Candidates backed by progressives won every race in Tuesday’s Las Cruces municipal election, and the powerful voting bloc expanded its control by ousting the only Republican on the city council.
In perhaps the most high-profile race, Yvonne Flores, a Democrat, unseated the Republican Ceil Levatino in the officially nonpartisan District 6 city council race. It wasn’t even close. Flores won with 57 percent of the vote to Levatino’s 43 percent.
Gill Sorg, a Democrat who was seeking a third term as the District 5 city councilor, easily defeated two Republican challengers, Steve Montanez and Bill Fuller. He won 51 percent of the vote to Montanez’s 41 percent and Fuller’s 8 percent.
Sorg would have won even if only one Republican had been on the ballot and gotten the combined votes won by Montanez and Fuller.
And in District 3, Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat, defeated the Republican Bev Courtney 70 percent to 30 percent.
When Tuesday’s winners are sworn in on Nov. 20, the Las Cruces City Council will be made up of six Democrats — including Mayor Ken Miyagishima — and one registered independent, Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Z. Smith.
“This, I hope, is going to carry on with four more years of progress in Las Cruces,” Sorg said during his victory speech. He spoke of important work that needs to be done on growth.
“We want it to be smart, bring better jobs to Las Cruces and higher-paying jobs to Las Cruces,” Sorg said.
Progressives also helped unseat a municipal judge — Kent Yalkut, a Democrat. Joy Goldbaum, another Democrat who had the backing of many progressives, won 51 percent of the vote to Yalkut’s 28 percent. A third candidate in the race, Nelson Goodin, a Republican, won 21 percent of the vote.
“Las Cruces voters have spoken loudly tonight in favor of continued progress in our community,” said Lucas Herndon of the progressive nonprofit ProgressNow New Mexico.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico also got in on the congratulations, saying Las Crucens “went out to vote and showed the state that when quality candidates who want to invest in their communities are on the ballot, they win.”
Miyagishima said he’s optimistic about the future, adding that Las Cruces is “moving in the right direction.”
Conservatives have made strong pushes to counter progressive dominance in Las Cruces city government over the last decade, but they’ve fallen short in most instances — and on Tuesday, their failure was complete. After that became clear, Jeffrey Isbell tweeted a reminder of a warning he gave to Las Cruces conservatives last year.
Isbell, who was working as a conservative political operative in Las Cruces at the time, wrote in a guest column for NMPolitics.net that progressive groups “have an organized presence in Las Cruces as a result of hiring community organizers and collectively expending hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year.” If conservatives want to win elections, he argued, they must do the same.
“Conservatives must understand the importance of constant community organizing and engagement and get to work doing so,” Isbell wrote. “It’s an expensive business, but a necessity to change the political climate.”
On Tuesday evening, Isbell shared his 2016 column on Twitter, along with the hashtag #Flashback.