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Race for conservancy district seat heats up

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The race for one of the positions on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Board of Directors is getting heated as election day approaches.

Three positions on the seven-member board are at stake Tuesday. On the ballot are an at-large position and directors positions in Bernalillo and Valencia counties. The district operates, maintains and manages irrigation, drainage and river control in the Middle Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam in the northern part of the state to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro County.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m., to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. To be eligible to vote, people must own property in the area benefited by the conservancy district. It is not limited to irrigators.

Lemitar farmer Glen Duggins, the incumbent, faces former Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Baca for the at-large position. Duggins is currently the chairman of the board.

With just a few days remaining, Baca’s campaign is disputing a claim by Duggins that he has the endorsement of all six Native American pueblos within the district. Neri Holguin, campaign manager for Baca, emailed the Journal a video of Duggins claiming the endorsement at an event in Albuquerque.

“Endorsements are an honor,” Baca said in the email. “It means someone, whether it’s a group or individual stands with you, backs you. Mr. Duggins should not speak for others and claim support he does not have. It’s misleading and disrespectful. When Duggins said he had the support of all six Pueblos within the Middle Rio Grande region, I knew that wasn’t true. I’m disappointed he said it.”

Duggins told the Journal he was told informally that he had the support of all of the Pueblos. He said Thursday that Isleta and Cochiti have officially endorsed him.

Santa Ana Gov. Timothy Menchego told the Journal his Pueblo has also endorsed Duggins. Duggins’ campaign also sent the Journal a letter dated Friday from San Felipe Pueblo Gov. James Candelaria confirming the Pueblo’s endorsement of his campaign. A member of the San Felipe tribal council had told the Journal earlier in the week that the Pueblo had not endorsed candidates.

“I have always had a good working relationship with the Pueblos,” Duggins said.

Sandia had not endorsed anyone as of Thursday, tribal administrator Shannon Montoya said. Efforts to reach Santa Domingo and Cochiti Pueblos for comment were unsuccessful. Holguin acknowledged Isleta’s endorsement of Duggins.

Duggins – who also serves on the Socorro County Board of Commissioners – cites his experience as a farmer among his qualifications as a member of the board.

“I believe farmers should have a voice on the board,” he said.

In her op-ed with the Journal on May 29, Baca said she believed her “background in urban and regional planning, open space and outdoor recreation as well as my family’s long connection to land, water and farming in the Middle Rio Grande Valley will be an asset on the MRGCD Board.”

The Valencia County race pits Los Chavez water attorney Stephanie Russo Baca against Jarales businessman and farmer Les Gibson, and Los Chavez farmer and retired Marine Michael W. Lundmark.

Incumbent John P. Kelly is running unopposed for a director position for Bernalillo County.

Board members not up for re-election are Michael T. Sandoval of Sandoval County; Valerie Moore of Socorro County; and Joaquin Baca and Karen Dunning, both of Bernalillo County.