Las Crucens vote in city council, judicial races

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Meerscheidt Recreation Center

Heath Haussamen / NMPolitics.net

Meerscheidt Recreation Center is one of 14 voting locations in Las Cruces today.

A steady stream of people showed up to vote at Desert Hills Elementary on Las Cruces’ east side on Tuesday. The voting center is located in City Council District 6, where incumbent Ceil Levatino is being challenged by Yvonne Flores.

Several voters told NMPolitics.net they showed up to vote on Tuesday because of the District 6 council race. Among them was Buffy Johnson, who said she voted for Levatino.

“I feel that she really has the best interests of Las Cruces at heart,” Johnson said.

Evangelical pastors Robert Reed and Robert Frick, on the other hand, said they voted for Flores. Frick noted that City Council District 6 includes some affluent areas and some poor neighborhoods. Reed said it’s not been uncommon during Levatino’s tenure to see quicker response times in affluent neighborhoods when there’s a broken water line or other issue.

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“I love Ceil, and she’s great and really competent,” Reed said. But he voted for Flores, he said, because she favors “a more even distribution” of services to support the poor and affluent equally.

Leonard Metildi, on the other hand, voted for Levatino. He’s a Republican and noted that Levatino is too. While Metildi admitted to not paying close attention to local political issues in Las Cruces, he said he believes Democrats have decimated once-great cities across the United States, and it’s important to put Republicans into local offices.

Deputy City Clerk Christine Rivera said the city’s election was running smoothly Tuesday morning. Polls are open until 7 p.m. In addition to the Levatino/Flores race, two other city council seats are up for grabs, as is a municipal judgeship.

The people NMPolitics.net spoke with on Tuesday who voted in the judicial race all picked the same candidate — Joy Goldbaum, who’s in a three-way race along with Nelson Goodin and incumbent Kent Yalkut. Goldbaum has proposed creating a court program geared toward homeless people. Elaine Stachera Simon likes the idea, and voted for Goldbaum at the Doña Ana County Government Center.

“Besides having great experience, she seems well-rounded as far as the community goes, and I like her idea about having a Homeless Court,” Simon said.

Cheryl Frank voted Tuesday for Flores and Goldbaum. She said Flores is ready to work and listen to people, and Goldbaum is “the only candidate with a vision for the court.”

Meg Freyermuth voted a couple of weeks ago, during early voting. She also voted for Goldbaum, who she knows personally and said is “a wonderful person.”

Some people NMPolitics.net spoke with outside polling centers on Tuesday said they weren’t there to vote and didn’t know there was an election. Discussing that issue, Susan Fitzgerald, who also voted for Goldbaum on Tuesday, said the city needs “more real education about civic engagement.”

And Freyermuth spoke about the importance of voting, saying it’s “the easiest way to begin engaging in the community as a citizen.”

“The non-citizen friends I’ve had in my life have always expressed confusion and sadness over the large number of people in this country who don’t exercise their right to vote,” she said. “I think about all those who cannot vote, including children, and that is ultimately why I vote.”

Some who voted in Tuesday’s city election had state and national issues on their minds. Though he voted for Levatino, Metildi said he is “not too happy” with the Republican Party. Donald Trump wasn’t his first choice in last year’s presidential election, but the self-described “constitutional conservative” said Trump has done more to fight for conservative policies than establishment Republicans “because he’s not beholden to anyone.”

Metildi said he is frustrated with Republicans in Congress for standing in Trump’s way on health care and tax reform. “Unfortunately, the Republicans are not fighting for the principles of the party,” Metildi said.

Donnell Bell cast her first vote as a Las Crucen at Meerscheidt Recreation Center on Tuesday. She wouldn’t disclose how she voted, but she shared her concern about the possibility of New Mexico legalizing recreational marijuana.

Bell and her husband recently moved to Las Cruces from Colorado Springs to flee what she said were the negative effects of recreational marijuana in Colorado — which she described as less productivity and increased panhandling among marijuana users.

“My social issues are very liberal, but I also think we should help people who help themselves,” Bell said.

As to why they chose Las Cruces, Bell said her husband attended New Mexico State University years ago, and they love the area’s open spaces.

“I know it’s not utopia, but compared to where I came from it’s great,” she said.

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