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Voter information for June 3 primary

—Bill Diven
Overall this year Sandoval County voters will choose two county commissioners, a county assessor and sheriff, a probate judge, and three magistrate judges. They also will help pick two state representatives whose districts include parts of neighboring counties.
Voters can request absentee ballots by mail starting on May 6, which is also the last day to register to vote or to update an existing registration. Early, in-person voting begins on May 17, and continues through May 31.

New Mexico holds closed primaries, so only voters who stated a party preference when registering can vote in their party’s primary. (Information on voting times and locations is on the county Bureau of Elections website SandovalCounty.com/BOE.)

Three incumbent officeholders face challenges from within their own political parties in the June 3 primary that also sees a former sheriff campaigning to return to office.

Here are the contested primary races with additional information on candidates not facing opposition until November.

State House District 65

James Roger Madalena

Orlando Lucero

Veteran Rep. James Roger Madalena of Jemez Pueblo drew opposition from fellow Democrat Orlando Lucero of Bernalillo, a current county commission leaving office under term limits. There is no Republican running in the district that spreads from Sandia Pueblo to the Colorado border by way of Bernalillo, five more pueblos and two Navajo Nation chapters before jumping into western Rio Arriba County.

  • Madalena, about to become number two in seniority after 32 years in the House, said he has been effective by maintaining respectful communication within his own party and across the aisle. “It’s important to me in a multicultural county that the underprivileged have good representation at the Legislature to educate and inform my colleagues and the public on the makeup of the constituency,” Madalena told the Signpost. “I have always thought it was important rather than being a radical or insurgent to keep it quite simple by informing people how it is and what it is.”
    A past county commission chairman, Madalena said he was the first pueblo member elected to the Legislature. He currently is a commissioner and acting executive director of the San Felipe Pueblo Gaming Commission.
  • Lucero is currently farming after a career in education and education policy and represents the Bernalillo-Placitas area on the county commission. He said he is running for the office, not against Madalena, to bring in new ideas and new energy.
    Recent events have generated new public concern over how the community deals with mental illness and with the ever-increasing cost of locking up even minor criminals, according to Lucero. “I think the time is right to talk about these now,” he said. “These issues have been around for a long time.”
    Lucero also said the push for education reform needs to go beyond teachers to the parents who are not helping their children study and be prepared for class.

State House District 22

James Smith

John Wallace

Incumbent Republican Rep. James Smith of Sandia Park is unopposed in the primary but faces a challenge from Placitas Democrat John Wallace in November. Their district includes Albuquerque’s East Mountains and southeastern Sandoval County taking in Placitas and Algodones.
Smith is a recently retired teacher while Wallace, a former teacher, works for the Albuquerque Federation of Teachers.

County Commission District 1

  • Two candidates—Democrat James Dominguez of Bernalillo and Republican Gary Miles of Placitas—are vying to fill the county commission seat being vacated by Orlando Lucero.
    Dominguez is a part of a Sandoval County farming and ranching family and is retired from PNM. Miles founded Placitas Animal Rescue 26 years ago and is a member of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District Board.
    They are the only candidates for the office in the primary and will square off in the general election. The district covers eastern Sandoval County and includes Algodones, Peña Blanca, Cochiti Lake, Sandia and Santo Domingo pueblos, and part of eastern Rio Rancho.

County Commission District 3

Don Chapman

Michael MacDonald

Incumbent County Commissioner Don Chapman seeking a second four-year term is being challenged    by fellow Republican Michael MacDonald in the June primary. No Democrats filed for the office representing northeastern Rio Rancho.

  • Chapman, retired from a career in sales and marketing, started his public life as president of a neighborhood association, lobbying city and state officials for flood controls. That has led to continued work, improving the infrastructure in his district while pressing the county administration on its budgeting process.
    “It’s all about going out and meeting people in the community and collaborating and getting things done,” Chapman said. “I’m very comfortable doing that and have been doing it all my adult life.”
    His ongoing advocacy for regional economic development and the hiring of an economic consultant has won praise from the Democratic leader of the state House as a model for the rest of the state, Chapman added.
  • MacDonald owns a fundraising company and also has roots in community activism leading a citizens group that opposed a special taxing district in Rio Rancho. His ten years on a YMCA board have provided experience in cooperative governance, budgeting, and managing a hired executive, he told the Signpost.
    “The county commission is not real glamorous. It’s nuts and bolts, but if you put the nuts and bolts in the right place, the engine of economic growth will work,” MacDonald added. “It’s a matter of bringing all the communities together to work as one.”

