The 2018 primary election was a referendum on the political status quo in Rio Arriba County.
Political newcomers beat past and previous politicians in the County Commission and legislative races.
The closest race of the night was for the County Commission District 1 seat. James J. Martinez, a speech therapist at Española High School and associate pastor at The Rock Christian Church, beat three other candidates, including former two term County commissioner Elias Coriz. He won by five votes.
In District 2, Leo Jaramillo, former Española High School cheerleading coach and a chief of staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory, beat incumbent and long time County politico Alex Naranjo.
Districts 40 and 41
Joseph Sanchez, former Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative general manager and current Los Alamos National Laboratory electrical engineer, beat two politicians, County Commissioner Barney Trujillo and former Mora County commissioner and New Mexico Acequia Association President Paula Garcia.
Susan Herrera, the former Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation president, ended incumbent Debbie Rodella’s 23-year run as the representative in District 41.
County Sheriff James Lujan was the only incumbent candidate in a local contested race to keep his position. He beat Taos County Sheriff’s Department Det. Marvin Armijo, Española Police Department Det. Manuel Romero and former sheriff’s deputy Manuel Romero.
Lujan said the residents of Rio Arriba County are happy with the work he’s done as sheriff for the past four years and the level of professionalism he brought.
He first won the Democratic primary in 2014 against incumbent Tommy Rodella. He had no challenger in the general election.
Lujan said he plans to keep the Sheriff’s Office moving in the same direction it has been.
“I want to get more grants and some raises for the deputies,” he said. “The department is doing good and the public, they showed they are happy with the way things are.”
Lujan said he ran a “clean campaign.”
“There was no mud slinging on our part,” he said.
Lujan credited the majority of his success as a sheriff to his deputies and supervisors.
“I have an awesome department,” he said.
Former probate judge Marlo Martinez bested incumbent Max Quintana.
“It consumes your whole life, my family’s life, my wife, my sister, my brother-in-law, my son and everybody else,” he said in reaction to the results. “And of course, working with everybody, taking the high road and getting along with everyone.”
Martinez said he ran on a platform of educating the public about the probate process. He has already served two terms on the bench, four years beginning in 2003 and another four years beginning in 2011.
County Bureau of Elections Chief Michelle Jordan said while she didn’t receive the regular abundance of calls from voters reporting people for campaigning too close to polling sites, she and her staff received phone calls about provisional ballots through out the day.
“It has been non-stop with these complaints,” she said.
New Mexico has closed primary elections so a person must register with one of the state’s three recognized parties to vote. If they declined to choose a party or registered as an Independent, they received a provisional ballot.
“Our biggest issue is people who are confused and don’t understand the rule about party,” she said. “It is just something that can be (fixed) with voter education.”
Voters in Medanales had to deal with a parking lot filled with so much sand, multiple cars got stuck.
Susan Herrera supporter Theresa Lopez said she drove into the Medanales Community Center at 11 a.m. and immediately, her car got stuck in the sand.
A neighbor with a tractor pulled her out. Volunteer firefighters then sprayed down the sand, in an attempt to make it passable, but that just turned it into a muddy trap, instead of a sandy trap.
The firefighters then put cones at the bottom of the road, in front of the entrance, although one voter drove over the cone before reversing and parking at the Volunteer Fire Station.
Presiding Judge Theresa Compton said, despite the problems with sand, it was a steady flow of voters. By 11:20 a.m., 80 ballots were cast.
Former County commissioner Guadalupe Garcia said he called the Roads Department to get them to fix the road and parking lot but he was rebuffed.
Public Works Administrative Assistant Cathy Martinez said at around noon, a County crew graveled the parking lot.
Lopez also had problems, June 1, when she went to County Health Commons to cast an early ballot.
She got the same sample ballot as her husband, but was given a different ballot at the polls. Her ballot excluded the County Commission District 2 race.
She only realized the problem after she and her husband talked after leaving the polling place. She told people working on Herrera’s campaign, who said they would report the issue to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office.
Her husband received a ballot for a precinct in District 2 and was able to cast a vote in the Commission race.
Just before 9:00 p.m on election night, County Clerk Linda Padilla confirmed there were spoiled ballots at the Lucero Center, but would not say how many.
Jeremy Maestas, precinct judge and County recreation director, made the mistake of placing permit slips for the spoiled ballots in the ballot box along with the spoiled ballots. He signed a letter explaining the mistake so that election canvassers can better understand where the permits were.