Special Election Coverage: Midterms 2018
Cadena, Wendler square off in District 33 House race
Both candidates name education as key concern
One candidate threatens to sue NMSU
McCamley’s seat up for grabs
New Mexico House District 33 represents a large portion of the Las Cruces area, including a majority of the New Mexico State University campus. The two candidates running for New Mexico state representative in this district bring contrasting experience to the race.
Micaela Lara Cadena (D) and Charles Wendler (R) are opponents in the 2018 general election, which will be decided Nov. 6. Whoever wins the race will be succeeding Rep. Bill McCamley, a Democrat who ran for state auditor and lost to Brian Colón in the primary election in June.
McCamley explained that the district, which includes around 26,000 people, is diverse.
“There is an urban area; the south part of Las Cruces, including the main campus of NMSU,” McCamley said. “There is the town of Mesilla and there’s the community of Mesilla Park. And then there’s a more rural area that stretches south along the river that consists of a lot more farmland; pecans and homes that are on bigger pieces of land.”
Cadena brings public policy experience
Cadena, born in Mesilla, has a background in legislative work. She worked with the non-profit Young Women United for 12 years, where she led the organization’s legislative efforts. Her focus was largely on health care and behavioral health. She also worked as the bureau chief of recidivism reduction at the New Mexico Corrections Department, where she worked to decrease the number of returning offenders.
Cadena has experience working with legislation — from the state government perspective and from the staff perspective — as both a policy advocate and analyst for House Majority Leader, Doreen Gallegos.
“Somehow I’ve been all the way around and frankly I think that made my decision almost impossible when this seat opened up,” Cadena said. “I know how hard it is and with that I also know what kind of commitment it means, and when I set out to do something I of course set out to do it well.”
Wendler brings education experience
Wendler, originally from Indiana, brings a large amount of education experience to the race. He spent 37 years in public education, where he was a math and science teacher at various grade levels. Wendler also served as an administrator at multiple schools. Wendler said that his experience in education allowed him to learn to work with people of all backgrounds, address safety and work with budgets.
“I decided to run, basically, because I just think things are not in very good shape, quite frankly,” Wendler said. “I’ve lived long enough to see a great shift in our culture, and that saddens me.” He said the older generations are supposed to make things better for the next ones, and expressed he does not think young people today are at an advantage.
Two years of work in 60 days
McCamley explained that state representatives will gather for the first constitutionally mandated, 60-day session beginning this coming January. In 2020, there will be a shorter 30-day session held that January as well.
“You’re doing two years of work, basically, for one shot 60 days every other year, so you use that time in between to try to make sure that you know what’s going on, develop legislation … do the constituent services stuff, and work with other governments to get things done,” McCamley said.
Cadena names gun violence and education as key concerns
Cadena and Wendler have their own plans for the first session in Santa Fe.
Cadena said 60 days is not enough time to make significant changes, but plans to address gun violence and acquiring appropriate funding for the education systems in the district.
“When I think of priorities for New Mexico right now, in this very first session, I think there are concrete, significant things we can do in that 60 days to work on addressing and preventing gun violence in New Mexico, and that’s a commitment I’ve made for sure,” Cadena said. “When I think about the work ahead of us, I think we’ve got to figure out how to really fund and invest in New Mexico’s education system, so including K-12 education, but also our higher education system.”
Wendler concerned about law and order, education and the economy
Wendler said he plans to take stock of the resources available in the state and reach out to the people he will be working with in Santa Fe.
“I’m doing that now. I’m finding out what my resources are as a potential representative from District 33,” Wendler said. “Once I get up [to Santa Fe], I will be in house. I’ll go around and introduce myself to all of these individuals and say ‘what’s going on, what are the challenges you have’, take notes.” He said he would then analyze what he has in front of him and plan from there.
Wendler said there are three issues he sees as the most important: law and order, education and the economy. He said if the first two issues are well addressed, the economy will surge.
McCamley pledges to help
McCamley’s term as state representative for House District 33 ends this coming December. He said he plans to help the newly elected representative transition into his/her position and help the new representative understand what was done under his own leadership.
“I will hopefully be able to work with the new person coming in and help them transition into the job, so that they know what’s going on with, like I said, with the capital projects that we help fund, with the bills that I was working on, with the different individual community needs that are out there,” McCamley said.
The midterm general elections will be held Nov.6, 2018, and early voting began Oct. 9.
Editor’s note: This reporter participated in an unpaid internship with the Democratic Party of New Mexico last summer. She was involved in phone banking and canvassing. She is also a co-chair for the NMSU College Democrats.
Charles Wendler requested prior review of this story before publication. He said his words were his property and he should have the right to see what was written about him before publication. He threatened to sue a professor and the university if he was not given this opportunity.