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Andrea Romero wins in District 46, apparently, as write-in count lags

SANTA FE – Democrat Andrea Romero, whose run for the Legislature has been clouded by controversy for months, appeared to have won her House District 46 race against fellow Democrat Heather Nordquist, who mounted a write-in campaign.

Romero had racked up 7,886 official votes for the northern Santa Fe County seat by close to midnight.

No count of Nordquist’s tally was available because her write-in votes had to be counted by hand. But the staff of the Santa Fe County Clerk’s office said there were less than 4,000 total write-in votes cast in the race and the ballots still needed to be verified as votes for Nordquist and tallied.

Romero had good news about the race earlier in the evening.

“We did it. I don’t know what to say,” Romero said moments after receiving a call from House Speaker Brian Egolf, who told her she had won. “Now we have to get to work. Now the hard work really begins.”

Asked by a reporter at a Democratic Party gathering what Egolf told her, Romero said, “‘We know the numbers. They’re solid. You’re in.'”

After taking a breath, Romero she was feeling “relief, inspiration, exhaustion.”

In another high profile legislative race, Democratic incumbent Matthew McQueen was leading Jarratt Applewhite — a rare well-funded independent candidate — in House District 50, which extends from Eldorado east of Santa Fe all the way south to the outskirts of Belén.

With 12 of 21 precincts fully reporting and nine with partial results, McQueen had about 58 percent of the vote.

In the House 46 contest, Romero, 31, a management consultant and ostrich farmer, took out 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, 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 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.

Tuesday night, Santa Fe school board member Rudy Garcia held a lead over Mike Anaya, a former commissioner as a Democrat who ran this year as an independent. Early returns had 60 percent going for Garcia.

Both men have faced controversy. Reports by the Journal revealed that Garcia had a long arrest record, including four DWI charges and two convictions, 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 county 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.

Other election results for the Santa Fe area and northern New Mexico were:

– A huge majority Santa Fe city voters, 80 percent, were supporting a measure to amend the city charter to change the date of 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 several-weeek transition period between city elections and when the winners take office.

– More than three quarters of votes cast by 10 p.m. were supporting 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 cast ballots.

– In contests for two open House seats, Democrat Christine Chandler, a member of the Los Alamos County Council, was thumping Republican Lisa Shin, an optometrist, with 61 percent of the vote in late returns for in District 43, and Democrat Joseph Sanchez of Acalde had 81 percent against independent T. Tweeti Blancett of Eagle Nest to replace retiring Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh in District 40.