Cote

State Rep. Nate Cote, the incumbent in one of New Mexico's most competitive districts, is planning to give up his seat and retire from politics.

Cote, D-Organ, says he has decided not to run for re-election in House District 53 in southern New Mexico. He plans to appear Wednesday at the state Capitol with the woman he hopes will succeed him, Mariaelena Johnson.

Cote had planned to seek re-election, which could have meant a third race against Republican Rick Little of Chaparral.

Cote lost the House seat to Little in 2010, then won it back from him two years later.

Little announced last year he will run again. Cote initially also said he planned to seek re-election, but at age 67, he has begun planning a fuller retirement, which might include spending part of the year in Hawaii.

Like Cote, Johnson also has been a visible figure in House District 53.

She is a community organizer in the border town of Chaparral. In addition, she was a key witness last year in a hearing before a legislative committee on the chaotic 2012 Election Night in Chaparral.



Panicked election workers from the Otero County clerk's office called the sheriff's department after a large line of mostly Hispanic voters overwhelmed the polling place in Chaparral.

The former county clerk said these waiting voters were "unruly," a charge they said was unfounded.

Johnson said voters, some in their 80s, simply wanted to vote and they showed up en masse to do so. She said the clerk was out of line in calling the sheriff.

Otero County had declined to allow an early voting center in Chaparral, something Cote asked for when he was a challenger in the District 53 race.

Cote and Johnson said sheriff's deputies put yellow police tape around the polling place. Both complained that a police presence at the polls was unnecessary and had intimidated at least some voters.

Chaparral is an unincorporated area of about 15,000 that sits in two counties, Dona Ana and Otero. Cote's district also includes parts of those counties.

Democrats now control the state House of Representatives 37-33. Republicans hopes to gain control of the House this year for the first time since 1953.

With Cote retiring, Republican hopes of picking up the seat will soar. But because Cote won it back in 2012 while at a registration disadvantage, Democrats also see the district as one they can hold.

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