- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) - A councilor in a troubled New Mexico border city who withdrew from his race was re-elected this week anyway.

Sunland Park city councilor Christian Lira beat out three other opponents with 32 percent of the vote on Tuesday, and said he plans on remaining in office “because of all the support.”

And now Lira plans on challenging longtime Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, in the Democratic primary.

Lira, 31, publicly withdrew from his council race last month but not in time to get his name taken off the ballot. Lira said he didn’t campaign because he was thinking about running for state representative.

But he said the results encouraged him even more to challenge Garcia. “I just don’t think we are getting the representation we need down here,” Lira said.

Garcia, a retired school principal who is seeking her 10th term, said Lira will need to answer questions since he served on the council while Sunland Park faced financial ruin. She also said he will need to address his previous domestic violence arrest.

Lira was arrested in May 2010 on charges of false imprisonment and battery against a household member after prosecutors said he attacked his ex-wife in a jealous rage during a late-night car ride. He was later found not guilty.

Lira said any reference to his domestic violence arrest was “dirty politics.”

In 2012, Sunland Park drew national headlines after a mayoral candidate was charged with extortion by secretly recording an opponent receiving a lap dance from a topless woman in his campaign office.

The year before, Mayor Martin Resendiz said he was drunk when he signed nine contracts with a California company for $1 million.

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