they will no seek re-election: Stephanie Garcia Richard is running for Land Commissioner, Bill McCamley is running for State Auditor and Nick Salazar is retiring after 45 years as representative for District 40.

Sanchez believes the House will continue to be Democrat-controlled next term, but just how much of an edge "the left" will have will be determined in November.

All 42 state senate seats will be up for election in 2020.

A full list of who's running for office in the upcoming election can be found here.


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