The 2016 elections in the United States will no doubt go down in history as a turning point. For two of the three televised presidential debates, SFR held watch parties, gathering to bear witness (and play bingo) with fellow Santa Feans in a local pub. Then, we waited eagerly for the following week’s Saturday Night Live cold open to remind us how we felt when we saw Donald Trump lurk behind Hillary Clinton like a shark, interrupt her and eventually resort to phrases like “such a nasty woman.” We relived practically every memorable moment on social media. We’ve been so inundated with messaging that we really just want to hide in the mountains till it’s all over. But looking away isn’t our style.
While we took a break from telling you what to do for the primary elections in June, the SFR endorsements are back by popular demand. We kept it local. Even then, we didn’t weigh in on every ballot choice in great detail. Use your ears and your eyes, your minds and your hearts on Nov. 8, neighbors.
Oh ... and we are with her.
Secretary of State: Maggie Toulouse Oliver
Heartbeat? Check. Brainwaves? Totally there. Logic and experience? Roger that. Even if Maggie Toulouse Oliver had no other qualities to bring to the table, she’d get our endorsement for the statewide office that oversees elections, candidate finance reporting and corporate filings.
It's pretty shocking that she's even here again to begin with. Remember the last general election, when voters narrowly chose Dianna Duran over Toulouse Oliver to serve as secretary of state? Duran resigned and pleaded guilty to embezzlement, so the job that's technically third in line to the governor is up for grabs.
We could make a big deal of the fact that Toulouse Oliver holds a master's degree in political science from the University of New Mexico and her opponent's credentials come from New Covenant International University, which appears to be an internet degree mill based in Florida.
But what's really telling is the similarity that Republican Nora Espinoza has with Duran: elective silence. Espinoza, a state representative from Roswell, wouldn't grant an interview about the statewide race that she suddenly got interested in. A writer for SFR only got her to talk by showing up at a fundraiser—and organizers told him earlier in the day that it had been cancelled, we suspect in an attempt to try to keep him from attending. She refused to talk to us regarding our endorsement, too, offering only to answer questions in writing. We refused.
Toulouse Oliver has served as Bernalillo County Clerk for eight years. She knows elections from the perspective of her previous life as a candidate campaign consultant and from this most recent experience on the other side of the counter. She is open to ideas that we think could substantially increase voter participation, such as mail ballots and open primary elections. She's the clear choice. Again.
District Attorney: Marco Serna
Admitting that the courts are part of the political system is a stretch for some candidates who’d rather paint themselves as pure upholders of the law. But this view is too narrow for today’s climate, and the stakes are too high to pretend that policy doesn’t influence the local prosecutor’s office. The district attorney serving Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties has to take a strong stance on how we treat people accused of crimes. Marco Serna not only has the necessary chops to oversee a team of lawyers with a big job, but he’s also committed to curbing the way the war on drugs affects our prison populations and the people left on the outside.
You've got to hand it to Yvonne Chicoine for putting on an uphill campaign to reflect her values: that ball-busting crime and punishment is the way to a better society. We just disagree. We think she would be a good prosecutor, as she's demonstrated in her years of service in the district attorney and attorney general's offices. Our pick for district attorney, however, is Serna. He's in line with the wave of criminal justice reform that our state and our nation needs.
NM Senate: Liz Stefanics
How many years will pass before we stop calling this Senate job Phil Griego's seat? After holding the spot for two nearly decades and then resigning amid an ethics investigation early last year, Griego still faces criminal charges. Ted Barela, an engineering project manager appointed to the seat by the governor, has now served through a special Legislative session. But Liz Stefanics is hoping her name gets attached to the seat on a more permanent basis. After all, it was her seat before Griego came on the scene. Not only is she a strong woman with a solid head on her shoulders, Stefanics has served the region in elected offices for the long haul, including two terms on the Santa Fe County Commission. She wants to advocate for an increase to the state minimum wage and give explicit power to counties to regulate oil and gas development. Sounds good to us.
US Congress: Ben Ray Luján
As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Central Committee, incumbent Ben Ray Luján has a prominent place in the national political scene, which means people outside of New Mexico are listening to the perspectives of someone from inside. That’s good. (Yet, we’d like him to be a stronger voice for endangered species and to push harder on immigration reform.) The other choice on the ballot, Embudo native Michael Romero, formerly a police officer in Las Vegas, Nevada, who retired to Vadito, tells us that he wants to see the feds take their hands off health care and would work to put federal land in New Mexico in the hands of Spanish colonial land grant heirs—and that’s just scratching the surface. Let’s stick with Ben Ray.
