When District 2 Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo was in fourth grade, he began doodling campaign slogans and signs in his notebook during a class lesson about the importance of public service.
Now, a year-and-a-half after Jaramillo’s successful campaign for county commissioner, those slogans and signs will once again become a reality: Jaramillo announced Jan. 2 that he will challenge Senator Richard Martinez, D-Española, in the Democratic primary for his District 5 state senate seat.
Española police arrested Martinez in June for driving under the influence after he rear-ended a vehicle at a stoplight. He was convicted Dec. 17 of aggravated drunken and reckless driving after pleading “not guilty” and was sentenced Tuesday to five days in jail.
Martinez, who has served in the Senate since 2001, has said that he will run for re-election, though the governor urged him to resign his seat in a Dec. 17 press release after his conviction. He resigned Dec. 27 from the senate committees on which he served.
In a Jan. 2 statement, Jaramillo wrote that he was also convicted of drinking and driving—24 years ago, as a college freshman—but that he pleaded guilty, sought counseling and has spoken about the consequences of his actions at local high schools.
“The difference between the 18-year-old college freshman who pleaded guilty and took responsibility as opposed to the 67-year-old State Senator who pleaded ‘not guilty’ to aggravated DWI, never showed remorse or apologized to his constituents or the victims is astronomically different,” Jaramillo wrote.
Martinez did not return a phone call about Jaramillo’s campaign.
So far, no one besides Jaramillo has announced a run against Martinez.
The press release states that Jaramillo, currently a chief of staff and administrative officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “plans to run an aggressive grassroots campaign.”
He said in a Jan. 2 phone call that he will raise funds by asking residents for their support, and that he will prioritize listening to their ideas and needs, seeing District 5 “through the eyes of community members.”
He has no concrete plans for legislation yet, he said, but he has been talking with local educators—he himself is a former teacher—and with members of Española’s immigrant community to identify issues.
If elected, he will give up his seat as county commissioner.
He hopes to “elevate Rio Arriba,” he said.
He told a story about running into someone who had recently moved to New Mexico. The person mentioned watching a video of Martinez, drunk after the car accident.
“Isn’t this just the norm in your community, and that’s okay?” the new resident asked Jaramillo.
“People just assumed that this was okay,” Jaramillo said. “I started to then hear conversations of people who would say, ‘That’s just exactly what they expect of those of us from this area.’”
He said he wants to challenge this conception of the County.
“By bringing in an ethical leader who leads with compassion, heart and humility, we’ll be able to elevate Rio Arriba, and by listening to everyone’s collective voice,” he said.
Another local politician, City Councilor Justin J. Salazar-Torrez, is running for a state position, the District 40 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
Salazar-Torrez, a Republican, announced his run in a Jan. 6 press release and said he will prioritize family and public safety.
The seat is currently held by Rep. Joseph Sanchez, who is running for U.S. Congress.