Talk about politics as usual. There won’t be an independent in the state Legislature after all.
Rep.-elect Brittney Barreras of Albuquerque says she will switch her registration to Democrat before the 60-day session begins in January.
Barreras ran as a candidate who had declined to choose a political party. The Secretary of State’s Office listed her on the ballot as an independent.
She defeated Democratic Rep. Art De La Cruz, an incumbent by appointment, in last week’s election.
De La Cruz took office in September, so late he had to run for election as a write-in candidate. This created a rare circumstance in which an independent could win a race.
Barreras said she is making the switch to Democrat for straightforward reasons.
First, she classifies herself as a progressive. In addition, she knows she would have a difficult time holding her seat in 2022 if she remained an independent and a major-party candidate also made the ballot.
“It would be nearly impossible if I’m against a Democrat for reelection,” Barreras told me Tuesday.
She said she would not have been an independent at all except for a glitch in the system.
While registering to vote at a motor vehicle office, Barreras did not make an affirmative declaration of a political party. She said she doesn’t remember being asked to do so.
By default, her registration became “declined to state.”
Being an independent worked to her advantage in this election, as her name appeared on the ballot.
Barreras will represent District 12, which includes parts of Albuquerque’s South Valley and West Mesa.
She has a background different from many in the 70-member House of Representatives, which is dominated by lawyers, retirees and employees of public schools.
Barreras works in sales for a cellular phone company. At 32, she will be one of the state’s younger lawmakers. That’s a different situation from her workplace.
“I’m used to being the oldest one in the room,” she said.
Her priorities as a freshman representative will include raising the salaries of teachers and working for a health care system people can afford.
“I’m someone who doesn’t come from money, and I’ve had my share of health problems,” Barreras said.
With Barreras soon to change her party registration, Democrats will have at least a 44-26 majority in the House of Representatives.
Their advantage might increase to 45-25 depending on the outcome of a recount in a Southern New Mexico race.
Democratic Rep. Willie Madrid held a lead Tuesday of 37 votes over Republican Ricky Little.
A total of 6,691 people voted in their race for the District 53 seat, according to the latest update from the secretary of state. The gap between them is less than 1 percent, which is the standard for an automatic recount.
Both Madrid and Little are from Chaparral. This is the third time they have run against each other. Each has won once.
Overall, Little has sought the District 53 seat in six consecutive elections. He’s won three races and lost two heading into the recount.
Another House race was clinched on election night, but there’s still fallout.
Scott Chandler, a Republican who just lost his second campaign in District 32 in Southern New Mexico, says he has separated himself from Cowboys for Trump.
“I’m inactive, really,” Chandler said Tuesday, a week after his loss to Democratic Rep. Candie Sweetser.
Chandler, of Deming, reaffirmed his break at an opportune time. Cowboys for Trump is flaunting recklessness while promoting its rally Saturday in Albuquerque.
“Unless you suffer from pre-existing conditions or [are] elderly we ask you NOT TO WEAR A MASK!!” Cowboys for Trump stated Tuesday on its Facebook page. “If you are scared of the CHINA-virus please stay home!!!”
Couy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner who leads Cowboys for Trump, did not respond to my questions about his urging people not to wear masks, even as COVID-19 infections soar in New Mexico.
But two things are clear from Griffin’s writings: He likes exclamation points, and he continues to claim the novel coronavirus isn’t a dangerous disease.
“I am much more concerned about Communism right now than catching a cold!” he states on the Cowboys for Trump page.
After President Donald Trump leaves the White House in defeat, these Cowboys might still be spreading a modern version of McCarthyism.