In spite of heavy spending by a super PAC that wanted to put an end to his time in office, Ken Miyagishima won a third term as Las Cruces’ mayor on Tuesday.
With all voting centers reporting, Miyagishima had 51 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Miguel Silva, who gave up a city council seat to run for mayor, and 16 percent for Gina Montoya-Ortega.
In the final week of the campaign, a well-funded super PAC hammered Miyagishima in mailers and robocalls some political operatives said were among the most harsh they can remember in New Mexico in recent years.
Miyagishima said he wanted to thank voters for “believing in me and not believing in those vicious attacks.”
“I’ve never been attacked like that in my life, but again I can’t thank them enough, from the bottom of my heart, for their support and belief in me,” Miyagishima said.
GOAL WestPAC, the group that assaulted Miyagishima, was started in 2013 with the help of U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. A spokesman said last week the congressman is “not involved in GOAL West’s operations.” Still, there’s a perception that Pearce is involved. Miyagishima spoke about that after declaring victory.
“I’d be interested to know why he spent so much money coming after me,” Miyagishima said of Pearce. He said the attacks won’t affect his ability to work with the congressman. Las Cruces is the largest city in Pearce’s district, and Miyagishima said cooperation is essential.
“We have to think of our consittuents, their best interests, and put aside whatever hard feelings he may have toward me,” Miyagishima said.
Las Cruces’ recession
Miyagishima’s third term will follow a period in which Las Cruces has struggled economically. The city remains in recession, and has been there through most of Miyagishima’s tenure as the city’s leader. Some 23 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty.
Miyagishima acknowledged the “time of exceptional economic challenge” in a commentary he authored in August, but wrote that the city is on the right path and that “careful financial management allowed us to maintain a high level of service” during the downturn.
Now, “we are in the midst of a period of exceptional advancement for the city,” Miyagishima wrote. “A new city hall, museum complex and transit center will soon be joined downtown by a major community health facility in the old city office building. Ground has been broken on a medical school on the NMSU campus, and a groundbreaking has just taken place on our new downtown city plaza.”
“In so many ways, the best is yet to come,” the mayor predicted in that column.
On Tuesday evening, Miyagishima said he would reach out to some of the groups that worked to defeat him — such as the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the homebuilders and realtors groups — and ask for their help.
“I want to listen to what they have to say, and maybe there’s something we can do,” Miyagishima said. “If they really have the magic formula to increase job creation, I’m open.”
Miyagishima has been in elected office for more than two decades. He spent two terms as a Doña Ana County commissioner from 1992-2000 before winning a seat on the Las Cruces City Council in 2001. He was first elected mayor in 2007.