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Early voting started Tuesday, Oct. 10, in a municipal election that will result in Las Cruces electing a new mayor for the first time since 2007 and Mesilla electing a new mayor for the first time since 2009.
Voters in Las Cruces will have several candidates to choose from in the race to replace Ken Miyagishima. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Mesilla, where Russell Hernandez will run uncontested to replace Nora Barraza.
That’s not a criticism of Hernandez, a small business owner with deep roots in the community. He’s an outstanding candidate, but voters should have a choice.
They will in Las Cruces, where seven candidates are running for mayor, and more than two candidates are running in most of the City Council races. In those races, ranked-choice voting will determine the winner.
That means instead of just picking the winner, voters need to evaluate all the candidates to get the full value from their ballot. Those ranked last will be the first eliminated.
That’s just one way municipal elections, held in odd-numbered years, are different from state and local elections. Candidates in local elections run on their own, without party affiliation. There is no “R” or “D” after each name on the ballot.
That opens the door for Independents to run, as well as those who have no use for the state and local political machines. And it removes the crutch for voters who lazily make all choices based on party affiliation.
Beyond the mayor’s race, there are also City Council races in District 1 (west of Interstate-25 between Spruce and Engler) District 2 (south of Boutz/Missouri) and District 4 (east of Main Street and south of El Camino Real). Council members Becki Graham and Becky Corran are not up for re-election until 2025.
Mayor Ken Miyagishima is the only member not seeking re-election this year, although Kasandra Gandara is vacating her District 1 seat to run for mayor. Ranked-choice voting could potentially come into play in every race except in District 2, where incumbent Tessa Abeyta is being challenged by only one opponent, former Mayor Bill Mattiace.
All three incumbents will also be running for re-election to the Las Cruces Board of Education, where seats in Districts 1, 4 and 5 are on the ballot this year, ranked-choice voting does not apply in the school board election.
This week’s Bulletin includes a voter’s guide created by the League of Women Voters, and previous articles about candidates can be found at www.lascrucesbulletin.com. Speak Up Las Cruces, a show I co-host on KTAL-LP community radio, is doing interviews for each race and will post them at lccommunityradio.org. KRWG public television has partnered with the League of Women Voters for more formal debates, which are also available online.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.