ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three members have been sworn in to terms on the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board, but the candidate who won election to the Valencia County seat last week was not among them.
Matthew Aragon of Los Lunas, a farmer in Valencia County, received the most votes in the race for that county’s seat but was blocked from serving when he failed to get a pardon from Gov. Susana Martinez for a 1997 felony conviction.
The district board declared the seat vacant Monday and appointed former Valencia County Assessor Beverly Dominguez Romero to fill the position. Romero finished 37 votes behind Aragon.
Dominguez Romero was sworn into office Monday, as were Glen Duggins, a Socorro County farmer elected to the board’s at-large position, and John P. Kelly, a resident of Albuquerque’s North Valley, re-elected to one of the board’s three Bernalillo County seats. All serve four-year terms.
The conservancy district serves 11,000 irrigators, delivering water to 70,000 acres of cropland along 150 miles of the Rio Grande.
Aragon was convicted in August 1997 of shooting at an inhabited dwelling or motor vehicle. According to a Valencia County Sheriff’s Office report, he fired a rifle at a car occupied by men who were taking a beer keg from his property.
Aragon hoped to get a pardon from the governor enabling him to serve. That was not to be.
“There is a process that all applicants for pardons or clemency must go through,” a statement from the Governor’s Office read. ” … It involves an extensive review of an applicant’s criminal history and other factors.”
“No one is allowed to skirt that process, and the governor doesn’t appreciate being asked to provide special consideration for a political purpose,” the statement said. “This individual shot at, and potentially hit, someone over a keg of beer. Those are serious actions that should never be taken lightly.”
Aragon said he met Monday with Derrick Lente, district board chairman, and Mike Hamman, district chief engineer, to inform them he had not received the pardon.
Aragon said he spoke to Lente about considering the needs of the people who voted for him.
“There are a lot of people out there (irrigators) who need help,” Aragon said. “I’m looking forward to doing what I do best and trying to help out when I can. God doesn’t expect us all to be perfect, but what we do after that defining moment determines who we are.”