Voters in the June 2 Democratic primary will have a choice between newcomer Leo Jaramillo and the incumbent Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, for the District 5 State Senate Seat.
Jaramillo, currently the chair of the Rio Arriba County Commission, describes himself as a “servitude leader” and a community advocate.
“I don’t have children, so I think of my community as my child, raising it the best way I can, leaving it better for when somebody else comes,” he said in a May 4 League of Women Voters video forum.
Martinez, who has held the District 5 seat for 20 years, described himself as a “doer” and “a fighter for social justice” in a May 7 phone call.
Both candidates said the state needs to transition away from relying on oil and gas money, and they each mentioned the possibility of turning to renewable energy.
Jaramillo said too that it will be important to continue to look into the legalization of cannabis for revenue for the state and that he hopes to increase affordable housing in Rio Arriba and Los Alamos Counties, which could strengthen the local economies.
Both candidates also said they would work to continue to combat the opioid epidemic in the region, and both emphasized their commitment to protecting acequias and water.
During the forum, Jaramillo described his efforts to stand up to the Environmental Protection Agency as County commissioner when the Agency stated it would stop funding the clean up of a toxic groundwater plume, as well as his efforts to advocate for parciantes in San Pedro when Sonic tried to move where the corporation would threaten nearby acequias.
Martinez said he has always advocated for land grants, acequias and water associations on the Senate floor and always tried to make sure the needs of these organizations are met.
On controversial social issues, the two candidates differ somewhat: Martinez said May 7 he is anti-abortion, with certain exceptions, including saving a mother’s life, while Jaramillo wrote in a Tuesday text message that women should be able to make their own health care decisions without the interference of politicians.
And in the May 4 forum, Jaramillo was critical of the fact that Martinez this year was one of four democrats to vote against New Mexico’s “red-flag” law, which allows the seizure of guns from individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Martinez, however, said New Mexico needs legislation that regulates the possession of firearms and cited his effort to sponsor a senate bill that proposed background checks for gun sales. The bill became law in 2019.
He has been endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters, the American Federation of Teachers and Pro-Life New Mexico, among other organizations.
Senate President Pro Tem. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said in a Monday phone call that both she and Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, have endorsed Martinez.
Jaramillo has been endorsed by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Victory Fund, Los Alamos County Commissioner David Izraelevitz and Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, among others.
Martinez came under fire last summer after Española police arrested him for driving under the influence when he drunkenly rear-ended a vehicle at a stoplight. He pleaded not guilty of the charge.
He was convicted of aggravated and reckless driving in December. Following the conviction, he resigned from his positions as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as co-chair of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also urged him to resign his Senate seat in a December statement, saying that New Mexico’s elected leaders must hold themselves to the highest possible standard of behavior.
Martinez said in the May 7 phone call that he pleaded not guilty because he was scared at the time and has since changed his life.
“It was a mistake that I made, and I’ll regret it forever, but I’ve learned a lot from that mistake,” he said. “I’m moving forward.”
He said he has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every week and is no longer drinking.
Jaramillo wrote in a January press release that he too was convicted of drunk driving, 24 years ago, when he was a college freshman. But, he wrote, he pleaded guilty, sought counseling and has used his own experience to educate others about the wrongs of drinking and driving.
Diamantina Storment, who is running on the Republican ballot, in November will challenge whoever wins the June primary.