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More of our picks for the Democratic primary

This week, more of the Journal North’s endorsements in key local races in the Democratic primary.

District attorney: Mary Carmack-Altwies

About a year ago, Carmack-Altweis joined the staff of the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office, an agency that under outgoing incumbent Marco Serna has faced criticism from the public, and fines and scoldings from judges for failures in managing several cases – most significantly, a murder prosecution where delays by the DA’s Office led to letting the defendant walk free without facing trial.

So experience in that office would not normally be a selling point for Carmack-Altwies. But she acknowledges the problems in the office, said she saw them first-hand as a defense attorney and that she was brought on board to help fix things in an operation that had “no well-defined hierarchy.”

Carmack-Altwies has a résumé that should help turn the office around. She worked previously as a public defender in Santa Fe and managed her own criminal law firm in Albuquerque. She’s also active in community affairs, serving as a PTA president, a legal advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and volunteering to assist elderly people with legal issues and for the International Folk Art Market.

Carmack-Altwies says Serna’s team hired her for her managerial experience. “That’s one of the things the office is lacking right now; there’s no effective and ongoing management,” she recently told Journal North reporter Kyle Land, while noting that none of her own special victims and violent crimes unit’s cases has been dismissed on technicalities. She also would prosecute several cases herself each year as DA, rather than doling all of them out to other staffers. Her priorities include targeting gun crimes and dividing the office into two separate units for violent and low-level crimes.

Serving as district attorney is a difficult and typically thankless job, entailing the management of thousands of cases and a large legal staff. It’s not the kind of gig for someone looking for a political stepping stone or popularity. Carmack-Altwies is the best choice to get what’s been a rudderless DA’s Office back on track.

State House District 50: Matthew McQueen

Incumbent McQueen has been strong on environmental and education issues. He also made a valiant attempt to amend a property tax law intended to provide a break to keep longtime property owners from being priced out the Santa Fe market, but has ended up also benefiting corporate owners of apartment complexes and nursing homes, and some wealthy homeowners.

State House District 45: Linda Serrato

The best choices in this crowded race, with five candidates seeking to succeed retiring incumbent Jim Trujillo, are Serrato and Carmichael Dominguez.

Serrato is a Stanford grad who first came to New Mexico in 2008 to work on Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign, then became U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján’s political director and worked in Washington, D.C., before coming back to the state about five years ago and starting a family.

The first-time candidate with good political connections obviously is generating a lot of energy, with successful fundraising and endorsements from prominent Democratic-leaning groups, such as Planned Parenthood, the American Federation of Teachers and the Sierra Club.

Dominguez, a retired state Department of Transportation cartographer, served 12 years on the Santa Fe City Council, four years on the school board and six years on the Planning Commission. He’s never been flashy or controversial, but has always been a solid, thoughtful and decent representative. As a city councilor, he fought for equal treatment for his south side district.

Check out the candidates’ Q&As, available in the Voter Guide at abqjournal.com, and you will see there is almost no difference between Serrato and Dominguez on the issues. It may be surprising to some that Dominguez checks as many liberal boxes as Serrato does.

But Dominguez’s campaign appears to be almost comatose. As of last week, his campaign had raised only $450. So Serrato, who promises to bring a fresh voice to the district, gets the nod here.

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