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Outsider candidates say they can win House 46 race

SANTA FE – An independent and a write-in candidate maintain they can knock off Andrea Romero, the Democratic nominee in House District 46.

Romero beat incumbent Carl Trujillo in a hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination in the primary election June 5. There is no Republican candidate in the district that extends from parts of Santa Fe north to Rio Arriba county line and encompasses four pueblos.

But on Thursday two other candidates filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to enter the race.

Amadeo “A.J.” Ortiz, who has worked as an appraiser with county’s Assessor’s Office for more than two years, collected enough signatures to qualify as an independent candidate on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. And Heather Nordquist, a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who was a supporter of Trujillo in the primary, filled out the necessary documents to become a write-in candidate. Both live in the northern Santa Fe County community of El Rancho.

Amadeo Ortiz

Nordquist, a registered Democrat, said she was running “because the constituents of District 46 deserve a better choice.

Nordquist is executive vice-president of Northern New Mexico Protects citizens group that first raised questions about travel and expense reimbursements Romero received while serving as executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

Those allegations are now under investigation by Los Alamos County, the fiscal agent for the coalition, and the state Auditor’s Office. Romero has repaid $580 for the questioned expenses that were incurred mostly as group costs for events that included coalition board members from local governments that are part of the coalition.

When asked if she felt a write-in candidate and an independent has a chance in November, Nordquist said, “Given the ethical challenges of the presumed winner, I think absolutely (another candidate) can win.” Romero has said she followed standard practice in submitting expenses at the coalition.

Ortiz said he thinks he can win, too.

“The people of House District 46 collected over 450 signatures, in less than 36 hours, for my race,” he said. “It is clear that the people of District 46 want more choices.”

Ortiz, 32, said he’s been an independent for more than two years. “I have always felt that good policy is more important than any particular party loyalty,” he said. He said he had been considering running against his boss, Gus Martinez, for county assessor, but changed his mind.

“I realized that the changes I would like to see happen with property tax structures and water rights management are most relevant at the Legislative level,” he said.

Trujillo was plagued during the primary campaign with a lobbyist’s sexual harassment accusations that are now the focus on an internal legislative investigation. Trujillo says the inquiry is not following the rules of the Legislature’s new anti-harassment policy. But an attorney involved says proper protocol has been followed.