Sheriff

Jesse James Casaus

Steve Reynolds

John Paul Trujillo

While Sandoval County Sheriff Doug Wood is unopposed for reelection in the Republican primary, three Democrats are competing to challenge him in November.

  • Jesse James Casaus of Placitas has 13 years of law-enforcement experience and was a New Mexico State Police officer before becoming a Sandoval County sheriff’s deputy since 2008. “I’ve been on the criminal side, and I’m ready to move up on the administrative side,” he said. “I know what deputies need to be proactive rather than reactive.”
    That includes establishing a sex-offender unit and freeing patrol officers from handling court duties to make citizen calls a priority, he said. Casaus, while acknowledging budget constraints, also said he’d work to increase manpower.
  • Steve Reynolds of Rio Rancho has 31 years of law enforcement experience in Sandoval County starting as a dispatcher and moving through patrol, narcotics, and internal affairs among other assignments before retiring as a commander in 2007. He’s currently a captain at the county detention center and said he advocates restoring the Citizens Police Academy and Neighborhood Crime Watch parties. “I don’t want deputies driving up and down the main roads looking for speeders,” Reynolds said. “You can’t really catch burglars that way… I want to bring law enforcement back to our communities where it belongs.”
  • John Paul Trujillo was a lieutenant with the department when he was elected to the first of his two terms as sheriff in 2002. He has thirty years in law enforcement and currently is working for a security company. “Crime is up; the 24-hour coverage isn’t there,” he said adding staffing levels haven’t changed since he left office. “I think I can turn it around and put it back where it was before I left.”
    Trujillo said he would work to return resource officers to schools and restore the Citizens Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch parties and child and domestic violence programs.
  • Wood, who is seeking a second four-year term, is also a former Sandoval County deputy with a background in the military police and as a state criminal investigator.

Assessor

Tom Garcia

Leroy Lovato

Pete Salazar

Two Republicans, one of them a member of his staff, are taking on incumbent County Assessor Tom Garcia in the June primary.
Whoever wins the primary will be competing with another staff member in the November election.
The assessor’s staff is currently in the middle of a countywide reappraisal of all residential, commercial, ranch and vacant land while reconciling old and new records and construction in an updated computer database and mapping system. The process of establishing current market values, which is taking longer than expected, will begin focusing on the Placitas area in the near future.

  • “Part of the problem is manpower. Our competition is the counties around us,” Garcia said of appraisers on his staff leaving for better salaries. “We have a big investment in their training. They can sell that expertise, so it behooves the county to retain the best and brightest.”
    Garcia, who lives in Rio Rancho, said he’s seeking reelection in part to complete several projects currently underway and avoid the disruptions that come with a change of administration.
  • Leroy Lovato of Bernalillo, an appraiser in Garcia’s office, said he would apply his 17 years of experience to administering the office and directing assessments.
    “I’ll just have to review it if I get in to see what directions need changing,” he said. The issue with reappraisal isn’t old maps but manpower, Lovato added.
  • Pete Salazar of Placitas is making his second run at the assessor’s office. Salazar, a former county commissioner and Bernalillo Board of Education member, is semi-retired after 25 years of running the nonprofit SER de New Mexico.
    Salazar said he sees an issue from four years ago continuing as the national economic crash affects property values.
    “I’d reimplement reappraisals on a two-year cycle instead of annual,” he said. “With so many appraisals at higher than market value, protests are not being done in a timely manner.”
    With the significant turnover in appraisers and current vacancies, the assessor’s office needs a strong person in charge, Salazar added.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Antonio Montoya, an appraiser in the assessor’s office, in the general election.

Magistrate Court judges

  • All three of the Magistrate Court races in Sandoval County are set to be decided in the Democratic primary.
    In Division I, in Bernalillo, incumbent Judge Richard L. Zanotti of Rio Rancho is opposed by attorney Daniel Tallon of Placitas. Magistrate judges are not required to have a law degree.
    In Division II, four Democrats are competing to succeed Judge Kenneth Eichwald who is not running for reelection. They are attorney Bill Mast, business owners Benito Aragón and Joseph Ramirez and Air Force veteran Timothy Herrera.
    Incumbent Judge Delilah Montaño-Baca is running unopposed in Division III.
    Magistrate Divisions I and III are based in Bernalillo while Division II is in Cuba.
 
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