Susan Vescovo, the daughter of state Senate President Pro Tem and longtime Democrat Mary Kay Papen, is running for a state Senate seat as a Republican, even as her mother says she does not support her candidacy.
Vescovo, who plans to challenge Democratic Sen. Liz Stefanics of Cerrillos in District 39 — which includes part of Santa Fe County — said her decision to run was primarily driven by her position on abortion.
“Senator Stefanics and I have very different opinions,” Vescovo told The New Mexican. “I believe in protecting and valuing life.”
Papen, a senator from Las Cruces since 2001, said Wednesday she was not in favor of her daughter’s plan to run as a member of the opposing party.
“I love her dearly, but I don’t approve of what she’s doing and I don’t support her,” Papen said.
Vescovo — who is a former state racing commissioner and was state president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New Mexico — said her platform also includes supporting small businesses and Second Amendment rights.
Asked about her mother’s position on her decision to run, Vescovo said Papen has told her the seat would be difficult to win.
“I first told her in June I was thinking about doing this,” Vescovo said. “Being a Democrat, she said Liz is going to get a lot of money and she’s going to be very hard to beat.
“You’ve got politics and you’ve got family,” she added.
Vescovo lives in Alto, which is part of Lincoln County — the southernmost tip of a Senate district that also includes parts of Torrance, Valencia, Bernalillo and San Miguel counties.
Vescovo, whose oldest son has schizophrenia, has advocated for legislation on mental illness.
She is also a hypnotherapist and was a previous owner of Las Cruces Toyota, which a son now owns as Vescovo Toyota.
The candidate said she believes she can be competitive in heavily Democratic areas such as Santa Fe because Catholics in the county are likely to agree with her views on abortion.
She also said she wants to work to bring Republicans and Democrats closer together on key issues.
“I just think both sides need to come more to the middle,” she said.
Stefanics won the seat in 2016 with 51 percent of the vote, compared with 49 percent for her Republican opponent, incumbent Ted Barela.
Stefanics did not respond to a call seeking comment Wednesday.