Lordsburg Democrat plans to seek Sen. Smith’s seat

Neomi Martinez-Parra

Neomi Martinez-Parra, a Democrat from Lordsburg, announced Thursday she will run for the New Mexico Senate in the district represented by Sen. John Arthur Smith, the veteran legislator who chairs the chamber’s Finance Committee.

Should Smith seek reelection, Martinez-Parra’s candidacy would set up a primary contest with an incumbent who has held the District 35 seat since 1989 and wields considerable influence over the state budget process and other legislation.

“I have been to the homes of my students and have seen the struggles,” Martinez-Parra, a former teacher and one-time vice chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Our students have been affected by the many issues this area faces.”

Smith, D-Deming, has not yet said whether he will seek another term representing a district that includes several counties in the southwestern part of the state and cities such as Deming, Lordsburg and Truth or Consequences.

Smith was unreachable by phone Thursday.

Martinez-Parra holds a master’s degree in special education, has taught in Lordsburg public schools and has worked in early child education to fund Montessori schools and migrant programs.

She said in her statement that she is concerned with issues such as a lack of health care resources and insufficient housing in the district. She also mentioned border security as a key issue.

“She’s ready,” said Martinez-Parra’s campaign manager, Luis Guerrero. “She’s going to be phenomenal.”

Smith and other fiscal conservatives in the Legislature have long opposed proposals to use a bigger share of New Mexico’s land grant permanent fund for early childhood education, contending that pool of money must be protected to finance the state’s school system if oil and gas revenues dry up.

Amid the state’s current oil revenue windfall, Smith has cautioned that legislators should prioritize one-time spending to fix structural problems over funding for recurring programs because revenues are unlikely to remain this high.

Smith also voted against legislation this year that would have repealed a 50-year-old, unenforceable statute that makes it a crime to perform an abortion in New Mexico.

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Jens Erik Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

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