Published: 2:08 pm, Tue. May. 15th, 2018Updated: 4:12 pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal immigration policy and concerns about preserving New Mexico’s centuries-old Hispanic culture are at the forefront of congressional candidate forums this week, as six Democrats compete for an open Albuquerque-based seat in primary elections.
A Tuesday-night forum at the University of New Mexico is geared toward Albuquerque’s Latino community and will be moderated by Idalia Lechuga-Tena, a former state lawmaker who emigrated from Mexico as a child.
She said candidates are welcome to speak in Spanish in a conversation likely to touch on the future of immigrants with temporary protected status and efforts to preserve New Mexico’s distinctive Hispanic heritage, forged under more than 300 years of Spanish-colonial and Mexican rule before statehood.
“This is an opportunity to allow our community that may not be so fluent in English to come and get to know who the candidates are,” Lechuga-Tena said, whose own involvement in politics has ignited controversy after she acknowledged mistakenly voting before she became a U.S. citizen.
A separate candidate forum that focuses exclusively on immigration issues is scheduled for Wednesday, with sponsors that include The New Mexico Dream Team that advocates for families that include people living in the country without legal permission.
The field of Democratic candidates in the June 5 primary is marked by its ethnic, racial and social diversity.
Debra Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, aspires to be the nation’s first Native American congresswoman. Damon Martinez, a career prosecutor dismissed last year from his job as U.S. attorney by President Trump’s administration, traces his family roots to New Mexico’s Spanish colonial era.
Former law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez has the backing of the Latino Victory Fund, a progressive political group that says it will spend $320,000 in advertising to highlight her accomplishments on behalf of women and Hispanics.
Albuquerque City Councilmember Pat Davis is vying to become New Mexico’s first openly gay member of Congress.
Immigration and family lawyer Damian Lara touts his prior experience with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C. Business consultant Paul Moya also is in the running.
The sole Republican and Libertarian candidates also were scheduled to attend Tuesday’s forum. A Republican has not represented New Mexico’s central, largely urban congressional district since 2009.
Former state lawmaker Janice Arnold Jones would increase the number of women within the Republican ranks in the House of Representatives.
Libertarian candidate Lloyd Princeton is campaigning on promises to improve the state’s near last-place ranking in many socio-economic studies.
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham won’t seek re-election to Congress as she runs for governor in a three-way Democratic primary.