Steve Calderazzo tried Monday to quit the race for the District 1 seat on the Las Cruces City Council, saying his candidacy was only going to help an opponent he wants to lose.
But it’s too late to drop out of the three-person contest. Calderazzo’s name will stay on the ballot along with those of Kasandra Gandara and Eli Guzman, the city says.
Calderazzo requested that his name be removed because he believed he would split votes with Guzman and “almost guarantee” that Gandara would win, he told NMPolitics.net.
“Preventing this is tantamount to any personal loss or gain and, mathematically speaking, a withdrawal was our only chance,” Calderazzo said.
He sent a letter to the city Monday requesting that his name be removed from the ballot. But candidates have to give notice that they’re dropping out by the 49th day before a municipal election, state law dictates. Monday was the 28th day before the Nov. 3 contest. The city said it’s too late to drop out, “as ballots have already been printed.”
Early voting started Wednesday.
Calderazzo’s failed attempt to get off the ballot creates an uncertain dynamic in the race. It’s likely fewer voters will back Calderazzo than if he was actively campaigning for the seat, but voters still have the option to choose him over the candidates who are trying to win.
Guzman and Calderazzo are seen by many as more conservative, while Gandara is the favorite of progressives. The winner will replace Miguel Silva, who is giving up the council seat to run for mayor.
There’s been a wide and at times contentious divide in city politics between progressives and conservatives in recent years. People viewed as part of the progressive movement hold a narrow majority on the city council, though the votes don’t always line up along that perceived ideological line.
Calderazzo said the progressive movement is causing “permanent irreversible damage” to the city and “is going to kill the growth potential.”
By running for the council seat, Calderazzo said he was “inadvertently fighting members of my own party and, more importantly, business people in this community who I will absolutely need if we are really going to fight for positive changes.”
Gandara called Calderazzo’s reason for trying to drop out of the race “unfortunate.”
“It’s tactics like these that polarize our communities and disengages them from participating in civic life and bothering from showing up to the polls,” Gandara said in a statement released by her campaign.
Calderazzo said his decision to drop out came after hearing from “my team as well as other constituents” about the dynamic in the three-person race.
Gandara made clear she views such maneuvering as politics-as-usual. She said she is “committed to building relationships with my constituents and the business community, both equally, being responsive and respectful.”
“For the next 26 days, I will continue to meet with constituents, and it will be because I come from a place that desires a better future for this city, and not playing politics with our families, our children, and our business community,” Gandara said.
Guzman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Guzman didn’t attend Tuesday’s editorial board meeting with the Las Cruces Sun-News — which KRWG-TV taped and plans to broadcast this month — so the Sun-News talked Tuesday with just Gandara. You can watch the interview here:
This article has been updated to include the video of the Sun-News editorial board meeting.