Mathew Ortega has again won a seat on the Questa school board in the only contested race in the district.
Ortega garnered 307 votes over incumbent Joel C. Flory’s 212 votes and newcomer Christy Arguello’s 82 votes.
Jose Lovato, board president, retained his seat in Position 4 with 336 votes, while Tammy Jaramillo will assume the Position 3 seat, vacated by Bernie Torres, with 245 votes. Both Lovato and Jaramillo ran uncontested.
Jaramillo and Ortega previously served on the Questa school board when the state’s education secretary suspended the authority of the entire board in 2012 over allegations of harassment and conflict of interests. Both Ortega and Jaramillo were implicated in the suspension along with current school board member Daryl Ortega, who won reelection to the board in 2015. (Jaramillo told The Taos News Feb. 8 she served out a couple years of her term once the authority of the board was reinstated by the state).
Ortega told The Taos News in December that the issues that led to the suspension of the school board were ”just allegations.” He contends that those issues shouldn't distract from current challenges facing the district — such as a struggling budget, lawsuits and the athletics program.
Over half of Ortega’s votes, 165, were absentee ballots (those that can be mailed or delivered by hand to the Taos County Clerk’s Office), which is an outlier compared to other elections in the county. Neither Flory nor Arguello received any absentee ballots. Only one absentee ballot was received in the Taos races, while only two were received in the Peñasco races.
When Daryl Ortega won reelection in the last Questa school board race, his margin of victory (of only 7 votes) was also secured through absentee ballots.
Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez told The Taos News in 2015 Daryl Ortega and “a helper” delivered a “couple” handfuls of absentee ballots to the clerk’s office prior to the election. According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, only family, not “unrelated third parties,” may deliver a voter’s absentee ballot.
Martinez told The Taos News via email Feb. 8 that of Ortega’s 165 absentee ballots, 30 were delivered by hand by either the voter or a family member; the rest were mailed in.
In Peñasco, Amanda June Bissell won the only contested race in the district over challenger Audrey Medina-Dominguez. Bissell clinched 278 votes over Medina-Dominguez’s 44 votes.
Also in Peñasco, Sherry Archuleta got 237 votes while Mary Trujillo Mascareñas got 212 votes. Both candidates ran uncontested.
In Taos, neither Mark Flores II nor James Sanborn had a challenger. Both incumbents will retain their seats. Flores got 19 votes (only 2 on election day) while Sanborn got 17 votes (with only 8 on election day).