Apodaca joins race for 3rd Congressional District

By John Miller
Posted 6/6/19

A Northern New Mexico native who was raised in Arroyo Seco and runs an Albuquerque consulting firm has entered the packed race for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District.

“A lot of …

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Apodaca joins race for 3rd Congressional District


Correction appended.

A Northern New Mexico native who was raised in Arroyo Seco and runs a Santa Fe consulting firm has entered the packed race for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District.

“A lot of people are telling me that everything in Washington seems so dysfunctional that they want someone who has a common sense approach to things,” Robert Apodaca, 48, said during an interview at KOKO Coffee and Deli in Taos recently.

Apodaca has worked with government throughout his career and has been appointed to positions at the state and federal level, but his campaign announcement marks his first attempt at elected public office.

He is going up against seven other Democratic candidates, including:

former CIA agent and author Valerie Plame;Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez;state Representative Joseph Sanchez ;former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Dineh Benally; 1st Judicial District attorney Marco Serna; Gavin Kaiser of Santa Cruz; Cameron Alton Chick Sr. of Rio Rancho.

One Republican has entered the race: Brett Kokinadis, who founded the New Mexico Democrats for Democracy organization, but changed his party affiliation before entering the congressional race, according to an April 23 article in The Santa Fe New Mexican.

They are all running for the seat currently held by Democrat Ben Ray Lujan, who is vying to replace retiring U.S. Senator Tom Udall.

While not the only New Mexico native in the running, Apodaca says his roots in the northern part of the state help to set him apart from the competition.

He currently lives and operates his consulting firm in Bernalillo County with his partner, Krista Kelley, but he proudly recalls that his parents taught him the importance of “hard work and maintaining cultural values” as he grew up in Arroyo Seco.

“It was a pretty modest family,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot growing up.”

His father worked at the now shuttered Questa Mines, while his mother remained at home and raised him, his sister and his brother.  

Apodaca became the first in his family to graduate from college when he received his Bachelor of Business Administration from New Mexico State University in 1992.

From there, he was recruited to work for the city of Santa Fe. In 2002, former Gov. Bill Richardson appointed him to the Department of Finance Administration. He also spent time working with tribal land grants.

In 2010, former President Barack Obama appointed Apodaca as assistant chief under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In that capacity, he worked in the area of conservation, agriculture, water, endangered species, rural economic development and alternative energy.

Today, Apodaca sits on the boards of the Native American Policy Institute and Communities in Schools of New Mexico.

He says he chose to make a run for Congress after one of his two daughters – a recent college graduate – told him she saw no future for herself in New Mexico.

“You talk about the brain drain of our kids leaving our state,” Apodaca said. “When you read about it in the paper, that’s one thing, but when you have that conversation with your child, it’s a whole different situation.” 

He says he has remained in touch with the many issues that concern residents of Taos County and says he intends to focus on small business development, infrastructure improvements and providing young people with an education they can apply to real world situations and occupations.

“I want them to know that there’s hope,” he said. “If I can do it from where I came from, then the sky is the limit.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Apodaca runs his consulting firm out of Albuquerque. The firm is run out of Santa Fe.


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