Editorial: Taos News election picks for state and Taos County

Posted 5/24/18

Only two weeks remain before voters choose candidates for some critical state and Taos County elected positions.

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Editorial: Taos News election picks for state and Taos County

Posted

Only two weeks remain before voters choose candidates for some critical state and Taos County elected positions.

District 41

Voters in Arroyo Hondo, Pilar, Dixon, Tres Piedras, Ojo Caliente and El Rito have a choice between two well-known candidates for District 41 in New Mexico's House of Representatives.

The incumbent Debbie Rodella, a conservative Democrat, has served that district since 1993 and is seeking re-election. Her opponent, Susan Herrera, worked for 17 years as director of the Los Alamos National Lab Foundation, which has provided scholarships to many local students, worked to improve science education in Northern New Mexico schools, and launched a local program that teaches first-time parents about early childhood development. Herrera is well-known in Taos, having served as one of the founding administrators of the University of Mexico campus here.

Herrera's platform includes revamping the state tax laws to make corporations and wealthy people contribute a higher percentage their earnings in tax dollars. She is in favor of stricter gun laws, more regulations on fossil fuel extraction, improving education and - on a local level important to Taoseños--helping out mutual domestic water systems.

Rodella seems to have written off Taos voters. She didn't answer questions from The Taos News or League of Women Voters questionnaires.

Vote Susan Herrera for state representative, District 41.

District 40

State Rep. Nick Salazar of Ohkay Owingeh is retiring after 45 years from New Mexico House of Representatives District 40. He represented this newspaper's readers in Río Arriba, Colfax and Mora Counties. One of the candidates running for this seat is Paula Garcia, chairman of the Mora County Commission.

Garcia is a champion of Northern New Mexico's small farmers. For almost 20 years she has served as director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. She knows local government well, having been president of the state's Association of Counties.

During her campaign, she has pledged support for the environment, workers' rights and community health. She promises to work for rural economic development, an issue that she understands, and our area sorely needs.

Vote Paula Garcia for District 40.

County Commission

For the three county commission seats at stake, we endorse the incumbents, Jim Fambro, Mark Gallegos and Candyce O'Donnell. Together with the other two county commissioners, they have formed an efficient working group.

Even when they don't agree, this commission collaborates to find a way forward. In the last four years, this group pooled their resources to finish needed community projects, boosted funding to the sheriff's department and collaborated with the town on a grant to upgrade the Youth and Family Center.

They have some excellent ideas for helping the county's many struggling mutual domestic water systems. If re-elected, we strongly believe the commission should give O'Donnell a shot at a leadership position. She has earned it.

We urge Gallegos to give more attention to areas of his district outside of Questa.

We would like to see Ron Mascareñas make another run at the commission in four years. We think he's smart, with some good ideas and an obvious family commitment to his hometown. We hope he'll study up on county finances and projects and come back prepared to jump in.

County Assessor

For assessor, we recommend Randy L. Baca. He may be young, but he has already been in the deputy assessor position for three years.

He has a vision for what needs to be done to make the department more efficient and complete a re-assessment of all county property. We believe he has the skills and temperament to make that happen. We like his plan to educate the public about the role of the assessor. If elected, he'll need to seek advice from those with more life experience and commit to best practices in personnel management.

While we think Abel Montoya has done an admirable job at the helm of the office and helped marshal in a new era, we think this is a good time for him to turn over the reins to his second in command and then use his extensive knowledge as a senior assessor.

Magistrate Court Judge

For magistrate court judges, we also recommend the incumbents, Ernest L. Ortega and Jeff Shannon. They have worked hard to keep the court operating smoothly in the face of hefty budget cuts, rising caseloads and loss of staff.

Both bring a sense of justice and respect for all parties to the cases they oversee. Both have shown up at every public forum before the primary election even when they weren't going to be in the hot seat answering questions.

County Sheriff

Several highly qualified individuals are making the bid for sheriff, but in the primary, we recommend incumbent Jerry Hogrefe. He has worked to fulfill the campaign promises he made four years ago, setting a standard for training and advancement, increasing the pay for deputies, purchasing the equipment to help his deputies do their jobs more efficiently and more safely.

His tenure has been marred, through no fault of his own, by investigations into wrongdoing by some of his officers. He has handled those incidents professionally. If elected in November to a second term, we hope he will focus on staffing the outer lying communities better, improving relations with residents and building a more collaborative relationship with other law enforcement agencies.

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