Michael McDevitt, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 11:53 p.m. MT Nov. 5, 2019 | Updated 9:27 a.m. MT Nov. 6, 2019
This story was updated at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
LAS CRUCES – Las Cruces City Council will see two new faces next term.
Johana Bencomo, a 31-year-old longtime community organizer and advocate for economic justice, beat out three contenders in the race to replace District 4 Councilor Jack Eakman, who chose not to seek reelection.
And Tessa Abeyta Stuve emerged victorious in a four-way bout for the District 2 seat, which is being vacated by Councilor Gregory Z. Smith, who chose to run for mayor.
Both the races for districts 2 and 4 were ranked choice elections since they featured three or more candidates.
Bencomo comfortably won against Robert Palacios and Antoinette Reyes, according to unofficial results.
In round two of tabulating ranked ballots, Bencomo captured 62 percent of the vote to Palacios’ 37 percent.
Stuve, who sits on the board of directors for the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, won with 55 percent of the final-round vote, according to unofficial results.
She beat Philip VanVeen in the third round of counting ranked ballots. Her other opponents, Jack Valencia Jr. and Jason Estrada, were eliminated in rounds two and one, respectively.
Stuve plans to focus on improving the city’s environmental efforts, its infrastructure and its connectivity with New Mexico State University, which sits within her district.
Bencomo, an immigrant who’s lived in Las Cruces since she was 18 and earned her bachelor’s degree in government and Master of Social Work from NMSU, has said she plans to prioritize public safety with new lighting, community policing and neighborhood dialogue. She wants to explore restoring Burn Lake and hopes to bring economic vitality back to the Cotton Gin and Picacho areas.
“It’s incredibly surreal,” Bencomo said. “I’m incredibly proud of the campaign that I ran.”
In ranked choice, or instant runoff, a candidate must claim 50 percent of the vote. When all first-place votes are tallied, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The candidates ranked second on those ballots are then given votes and a new tally is produced. The process repeats itself until there is a winner.
The results remain unofficial until the state canvass has been completed and certified.
Kasandra Gandara handily won a second term on the city council on Tuesday.
After narrowly winning her first term in 2015 as part of a progressive bloc on the council, the licensed social worker won by a wider margin this time to hold onto a seat representing District 1.
Gandara, with 67 percent of the vote, defeated sole challenger Shelly Nichols-Shaw.
Speaking at an Election Night watch party at Amaro Winery, Gandara said she’s excited about the opportunity to continue serving her district.
“I’ll continue to be a voice for our people,” Gandara said. “Together we can do a lot of amazing things.”
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