The Ace of Hearts — drawn by Thomas Nelson — was the clear winner over the Five of Spades — drawn by incumbent Councilor Jim Winters — to determine who will serve the next four years on the Rio Communities City Council.   

Thirteenth Judicial District Judge James Lawrence Sanchez, center, oversaw the game of chance to determine the Rio Communities Council race on Tuesday. Thomas Nelson, right, was the winner over incumbent Councilor Jim Winters, left.
(Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo)

The local election was held more than a month ago but the race for one of two Rio Communities Council seats was only determined Tuesday after voters cast the same number of votes for two candidates.  

Winters and Nelson both received 302 votes last month, and after recounts at the local and state levels, the number of votes remained the same.  

Thirteenth Judicial District Judge James Lawrence Sanchez was tasked to help determine the winner of the election. After reading the state statute on Tuesday morning that applies when there is a tie in an election, the judge offered the two candidates four options — interpreted as a game of chance — to break the tie.  

Sanchez offered the candidates to either draw a high card, picking of one of two sticks — one longer than the other, pick one name written on a piece of paper from a cup or a flip of a coin. Both Nelson and Winters chose the high-card option.  

Sanchez offered to use a deck of playing cards left in his desk by retired District Judge William Sanchez, but the candidates opted to use a new, sealed deck Nelson brought to the courtroom.  

After the judge awkwardly shuffled the cards, both candidates cut the deck. Winters picked from the deck first, then Nelson.  

Before they showed their cards, Sanchez had a few words for both men.  

“I want to thank you both for stepping up to the plate to run and serve the public,” Judge Sanchez said. “It’s admirable. I know how hard it is to run an election. It takes a lot for you and your family.  

“For the winner, God bless you and congratulations. And for the loser, God bless you and thank you for trying.” 

Standing face to face, the two showed each other their cards — Nelson had the Ace of Hearts and Winters had the Five of Spades.  

Nelson, who is a master automotive technician and works in property development and management, said he was nervous going into the game of chance but was pleased with the outcome.  

“I’m still nervous,” Nelson said minutes after the game. “I’m just glad we have closer.” 

The councilor-elect said he’s hoping to make a difference while in office, including getting the public more involved, increasing transparency within the city and to acquire public parks in Rio Communities.  

Jim Winters, who is a retired laboratory scientist, chose not to comment after the card contest.  

Matthew Marquez, who retired from the U.S. Army and as a federal surface maintenance mechanic, was the top vote getter with 346 votes.  

Rio Communities City Manager Martin Moore said a date will be set soon for the new councilors to take their oaths of office. 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.