Unite New Mexico endorses independents for House

Unite New Mexico, a new effort to bridge partisan politics and elect independent candidates, endorsed two such candidates for the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

State Democrats and Republicans “don’t want compromise and they don’t want common ground,” Unite New Mexico co-founder and former state Rep. Bob Perls said at a news conference at the Capitol.

The endorsed candidates are Lamy businessman and former Santa Fe Public Schools board member Jarratt Applewhite, who is trying to get on the ballot to challenge Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, in the November general election, and Treciafaye “Tweeti” Blancett of Eagle Nest, a small-business owner and former state representative who is seeking the House seat being vacated by Nick Salazar, D-Ohkay Owingeh.

Unite New Mexico is affiliated with the national Unite America organization, which aims is to elect what it calls commonsense independent candidates.

New Mexico has too many elected officials who have not had any elective competition in 10 to 20 years, Perls said. As things stand now, there will be no competition in the fall election for 34 of 70 House seats, he said.

“Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, when you have no competition, there’s no accountability,” Perls said. “And most importantly, there is voter apathy because they are not going to show up at the polls if there are no choices.”

Applewhite, 68, said the state “would have a better democracy if it had a higher voter turnout, but what it needs even more is a greater number of candidates. We have the highest rate of unopposed state races in our general election in the nation.”

Blancett, 72, said that in running in what she called one of the poorest districts in the country, she wouldn’t accept campaign donations of more than $10 and wouldn’t take money from outside the district.

“This district has been held for 40 years by the same gentleman,” said Blancett, referring to Salazar, who was first elected in 1973.

Under New Mexico law, independent candidates need more signatures to get on a ballot than a major-party candidate.

For example, Applewhite needs 311 signatures to get on the fall ballot to face McQueen, who had to collect just 75 for the primary ballot. McQueen is unopposed for the Democratic nomination to be on the November ballot, and no Republican filed for his seat.

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