The November local election is lingering longer than Thanksgiving leftovers. 

The results of two races from the Nov. 7 local regular election are still pending as the state New Mexico Secretary of State’s office goes through the process of automatic recounts, and a seat that drew an uncontested write-in candidate may have to be filled by appointment in January. 

When filing day rolled around on Aug. 29, no one declared candidacy in the Belen Board of Education District 1 race. A week later, Orlando Santillanes, 24, filed as the lone write-in candidate for the position. 

Orlando Santillanes

Under New Mexico election law, unopposed write-in candidates have to receive either 100 votes or 10 percent of the total ballots cast on which the office appears. With 575 ballots cast in District 1, Santillanes’ 34 votes leaves him short.  

Valencia County Bureau of Elections Director Candace Teague said the secretary’s office has not yet informed the Valencia County Clerk’s office of the official outcome of the District 1 race. If the SOS does not issue a certificate of election for Santillanes, the Belen Board of Education will have to appoint a replacement to the District 1 seat, currently held by Max Cordova. Anyone appointed to the seat would only hold it until the next election in November 2025. 

Recounts in two other local races — Rio Communities City Council and Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors landowner seats — got underway on Monday, Dec. 4. The state canvassing board won’t meet again until Tuesday, Dec. 12, meaning more waiting for the final results. 

An automatic recount is required when the canvass shows the margin between the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for an office is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in the election for that office. 

In the Rio Communities race, there are two seats open on the council, which will go to the two candidates with the most votes. While the margin between the top two candidates exceeds the 1 percent threshold, there is a tie between the two “second-place” candidates.  

Thomas Nelson

Jim Winters (I)

With 1,232 votes cast in the race, incumbent Jim Winters and challenger Thomas Nelson both received 302 votes, 25 percent of the votes cast.  

Matthew Marquez leads the field of four candidates with 346 votes, 28 percent.  

Richard Henderson received 282 votes, 23 percent.  

If Winters and Nelson remain tied after the recount, the final outcome of the race will most likely be determined by lot, as per state statute. That has traditionally has been interpreted as a game of chance, such as a high card draw or throw of the dice. 

In the VSWCD Board of Supervisors’ race for the landowner seats, a field of five candidates were vying for three seats — two four-year terms and a two-year term which completes the term of the late Joseph Moya.  

The two candidates with the most votes will take the four-year terms, while the one with the third most will serve the two-year term.  

In the lead is Nicholas Baca with 3,635 votes, or 32 percent of the votes.  

David Neff

James Fischer

Three candidates received 18 percent of the vote — incumbent Abel Camarena, James Fischer and David Neff. 

Camerena had 2,031 votes to Fischer’s 2,016, while Neff received 1,981.  

A second incumbent Duana Draszkiewicz received 1,614 votes, 14 percent of the total votes cast, behind Neff by 367 votes. 

The recount will be for Neff and Fischer, since they are separated by a margin of .31 percent 

A total of 11,277 votes were cast in that race. 

The race for the VSWCD four-year, non-landowner seat was not subject to a recount. Pamela Cordova received 57 percent of the 7,824 votes cast — 4,475 — while incumbent Gail Goodman received 3,349 votes, 43 percent. 

The VSWCD is a multi-county district covering all of Valencia County and parts of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Socorro and Cibola counties. The recount for Neff and Fischer will be conducted in all five counties. 

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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.