Dear Las Crucens,

Given our recent wins and misses in the City and School Board elections, I’ve been doing some post-election analysis to better understand what did and didn’t work out. Below are my main takeaways, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.  

Maybe these were obvious to y’all, but I’ve had no involvement in elections or local politics until the last few years and am still trying to catch up. 😀

Juan Garcia (CCIA) and I have a short video discussing the Las Cruces election results in general here:

Election Takeaways

More People Voted

More people voted in this election than in former local elections. For instance, the overall voter turnout was 18% in 2023, as compared to 11% in 2021 and 16% in 2019. 

Looking at the Mayor’s race specifically, there were ~10% more votes in 2023 than in 2019.

Rank Choice Voting Can Work in Our Favor

Although Rank Choice Voting (RCV) can be confusing, this year’s results showed that by understanding how it works and being strategic, RCV can result in good outcomes. 

For instance, in the Mayor’s race, because of Rank Choice Voting, Eric Enriquez was able to beat Kasandra Gandara even though she was leading in votes after the first round.   

  • With Rank Choice Voting, a candidate does not win until they achieve 51% or greater of the votes. 
  • If no candidate achieves 51% of the vote, there is an instant run-off election.
  • In each subsequent round of voting, candidates who received the fewest votes are removed and their votes are redistributed to whoever was ranked next on each person’s ballot.  

The Mayor’s race went 6 rounds before Enriquez finally gathered enough votes to beat Gandara.

Isabella Solis voters actually swung the whole Mayor’s election.  Through multiple rounds of RCV, Gandara was leading against Enriquez. It wasn’t until Isabella Solis’ votes were redistributed that Enriquez was able to jump into the lead with enough votes to win the election by over 600 votes.

You can look at the results of each round of RCV in the Mayor’s election here:

Strategies That Work for Rank Choice Voting

Some of the things that helped RCV work in our favor in the election were:

  • Making sure that voters know to rank ALL candidates so their votes will still count in subsequent rounds of voting.
  • Whether or not we can all align on who to vote for #1, it helps if we align on who we want to vote against and rank that person LAST on the ballot.

Risks to Not Ranking ALL Candidates in Rank Choice Voting

As each round of RCV was tallied, there were fewer and fewer votes.  When voters do not rank ALL candidates, their votes will potentially not count by the time the final RCV round is counted.

For instance, in the Mayor’s race, there were 948 more votes in the first round of RCV than the last round. Those voters who only ranked a few of the candidates and did not rank Enriquez or Gandara had NO vote in the final RCV round.

School Board Losses

Two of the school board seats were retained by progressive candidates because there were multiple conservatives splitting the vote. School board elections are NOT Rank Choice Vote elections, so when there are multiple conservatives running against one progressive, that is a losing strategy. 

For instance, from looking at the vote count, Julia Ruiz would have easily won against School Board President Teresa Tenorio if latecomer Edward Howell hadn’t split the conservative vote. The final tally was:

  • Teresa Tenorio: 1,451 votes
  • Julia Ruiz: 1,305 votes
  • Edward Howell: 997 votes

Now the school board is composed of ALL progressives for at least the next two years. This is bad news for families as the progressive agenda includes allowing sexually explicit inappropriate books in schools, transgender bathrooms and locker rooms, extended classroom time and school years, lowering academic standards, and other issues. 

An all-progressive school board also means that, in the event that the Governor imposes any harmful mandates, the school board will go right along with whatever she has decreed.

Las Crucens Want Change

Overall, the election showed that Las Crucens want change. 

  • Las Crucens voted out the most powerful progressive on the ballot, Mayor Pro Tem Kasandra Gandara (District 1 City Councilor and wife of Senator William Soules).  
  • In addition to electing Enriquez as Mayor, Las Crucens also voted in Independent Bill Mattiace for City Council District 2. New Mexicans very rarely elect Independent candidates, and this says a lot!
  • Both Enriquez and Mattiace were running on a platform of increasing public safety and fighting the growing crime problem. 
  • The school board elections, too, show that Las Crucens wanted change (even though that was stymied by poor strategy among conservative candidates).

Important Success

The significance of Gandara being voted out in the Mayor’s race is huge.  She was running with a large budget alongside the endorsement of many prominent progressives in the state, including congressional and state senators and representatives. 

Her loss in the election shows that, with persistence and dedication, we can make an impact for the good of New Mexico.

Let’s keep pushing so we can have favorable results in next year’s election, too!

Sarah Smith 

Free People of the Southwest (local action)

New Mexico Freedoms Alliance (statewide action)


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