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Romero v. Nordquist tops Santa Fe area contests

SANTA FE – Democrat Andrea Romero, whose run for the Legislature has been clouded by controversy for months, faced off in Tuesday’s race for Santa Fe County’s House District 46 seat Tuesday against fellow Democrat Heather Nordquist, who mounted a write-in campaign.

In another high profile legislative race, independent Jarratt Applewhite is challenging Democrat Matthew McQueen in House District 50, which extends from Eldorado east of Santa Fe all the way south to the outskirts of Belén.

Romero, 31, a management consultant and ostrich farmer, defeated House 46 incumbent Carl Trujillo in the June Democratic primary. As that campaign got underway, a lobbyist accused Trujillo of sexual harassment, a charge he denies, that led to an official legislative investigation.

Meanwhile, a citizens group of which Nordquist is a part released public documents from a coalition of local governments that showed that Romero — the coalition’s director at the time — had been reimbursed for questionable spending on behalf of the coalition, including for baseball tickets and booze at a dinner party during a trip to Washington D.C. by coalition leaders. Subsequent audits said as much as $50,000 had been improperly spent by the coalition.

Nordquist, 44, who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory, supported Trujillo in the primary and decided to jump in as a write-in after Trujillo lost.

In the House 50 race, Applewhite, of Lamy, a former Santa Fe school board member, mounted a strong campaign, with $35,000 of his own money and help from a national group that supports independent candidates. McQueen, of Galisteo, is an attorney who has represented the sprawling district since 2015. He has been the lawyer for citizens group opposing a gravel mine and a proposed interstate truck stop.

Another Santa Fe-area race that drew attention as election day approached was for the Santa Fe County Commission’s District 3 seat, which extends from parts of Santa Fe to cover much of the southern part of the county. Santa Fe school board member Rudy Garcia faces Mike Anaya, a former commissioner as a Democrat who is running this year as an independent.

Both men have faced controversy. Reports by the Journal revealed that Garcia had a long arrest record, including four DWI charges and two convictions, over a 10-year period through 2008 and didn’t disclose his rap sheet to the school board before the board appointed him to a vacant seat last year. Anaya, when he was a commissioner and president of the state Association of Counties in 2009, was accused of sexual harassment by an association employee and the accuser received an undisclosed settlement.

Also on Tuesday’s ballot in the Santa Fe area and elsewhere in northern New Mexico:

n A ballot measure to amend the Santa Fe city charter to change the date of the municipal elections, as part of an effort under a new state law to consolidate smaller, non-partisan elections – like those for city councils, school boards and community college boards – on a single November date in odd-numbered years instead of holding them on various separate dates. The change also provides for a two-month transition period between city elections and when the winners take office.

n Continuation in future years of a one-eighth of 1 percent gross receipts tax that supports the North Central Regional Transit District’s regional bus service and the Rail Runner Express commuter train, by removing a 2024 sunset clause. Voters in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos and Taos county will decide the issue.

n In contests for two vacant House seats, Democrat Christine Chandler, a member of the Los Alamos County Council, faces Republican Lisa Shin, a Los Alamos optometrist, for the District 43 seat and Democrat Joseph Sanchez of Acalde faces independent T. Tweeti Blancett of Eagle Nest to replace retiring Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh in District 40.