43: Stephanie Garcia Richard
Stephanie Garcia Richard gets our endorsement for this district that’s mostly Los Alamos and just a touch of Santa Fe County. Wrestling her way in 2012 into a seat traditionally held by Republicans, the Democrat is articulate, and from what we can tell, hardworking. That she’s worked for more than a decade as a teacher also earns our support. Willing to cast occasional votes reflective of her constituents’ wishes that move her more to the right of center than her party colleagues, she’s not always in an enviable position. Also a point in her favor is that she wants state voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana, and we think that’s the right call. That, and she was once arrested during college for jumping a subway turnstile. We like that independent streak.
Another factor in our consideration is that Republican Sharon Stover didn't respond to multiple emails and phone calls about an interview. What does that say about how she will treat those who live in the district?
47: Brian Egolf
Some people might see a touch of arrogance in Brian Egolf. We get that. Other people might just call it being a good lawyer, an adept debater and a strong leader. That adjective—arrogance—was the worst thing his opponent had to say about Egolf during our interview, however. Roger Andrew Gonzales’ meager campaign finance reports show he hasn’t run much of a campaign against the Santa Fean who serves as the House Minority Leader. We’re in Egolf’s corner because in his eight years in the House he’s demonstrated a record of landing on the right of side of history, of listening and growing. He filed the case that led the New Mexico Supreme Court to affirm marriage equality. He took the same fight to the Roundhouse, where he’s also been a supporter of reproductive freedom and a voice of disruption in a chamber that’s been carrying the governor’s water. Keep him.
50: Matthew McQueen
Matthew McQueen is not happy with his service in the state House of Representatives so far. He’s frustrated that Republicans in the majority have, in tandem with a hardline right-leaning governor, successfully thwarted most of the initiatives presented by Democrats, including things he says shouldn’t have a bright party line. But McQueen is holding out hope for another day. The attorney who specializes in land conservation and historic preservation issues says he’s learned a lot about the Roundhouse and he wants to stay.
We don't have much to say about Jeremy Ryan Tremco, a Moriarty man running on the Republican ticket to unseat McQueen. He didn't respond to our inquiries. He also didn't reply to a League of Women Voters survey. So, good luck with that.
We wholeheartedly recommend McQueen. He's well-spoken and bright and he appears to understand the work involved in doing the job right.
Supreme Court Justice: Michael Vigil
New Mexico’s Supreme Court gained a female majority with Justice Judith Nakamura’s appointment by Gov. Susana Martinez last year. The Republican, who is a former Bernalillo County Metro Court judge, has a ton of experience with criminal dockets and serves with energy. But when the court ruled on whether workers’ compensation protections should apply to farmworkers, her dissenting opinion was chilling in its willingness to discriminate against a particular class of laborers whose jobs can be dangerous.
No matter how important we think it is to increase the parity among genders in the upper levels of government, we're tipping our hat in the direction of Michael Vigil. We met in person with both candidates, and this guy just oozes judicial demeanor. The Democrat has served on the state Court of Appeals for the last 13 years as a level-headed jurist. He says he feels good about serving another 10 years on the state's high court. He's knowledgeable about the law and seems to respect people more than corporations. Vigil says the Supreme Court is "the last chance to do the right thing." In the face of toe shots to civil liberties and compassion, he seems like a good goalie.
Court of Appeals: Julie Vargas
The Court of Appeals does some heavy lifting and these judges tend to stay on the job for a long time. The choice here is between two seemingly competent lawyers. One, Steve French, a Republican, has lots of criminal justice work under his belt. The other, Julie Vargas, a Democrat, has a background in real estate, business and corporate law. The 10-member court has two women at present. Give gender balance a chance and give her a shot.
Want more judge details? Get reports on the judges who are up for retention by visting the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission at nmjpec.org. Four local judges got good marks.
Constitutional Amendment: YES
We don't believe people should remain jailed on most charges simply because they don't have money to pay bond. Voting "yes" would bar judges from holding nondangerous people in jail solely because they can't afford to get out. It also would allow judges to deny bail to defendants who are proven dangerous.
Statewide Bonds: YES
Officials estimate that over a 10-year period, these bonds would increase the average annual property tax bill by approximately $9.34 per $100,000 of asset value. A is for senior facilities. B is for schools and libraries, though none in Santa Fe County. C is for higher education, including the local community and New Mexico School for the Deaf. D is for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.
County Bonds: YES
Officials estimated the impact on property taxes, based on projected property values, would be a $10 yearly increase on a home valued at $200,000. Again, it's five separate questions on the ballot: 1) is for roads, 2) is for water, 3) is for fire and police, 4) is for open space and trails and 5) is for community health facilities.