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Gabriel Duran Jr. is making his first bid for elective office as he campaigns for the district four seat on the Las Cruces City Council.
Duran is one of four candidates in the district 4 race, along with incumbent Johana Bencomo, Lorenzo M. Medina and Ramon O. Ortega, whose wife, Gina Ortega, is a candidate for mayor. District 4 includes west Las Cruces, including the West Mesa and Las Cruces International Airport and the city’s Industrial and Innovation Park. Visit www.lascruces.gov/2553/Redistricting and click on “Concept Map J (PDF) to see a map of city council districts.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7 and also includes races for Las Cruces mayor and for city council districts 1 and 2 and presiding municipal judge.
Duran is a fifth-generation Las Crucen; his great-grandfather farmed in district 4. Duran attended Alameda Elementary School and Picacho Middle School and graduated from Mayfield High School. He has a bachelor’s degree in government and a master’s in public administration from New Mexico State University.
A father of three, Duran is the founder of Bringing Up Dads (BUDS) nonprofit, which supports and promotes responsible fatherhood, he said.
“Family structure is very important for our youth,” Duran said.
An important element of BUDS is helping people simplify and understand the court system, he said, including family court as they deal with issues like child custody and child support.
Duran said “a strong family structure” is also important in supporting people coming out of the prison system. It also helps reduce poverty and crime and improve educational outcomes.
“Teachers would love to have extra support at home,” he said.
Duran said he has worked as a substitute teacher across all grade levels in Las Cruces, and that experience has helped him better understand the needs of schools and teachers.
Duran has worked in real estate for the last couple of years while developing “a strong foundation for BUDS,” he said. He has also attended Las Cruces City Council and district four meetings.
“There seemed to be a disconnect,” Duran said. Issues are not being addressed, he said.
It is clear from his door-to-door campaigning for the district four seat that people are “fed up,” Duran said, they are concerned about public safety and “they don’t feel represented.”
Las Cruces businesses are suffering from theft, vandalism and trespassing, Duran said, and “there’s more that we can do.”
“Law enforcement needs more support,” he said, including better wages and benefits and more officer recruitment. Duran said he also would like to see a stronger relationship between law enforcement and youth in Las Cruces.
Young people would “see police officers as human beings just like them, and vice versa,” he said.
“We need to take care of them,” Duran said about Las Cruces businesses.
Business owners “work extremely hard their whole lives to build something for themselves and their families,” he said, and it’s because of them that the city is able to fund many programs and services.
The city also should support young entrepreneurs and people starting their own businesses, he said.
The city also needs to work more closely with the county and the federal government to provide more resources “that focus on mental health and drug addiction,” Duran said.
He also would like to strengthen the relationship between the city and NMSU, including cooperating to improve mental health services and working with the university, Las Cruces Public Schools and local businesses to incentivize New Mexico State graduates to stay in Las Cruces through grants, scholarships, wage and health benefits and internships.
NMSU is “a great resource in our back yard,” Duran said.
Duran said he is not aligned with any political party or organization.
“I don’t want to belong to anybody,” Duran said. “I want to represent my district.”
District four is entitled to the same consideration for development that has occurred in other city council districts, he said. “I want to fight for my district,” he said.
“I’m not here to run a dirty campaign,” Duran said he told Bencomo when they met. “I have my own ideas and plans for my district and I just want to share that.”