After 20 years in office, Valencia County’s top prosecutor says it’s time to let someone else do the job.
13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, a Democrat, did not file to run for office on Tuesday and will finish out his fifth term as DA this year.
“I think 20 years, five terms, is more than sufficient,” Martinez said. “We’ve done some great things for victims in that time. It’s time to let somebody else have a shot at this position.”
The 13th Judicial District includes Valencia, Cibola and Sandoval counties.
“The people of the district have been great. It’s been an honor to serve them,” he said. “Now is the time to let somebody else take control of the office and run it as good or better than the last 20 years. That’s my hope for the district.”
Martinez said it has been a privilege to serve the people of Valencia County. Once his term ends, Martinez said he plans to retire.
“I’ll travel, do yard work, honey-dos,” he said with a laugh. “It’s time.”
Three candidates filed to fill the DA position — Democrats Barbara A. Romo and Mandana Shoushtari, and Republican Joshua Joe Jimenez.
Romo, 60, is the chief deputy district attorney for the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and earned her law degree at the University of Nebraska. She also holds a Master’s of Science degree in management from Troy State University.
Shoushtari, 42, is a senior trial attorney with the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology from Western Washington University and earned her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley law school in Michigan.
Jimenez, 37, is one of the partner attorneys at Payne and Jimenez, a Los Lunas law firm, as well as a former assistant district attorney for the 13th Judicial District. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University and earned his law degree at the University of Idaho.
In the June primary, Valencia County will have 45 candidates on the ballot, many of whom are running in challenged races.
Valencia County Commission
District 2: For the District 2 Valencia County Commission seat, there are five candidates — Democrats Duana M. Draszkiewicz, Ralph R. Miramontes and Thomas William Mraz, and Republicans Christopher D. Martinez and Troy Dean Richardson.
Draszkiewicz, 70, is a UNM graduate and has been a realtor for 12 years. She was an appointed member of the Valencia County Planning and Zoning Commission and is running for office for the first time.
Miramontes, 51, has been a prosecution assistant for the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office since 2002. He has not held elected office in the past.
Mraz, 70, was appointed to the District 2 seat by the governor in February. He is a certified chemical lab technician and electrical technician.
Martinez, 60, has served on the Los Lunas Board of Education. He graduated from Los Lunas High School in 1977, attended TVI, where he studied commercial printing, and is a self-employed printer.
Richardson, 41, is a project manager running for elected office for the first time.
District 4: Three candidates total filed to run for District 4 — Democrats Leroy Baca and Logan Jeffers, and Republican Joseph Aaron Bizzell.
Baca, 68, served two terms on the Belen Board of Education and is a retired UNM-Valencia campus teacher. Baca has a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
Jeffers, 24, a medical researcher for the New Mexico Heart Institute at Lovelace Heart Hospital, is running for office for the first time. He has a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry from UNM.
Bizzell, 46, is a contractor with no previous experience as an elected official. He completed a four-year apprentice program.
Current District 4 Commissioner Charles Eaton, a Democrat, could not file to run due to term limitations. He will finish his second term this year.
District 5: District 5 drew two candidates — Democrat David M. Tynan and Republican incumbent Jhonathan Aragon.
Tynan lives in Bosque Farms. He did not provide any other information to News-Bulletin and did not return calls before press time.
Aragon, 32, is the current commissioner for District 5, and was appointed to the seat in 2013. He has been re-elected to the position twice. Due to term limits, this is the last time Aragon can run for this position.
He is a veterinary technician, and has an associate of applied sciences degree from UNM.
Valencia County Clerk
There are three candidates on the ballot for the position of Valencia County Clerk — Democrats Aurora Dolores Chavez and Jennifer Jaramillo, and Republican Michael E. Milam.
Chavez, 45, is the chief deputy county clerk for the Valencia County Clerk’s Office, a position she has held since 2013. This is her first time running for elected office.
She will face Jaramillo, 34, a pharmacy technician also running for her first elected position.
Milam, 57, is a real estate broker for Keller Williams Realty and an owner broker for Preferred Property Management. He has an associate degree in applied science and 32 years of real estate schooling.
Valencia County Clerk Peggy Carabajal, a Republican, could not run again due to term limitations and will complete her second term this year.
Valencia County Treasurer
Only two candidates filed to run for Valencia County Treasurer, and both will continue on to the November General Election — Democrat Michael P. Steininger and incumbent Republican Deseri Sichler.
Steininger, 60, is the special director for the State of New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, local government division, budget and finance bureau. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting, is a certified municipal official, public manager, treasury official and chief procurement official.
Sichler, 47, is running for her second term as treasurer. She has degrees from UNM-Valencia campus and Norris School of Real Estate.
Los Lunas Magistrate, Division I
After the retirement of former magistrate Tina Garcia, the Division I seat was placed on the primary ballot.
Three candidates filed on Tuesday — Democrats Heather R. Benavidez and Andrew J. Barreras, and Republican Miles R. Tafoya.
Benavidez, 41, has been the municipal judge for the city of Rio Communities since 2013. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and master’s degree of public administration, both from UNM.
She is the liaison officer/ABLE New Mexico program manager for the New Mexico State Treasurer’s Office.
Barreras, 54, is the former state representative for House District 7, having served two terms from 2007-2010. He is the owner of Casa de Pizza and a real estate broker.
