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Rio Rancho or Santa Fe? Residency of SF House candidate at issue

Where does Jeff Varela live? The Democratic candidate for House District 48 in Santa Fe has a house and works as a baseball umpire in Rio Rancho, but he says he moved back to Santa Fe two years ago to take care of his father, current District 48 Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela.

Jeff Varela

Jeff Varela

Lucky Varela, 81, is not seeking reelection for the seat he’s held since 1987 and has endorsed his son to succeed him. Lucky Varela came into some health issues a few years ago and had to have some toes amputated on his right foot.

Jeff Varela says that prompted him to move back home. “He was having circulatory and respiratory problems and lost all kinds of weight,” the son said. “He almost died. I had to live with him to take care of him.”

Santa Fe County Clerk records confirm that both Jeff and Lucky Varela share ownership of a house Callejon Zenaida in Santa Fe. Although Jeff Varela said he moved there two years ago, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Rio Rancho Observer in May 2015 in which he bashed that city’s government and said he has lived in Rio Rancho for over two decades.

“I established a residence here in Rio Rancho more than 20 years ago because of the progressive vision the city had and its public schools,” Varela wrote. “The infrastructure here, particularly our roads, sidewalks, medians are dismal! I have been dodging the same potholes in North Hills for at least 10 years in addition to faded or no striping on the streets… . For the second or third-largest city in New Mexico, it is outright embarrassing! … we must hold people in office accountable!”

County records show Lucky Varela added Jeff to the deed of Lucky’s Santa Fe home in August “as his inheritance as joint tenants in common,” shortly before Lucky announced he wouldn’t run again and Jeff was announced as a candidate. Jeff Varela faces Linda Trujillo and Paul Campos in the June 7 Democratic primary.

Varela’s voter registeration is in Santa Fe County and he has voted there in several elections since 1996, and records don’t indicate that he’s voted in Sandoval County.

Varela says he maintains a residence in Rio Rancho so his 17-year-old daughter can continue school there.

“I knew it was going to be an issue,” Varela said. “That’s my home (in Santa Fe). I’m a product of this city, and I’ve always considered Santa Fe my home. I was born and raised in this district.”