Sen. Nava retiring; Cervantes seeking her seat

State Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces

State Sen. Cynthia Nava, D-Las Cruces

Nava cites frustration with a deadlock in the Roundhouse over education reform as a factor in her decision.

Cynthia Nava joined today the growing list of state senators who aren’t seeking re-election, and Joseph Cervantes quickly announced that he’ll try to replace Nava in the Senate instead of seeking another term in the House.

Nava, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, cited frustration with a deadlock in the Roundhouse over education reform as a factor in her decision, and said she’ll look for other opportunities to make a difference.

“It just seems like we’re kind of spinning our wheels in that regard because of the partisanship,” Nava, a Las Cruces Democrat, told “I’m just looking for an arena where I can make a positive difference.”

Gov. Susana Martinez has considered Nava an ally in her efforts to reform education, including a proposal to put an end so-called “social promotion.” Nava worked this year, without success, to find compromise between many Democrats and the governor on that issue.

Nava has represented District 31, which includes Southern Doña Ana County and part of Las Cruces, since 1993. She’s a former superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District.

She’s the sixth senator to decide not to seek re-election this year. Others include Albuquerque Democrats Dede Feldman, who is retiring, and Eric Griego, who is giving up his state Senate seat to run for the 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House; and Republicans Clinton Harden of Clovis, Vernon Asbill of Carlsbad, and Mark Boitano of Albuquerque, who are all retiring (read more about Harden’s departure here, Asbill’s here and Boitano’s here).

They’re joined by several House members – all Democrats – who are also not seeking re-election. In addition to Cervantes, they are Speaker Ben Luján of Námbe and Danice Picraux of Albuquerque, who are retiring; Al Park of Albuquerque, who is running for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission; Bill O’Neill of Albuquerque, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Feldman; and Joni Gutierrez of Mesilla, who is instead seeking the political position of Democratic national committeewoman for New Mexico.

Cervantes committed to improving public education

State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Heath Haussamen /

State Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Cervantes said in a news release that Nava was aware of his candidacy for her Senate seat and “asked for and received my commitment to continue her work improving our public education system, and her dedication to the Gadsden School District.” Cervantes is another Democrat who has sided with the governor on the social-promotion issue.

Cervantes, who has represented House District 52 since 2001, has developed a reputation as an independent Democrat and a reformer. He was twice involved in unsuccessful attempts to unseat Luján and spent much of his time sponsoring legislation related to transparency and reform.

Successes his news release cited in those areas include “the proposed constitutional amendment for increased qualifications of Public Regulation Commissioners… legislation to assure government reforms, whistleblower protections, open legislative committees and measures to recover millions of misappropriated tax dollars.”

Cervantes said he and Nava “have enjoyed a strong and cooperative working relationship representing many of the same communities in both the House and Senate over the past decade.”

“I look forward to representing these same communities in the Senate, and to new opportunities representing those border areas best positioned to lead our state in economic development and job creation,” he said.

Nava: ‘future can only be addressed by working together’


Nava said she is “proud of what I’ve been able to do with our constituents” and said serving 20 years is “a good, long record.”

“It’s just time to move on to different opportunities,” Nava said. “The mistake a lot of people make is they get in there and they never leave.”

Nava married former Environment Secretary Ron Curry last year. She said that also factored into her decision.

But in a prepared statement, like in her interview with, Nava focused on education reform.

“My passion has been and remains in the area of education and reform, because it is through education that our communities are improved and enriched,” she said in the statement. “Our children are our future, and that future can only be addressed by working together.”

Update, 10:30 a.m.

Andrew Moralez said he’ll run for the House seat Cervantes is vacating. He’s a former Sunland Park city manager, N.M. Border Authority executive director, and constituent services director for former Gov. Bill Richardson. He said a formal announcement will come later.

10 thoughts on “Sen. Nava retiring; Cervantes seeking her seat

  1. With all the proposed changes in assessment in NM public schools, there is a fresh pot of gold waiting to be snatched by the testing companies. I predict that Ms. Nava will be recruited by one of these companies. After 17 years in public education I have seeen how harmful retention is, but on many other issues I applaud Ms. Nava.

  2. Nava and Cervantes are both quasi Democrats. Running as Democrats because that is the way to get elected in their districts. Any thoughts Cervantes has of future runs will be restricted to southern New Mexico. Too, too comfy with Republicans for my taste.

  3. I had a very positive experience working with Representative Cervantes during the recently concluded legislative session on the PRC reform constitutional amendments.   Representative Cervantes obviously cared about issues and displayed an excellent command of the substance and details of the full three-bill reform package, matched only by his understanding of the politics of moving legislation through both chambers.   Voters in his district can expect good things from him as their state senator.  

  4. But can she still secure those “emergency” suppplemental appropriations for the Gadsden Independent School District year after year if she’s not in office?

  5. I do not expect Dr. Nava to retire from public service.  She has a great ability to bring people together and seek solutions.  She has passed more bills into law in the last 20 years than any other Dona Ana County legislator.  That is working with two republican and two democrat governors.  I hope she looks at the Governor’s chair in 2014 to help make the government of this state work for good public policy and not just partisan politics.

  6. pppsssssttttttt – that’s the sound of the “power vacuum” in New Mexico politics right now!

  7. In the world’s best educational system – Finland, Finnish educators denounce grade retention since it “causes student failure, lessens student motivation and increases social inequity.” In addition it is expensive!

    Here is an article on grade retention and the world class school system of Finland. Finnish educators reject holding children back.

    As the article concluded: “Asking a student to repeat a grade to improve learning is like asking a brain surgeon to operate on brain tissue using a kitchen knife.” The social promotion bill  is a program for failure. Senator Nava and Representative Cervantes have flunked because they did not do their homework on this important educational issue.  Let’s follow the model of Finland for education reform and not that of politicians.


  8. My, my, the politically super-ambitious rush in where others fear to tread.  Guess he will not challenge Kenny M. for speaker.