Tafoya, 33, is a surveillance officer for the Valencia County DWI Drug Court and co-owner of Stone Lizard Hops Farm. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Brown Mackie College. He has not held an elected office before.
All of state Senate and House of Representative seats are up for re-election this year.
New Mexico State Senate
District 29: Only two candidates filed for the District 29 seat — Democrat Paul Baca and Republican incumbent Gregory A. Baca.
Paul Baca, 54, is the president and CEO of Valley Improvement Association and the owner of the Long John Silver/A&W/Kicks 66 in Belen.
He has a degree in finance and business management from New Mexico State University.
Gregory A. Baca, 48, a Los Lunas attorney, is running for his second term. He has represented the district since 2017. He holds an associates degree in liberal arts and a bachelors in business administration, as well as a juris doctor degree.
District 30: In District 30, Democrat incumbent Clemente Sanchez will be challenged by Pamela M. Cordova and Joshua A. Sanchez and Kelly Kendra Noble filed as Republicans.
Clemente Sanchez, who has held the seat since 2012, is the director of the Small Business Development Center at the New Mexico State University Grants campus
Cordova, 62, is a retired educator who has a Master of Arts degree in organization management. Cordova has not held an elected position in the past.
Joshua A. Sanchez, 38, is the owner of Sanchez Demolition Inc., and has not held an elected position previously.
Kelly Kendra Noble is a resident of Zuni, in McKinley County.
District 39: Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Stefanics has the ticket to herself, while Republicans Joseph C. Tiano and Susan Vescovo will go head-to-head in June.
Stefanics has held the seat since 2016. She previously served as the District 39 senator from 1993 to 1996 before it included Valencia and Lincoln counties. She is a consultant for Resources for Change Policy Works.
Tiano, 59, of Santa Fe, has not held an elected position before. He attended UNM and New Mexico State University before completing the New Mexico State Police academy in 1982.
He has 24 years in law enforcement experience, including working for the Las Vegas metro police department, Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Los Alamos Police Department, which he retired from as a senior crash investigator.
Vescovo, 66, lives in Alto in Lincoln County. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English arts and education, and is a certified medical support hypnotherapist.
She has farmed most of her life and raises and breeds races horses, as well as owning a car dealership in Las Cruces for more than 30 years.
New Mexico House of Representatives
District 7: District 7 has two candidates, both unchallenged in the primary — Democrat Santos Griego and incumbent Republican Kelly Fajardo.
Griego, 49, is a journeyman inside wireman, running for elected office for the first time.
Fajardo, 49, who has held the seat since 2012, has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and owns her own Internet marketing company.
District 8: In District 8, incumbent Republican Alonzo Baldonado will be challenged by Democrat Paul Matthew Kinzelman.
Kinzelman, 67, is a computer engineer and pilot. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University. This is his first time running for elected office.
Baldonado, 46, is a real estate broker with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from UNM. He has held the seat since 2012.
District 49: In District 49, incumbent Republican Gail “Missy” Armstrong is completely unchallenged. She drew no opposition from either party. She was appointed in early 2017 after Don Tripp retired.
Armstrong is president of Pro-Fab, Inc. in Bosque Farms, a manufacturing facility specializing in clean room technology.
District 50: The District 50 race drew four candidates total — Democrats incumbent Matthew McQueen and Rebecca “Becky” King Spindle, Libertarian Jerry Gage and Republican Christina L. Estrada.
McQueen, who has held the seat since 2015, is an attorney from Lamy.
Spindle lives in Stanley. She did not respond to calls before press time.
Jerry Gage, 58, is a veteran who retired from the public service sector. Gage has a degree in sociology and has not held public office before.
Estrada, 45, is from Estancia and is a self employed rancher and rental property owner. She hasn’t held an elected position before.
District 69: In the District 69 race, Democrat incumbent Harry Garcia will be challenged by Regina J. Zuni, and Roy Randall Ryan filed on the Republican ticket.
Garcia, appointed to the seat in 2016, is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and has been a small business owner in Cibola County for more than 30 years.
Zuni lives in Isleta. She did not return calls before press time.
Ryan, 72, is a first-time candidate. He completed three years of college courses studying criminal justice. He is a certified New Mexico concealed carry instructor and certified New Mexico Department of Public Safety firearms instructor.
He is retired from law enforcement after 33 years, including working for the Cibola County Sheriff’s Office, and as a detention officer and chief security officer for Cibola County Detention Center.
13th Judicial District Court Judge
There were three divisions in the 13th Judicial District Court open for judge candidates. In Division 4, Cibola County, Democrat Amanda Sanchez Villalobos filed to run, and in Divisions 5 and 7, Sandoval County, Democrats James A. Noel and Chris G. Perez, respectively, filed.
Villalobos was appointed to the bench by the governor in May. Villalobos has worked as an associate staff attorney with the New Mexico Court of Appeals since 2012, previously working in both private practice and for the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office.
Villalobos earned her law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2005 and was admitted to the New Mexico bar the same year.
Noel was appointed in March. He has been the Court Executive Officer and Court Clerk in the Second Judicial District since 2015.
Before that, he served as assistant attorney general and general counsel for the Office of the State Auditor. He is a 2000 graduate of the UNM School of Law.
Also appointed to the bench in March, Perez has 23 years of experience as a private attorney. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.