Seven Candidates Vie for Three Española Council Seats

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Robert Apodaca city council candidate mug 1-7-2020 RGB

Robert Apodaca is running for the District 4 seat on the Española City Council.

Three seats on the Española City Council are up for grabs, while two incumbents in the upcoming elections are running unopposed, according to declarations filed by political candidates Tuesday.

Barring any write-in candidates who could declare on Jan. 14, District 3 City Councilor Manny Martinez and Española Municipal Judge Stephen Salazar, both Democrats, seem to have easy paths to reelection.

Salazar, a 51-year-old West Side resident, was first elected to the bench in 2012 and was reelected in 2016. His father-in-law Roy Archuleta is his campaign treasurer.

His cousin, Dennis Tim Salazar, is now in a three way race for reelection to the District 1 seat on the City Council.

Stephen Salazar was one of two candidates who had attended a Monday afternoon candidate training, conducted by the Española City Clerk’s Office.

The other was political newcomer Tara Lopez, chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at Northern New Mexico College.

Lopez, a Democrat who was born in Las Cruces but raised in Albuquerque, moved to Española in August 2019 after taking the job at Northern. The 42-year-old had been serving on the City of Port Angeles Planning Commission in the state of Washington, and before that had worked in academia and with Catholic charities in New Mexico, southern Colorado and Portland, Ore.

“It’s an important thing for a lot of us who have to leave, because there’s not a lot of jobs and money, and to come back and try to contribute,” Lopez said. “I care about New Mexico as a whole but I really love Española, and I think if I can promote something positive, and that’s up to the voters if they think I can, then I’ll do it.”

Lopez said she owes a lot to her cousin Eloy Lopez, who was a New Mexico State Police officer in Española, and her grandmother Lucinda Lopez who unsuccessfully ran for office in Valencia County in the 1970s.

The third person running for the District 1 seat is a familiar face in Española politics: Pedro Valdez.

A 32-year veteran of the Council, Valdez said he decided not to run in 2018 only because his friend J.R. Trujillo ran for the District 1 seat, a race that he lost to then-fellow planning commissioner John Ricci.

Valdez, 76, said he is running again because the Javier Sanchez administration has not gotten involved in some older proposals that were around when he was still on the Council, like an old state Department of Transportation proposal to rebuild the intersection next to the Plaza de Española and various water and sewer lines that need maintenance or repairs.

“The West Side doesn’t have any industry,” Valdez said. “Everything is going on the east side. I’m gonna be planning on things at the industrial park, and there on the main street, on Paseo de Oñate. We should bring some businesses in there.”

Valdez touted his role in bringing Walmart to North Riverside Drive during the Richard Lucero administration. He said he will name a campaign treasurer next week and at some point will release a list of his goals, should he become elected.

Perhaps the most high-profile race will be District 2 City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez’s effort to hold on to her seat as she is challenged by former Española boys basketball coach Richard Martinez.

“I’m running for City Council because I’m a great person, a great person,” Richard Martinez, a 56-year-old Republican and West Side resident, said.

Peggy Sue Martinez, 59, and Manny Martinez, the 55-year-old District 3 incumbent, were not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.

Richard Martinez arrived early Tuesday morning to declare his candidacy, flanked by Velarde Head Teacher Dorothy Valdez, a Democrat who is running for the District 4 seat against Robert Apodaca, a Democrat and supervisor with Juvenile Justice Services.

Incumbent Robert Seeds did not file to run again.

Both Valdez and Apodaca have no prior political experience.

Valdez, a 55-year-old from El Llano, said her passion is with children.

“I’m an educator but I was born and raised in Española, and I plan to continue living here and I want to make an impact for future generations,” Valdez said. I could be a part of making decisions that affect the city, bringing in new business, more work, things like that.”

Apodaca, a 42-year-old who previously did intake coordination for the Ayudantes mental health clinic in Española, said he has worked with children and families throughout the County and seen their needs and concerns.

“I definitely want to get the feel for my neighbors in my district, and see what their concerns are, what are we doing good, where can we improve?” Apodaca said.

Española City Clerk Melissa Velasquez and Rio Arriba County Clerk Linda Padilla were working Wednesday (1/8) to certify the candidacies of everyone who formally declared on Tuesday.

The Secretary of State’s Office will determine the order in which candidates’ names will appear on ballots on Feb. 5 in Santa Fe.

This online version of this story corrects an error in the print version which incorrectly reported that Tara Lopez was born in Española.

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