Three Democrats are vying to replace retiring Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra in the South Valley’s state House District 10, including two candidates who have dealt with drunken driving charges and a University of New Mexico graduate student.
There are no Republicans seeking the vacant House seat, which Saavedra began representing in 1977. That means the Democrat who wins the party’s nomination in the June 3 primary election will be unchallenged in the general election if no independent or third-party candidate gets into the race.
Early voting started May 17.
The candidates for House District 10 include: Sisto Abeyta, 37, a small-business owner and legislative staffer; G. Andrés Romero, 27, a UNM history student and neighborhood association president; and Randy Saavedra, 42, a legislative lobbyist and the son of the district’s retiring representative.
Randy Saavedra has been charged with drunken driving three times. He pleaded guilty to drunken driving last year. An earlier 2009 DWI conviction was reversed on appeal, he said. Charges for a 2001 DWI arrest were dismissed.
Saavedra said his experience with the criminal justice system has given him an insight into the state’s DWI problem. “I’ve made mistakes. I’m going to take responsibility for them and share what I learned from my experience,” he said in a recent interview. “… The only way you can teach or do things better is being involved with it.”
Abeyta pleaded guilty to drunken driving and failing to stop after an accident in 2005.
Abeyta, in an interview, said he learned a lesson from the arrest. “I think that when you make a mistake once, you should be given the opportunity to prove yourself. I made my mistake (nearly) 10 years ago, and I haven’t made that mistake again,” he said.
Romero said, if elected, he would like to improve outreach from the state representative to residents of the district.
“In recent years, I believe that has really fallen off, and that has been evident,’ Romero said.
Romero is in the second year of a master’s degree program in history at UNM. He also serves as president of the Los Padillas Neighborhood Association.
He said he would vote to block efforts to evaluate public school students primarily on test scores and would try to increase school funding for arts and music programs.
Abeyta, who has worked with the Legislature for 13 years, aiding Democratic members in the House and Senate, said his top priority would be improving infrastructure in the South Valley, such as roads and community lighting.
“Primarily, I’ll be using my experience working in the Legislature … to help direct capital outlay dollars for those types of (infrastructure) projects in my district,” he said.
Abeyta, like Romero, said he would work to improve communication between residents of the district and their representative.
Saavedra, who has worked as a lobbyist for groups including the state district attorneys and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, said that experience – along with seeing his father represent the district for more than 35 years – gave him unique insight into the district’s needs and how the Legislature can address them.
“I’ve been involved with the Legislature since I was 5 years old,” Saavedra said. “I’ve basically worked 20 years with (state) budgets or with special interest bills.”
Saavedra said he would focus on efforts to develop economic development programs from the district, which includes a number of farms, and an increase to the minimum wage. “When everything costs more, we need to be paid more,” he said.
Saavedra’s father, known as Kiki Saavedra, was the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.