Las Cruces Sun-News
New Mexico's southwestern state House District 32 will expand into the Hatch Valley in Doña Ana County in 2023, thanks to redistricting that followed the 2020 U.S. Census.
The seat in New Mexico's House of Representatives, representing Luna and Hidalgo counties as well as a swath of Grant County has long been a Democratic stronghold held by a Deming lawmaker.
First elected in 2016, incumbent Candie Sweetser is seeking her fourth term in the House. Her Republican challenger is Jenifer Jones, a registered nurse and first-time candidate.
Sweetser has a background in broadcast journalism, having been a managing partner of Deming radio stations KDEM-FM and KOTS-AM, as well as agriculture. From her first run for office, she has branded herself as a conservative Democrat and an advocate for small business owners and farms and ranches.
While the state Democratic party has seen an expansion of more progressive candidacies challenging more conservative incumbents within the party in recent election cycles, Sweetser said, "We have swung far left, and I think there will be a righting of that."
"Our area has a wonderful legacy of having very fiscally moderate people serving, regardless of what political party they've come from," she continued. "We come from a rural area that's very pragmatic. The people here have a high level of resiliency. ... I think that has produced lawmakers that give that same conscientious, practical approach to how we govern."
Sweetser's own household is politically diverse. She is married to John Sweetser, a Republican engineer and farmer who serves on the Luna County Board of Commissioners, and one of their adult children is a registered Libertarian.
In an interview, Sweetser said her surveys of constituents in the district indicated their key concerns were rising inflation and local economy, public education and crime. With the state seeing high revenue from oil and gas production, she spoke of the difficulty selecting the best investments, knowing that the flow of cash will eventually subside as the volatile petroleum market ebbs and flows.
As an example, she said she was wary of a proposed amendment to the state constitution increasing the percentage of money tapped from the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund to fund New Mexico schools, soon after establishing a new Early Child Trust Fund and boosting educators' salaries as well as a new free college tuition program. She was wary of possible tax hikes in the future.
One area she sees as ripe for investing while revenue is high is infrastructure. In part of her district, record monsoon rains in August and September damaged farms and aging canals and ditches, leading to emergency declarations for Hidalgo and Grant counties and elsewhere. She said the current windfall might well be put to use shoring up or upgrading overpasses, tunnels, wastewater systems and the like throughout New Mexico.
While abortion restrictions and protections have been a major issue in this year's gubernatorial match, Sweetser said voters she spoke with were not bringing it up often themselves. "I do think as a conservative district we are very much pro-life on all levels," she said. "I feel like my constituents want me to help protect life: Beginning life, end of life issues, education, early childhood, all those all those things that constitute a good and balanced life."
She did not elaborate on what restrictions she might support if brought to the Legislature under a possible Mark Ronchetti governorship. Ronchetti, the Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, has proposed putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot regarding abortion and has advocated for banning the procedure after 15 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother's health.
Sweetser's campaign website, including contact information, is www.CandieSweetser.com.