Election season is here with filing day just 12 days away for local races.
Races for the municipalities of Belen, Rio Communities, Peralta and Los Lunas will be on the ballots, as well as seats on the Belen and Los Lunas boards of education, The University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus Advisory Board and Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.
Eligible candidates can file to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the Valencia County Clerk’s Bureau of Elections office, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.
To file, candidates need to submit a declaration of candidacy or statement of intent, which can be picked up at the bureau of elections office. There is no filing fee for the local, nonpartisan races.
“When candidates bring in their declaration paperwork, we verify their voter registration in our system,” said BOE Director Candace Teague.
The office is open at 8 a.m. on filing day, and every business day, so candidates can come in before filing to have their paperwork notarized if needed and make sure their documents are completed before they file, she added.
“Candidates can pick up a packet at any time. If they fill it out before they come in to file, it just makes it easier and faster,” said Teague. “They don’t have to though. They can fill it out that day.”
This is the second election cycle that puts all the local, nonpartisan races on the ballot in November.
Municipalities that opted into the consolidated election process could either cut short the terms of seats due for re-election and hold an election in 2019, or extend the terms and have elections in 2021.
Belen and Rio Communities shifted to the November election cycle in 2019, while Los Lunas and Peralta’s governing bodies waited until 2021. The village of Bosque Farms stayed on the traditional March election cycle and will have its next election in 2022.
Other nonpartisan elected boards had to move their elections to November in 2019.
Seats on the ballot in the city of Belen include the mayor, two councilors and the municipal judge.
In April, Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova announced he would not run for a third term. The council seats held by Frank Ortega and Ronnie Torres are up for reelection, and the municipal judgeship held by Kathy Savilla will also be on the ballot.
There will also be a $2.5 million general obligation bond question on the ballot for Hub City voters for a new police station.
In the city of Rio Communities, the mayor’s seat will be up for reelection, along with the council seats held by Bill Brown and Joshua Ramsell. Recently appointed Municipal Judge Noelle Chavez will have to run if she wants to remain on the bench.
Rio Communities Mayor Mark Gwinn took a medical leave of absence in October 2019 and never returned to his seat. Councilor Peggy Gutjahr was the mayor pro tem and assumed Gwinn’s duties. At the Aug. 9 meeting, she stepped aside and Councilor Joshua Ramsell was appointed to the position.
For its first year in the consolidated process, the village of Los Lunas will have three council seats on the ballot — District 1, currently held by Christopher Ortiz; District 3, held by Cruz Munoz; and District 4, filled by Phillip Jaramillo.
Munoz was appointed in February 2019 after Gerard Saiz was elected to the Valencia County Commission.
The Peralta ballot will include the mayor’s seat, two council seats — currently held by Claudio Moya and Randy Smith — and the municipal judge’s position, currently held by Tracy Aragon.
There will be two seats on the Belen Board of Education on the ballot in November — District 4 held by Jim Danner and District 5 held by Larry Garley, who was appointed to the position after Lisa Chavez resigned in May.
The district is also asking for a renewal of its 2 mill levy — a property tax of $2 for every $1,000 in taxable value — which is used for capital expenses in the Belen Consolidated Schools district, such as maintenance and repairs, improving school grounds, purchasing computer hardware and software for students and other technology improvements.
In May, the secretary of education suspended the entire five-member Los Lunas Board of Education. The District 3 and 5 seats — held by suspended members David Vickers and Steven Otero — were up for reelection this year, regardless of the suspension. Former New Mexico Public Education Department Sec. Ryan Stewart said the suspension did not prevent Vickers and Otero from running for their seats this year.
The other three seats, held by Bryan Smith, Eloy Giron and Frank Otero, won’t be on the ballot.
Teague said it was her understanding the positions are considered suspended, not vacant, and the current governing committee is not the board.
“Once the investigation by PED is done, some members may be able to get their positions back,” she said via email. “That is the direction I got.”
The positions on the UNM-Valencia Advisory Board ballot are the District 1 and at-large seats, held by Eloisa Tabet and Roberta Scott, respectively.
The Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District will have three seats on the ballot — Seat 2 held by Duana Draszkiewicz, Seat 3 held by Joseph Moya and Seat 4 held by Teresa Smith de Cherif.
Local governing boards have until Friday, Aug. 27, to submit ballot questions to the New Mexico Secretary of State for inclusion on the November ballot.
(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to add Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisor Seat 2 held by Duana Draszkiewicz.)
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.