Assuming her narrow lead holds, Kasandra Gandara is the new representative of District 1 on the Las Cruces City Council.
Gandara narrowly won Tuesday with 48 percent of the vote to Eli Guzman’s 47 percent. Only 18 votes separated the two candidates, raising the question of whether Guzman would seek a recount. Guzman and Gandara could not immediately be reached for comment.
The city has no automatic recount provision, so the cost would be Guzman’s if he seeks a recount.
Assuming the results hold, Gandara will replace Miguel Silva, who gave up the seat this year to run for mayor.
A third candidate, Steve Calderazzo — who tried to quit the race after the deadline had passed and stopped campaigning — received 106 votes.
When he attempted to drop out several weeks ago, Calderazzo told NMPolitics.net he believed he would split votes with Guzman and ensure a Gandara victory. “Preventing this is tantamount to any personal loss or gain,” Calderazzo said.
Had all or even most of Calderazzo’s votes gone to Guzman, he would have won.
Gandara, who has been a regional manager for the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department since 2007, will now have to decide whether to retire and focus on being a city councilor full-time. Gandara told NMPolitics.net two weeks ago that she loves her job, and she’s eligible to retire. If elected, she said would have to figure out whether she could juggle both duties.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” Gandara said.
Her decision to run came after being part of the successful effort to raise the city’s minimum wage in 2014. In a commentary she authored, Gandara wrote that she, like others, was disappointed when the council controlled the way the wage hike was implemented rather than letting voters decide.
“Everyone talks about how low voter turnout weakens our democracy,” Gandara wrote. “One really needs to look no further than last year’s failure to let the voters decide the minimum-wage question as a perfect example of why voters have lost faith in their government.”
Her campaign, she wrote, was about changing that dynamic.
“We have shortchanged our constituents in this community by placing a higher value on those who participate than those who have not,” Gandara wrote. “It’s time to give everyone a reason to participate and restore their faith in the democratic process.”