"When I first began with RCLC, much of the leadership said the direction, basically, had gone awry," she tells SFR. "[It was] set up, essentially, to have an open relationship with Los Alamos National Lab and to understand what was going on there in order to inform their communities of opportunities with environmental cleanup, economic development and broader regional planning."
The first thing anyone is likely to hear about the Democratic primary in House District 46 is the controversy.
Just Tuesday, the woman who came forward accusing current state Rep. Carl Trujillo of sexual harassment and unwanted touching made her allegations formal, requesting the Legislature investigate him. Tuesday evening, the Legislative Council Service announced it will do just that.
Laura Bonar says Trujillo stopped working with her in 2014 after she rebuffed him. Three women who worked with her in the Legislature have said she told them about the incidents then, and Rep. Deborah Armstrong says she heard similar allegations from two other women. Trujillo denies the claims and blames his opponent for their timing. As of press time, he insists he’ll stay in the race.
Or perhaps it’s the string of headlines from late this winter, as challenger Andrea Romero’s role as executive director for the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities came under scrutiny after she used organization money to pay for pricey drinks and ball games while hobnobbing with officials in Washington, DC, and here in Santa Fe. Romero and the coalition backed away from each other and she no longer leads it. She, too, says the allegations were politically motivated and adds she’s reimbursed the group for spending that wasn’t allowed.
One could be pardoned for being tempted to stay home and not vote in the primary. But the reality is that whomever voters choose in the Democratic party contest on June 5 will likely be the representative. There’s no Republican in the general election.
Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find a pair of candidates with qualifications for the post.
Romero is a Santa Fe native and Stanford grad who says she wanted to come home after college, but the recession had other plans. She landed with the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC, and later with a non-governmental organization in Mozambique. She found her way back to New Mexico for the LANL work, and now is CEO of MIX Santa Fe. She co-founded an ostrich farm, which she bills as a sustainable source of red meat.
Romero describes her time with the regional coalition as a lesson in collaboration and reviving a group that needed focus.
She’s attracted broad support from the Pueblo leaders in her district. They’ve flocked to her instead of Trujillo, who’s clashed with them over water rights and road access. She says her family, however, is party to the Aamodt water rights case and hopes voters see in her a person willing to talk.
Trujillo, the incumbent, has staked his reputation on the work that drove some Native support to Romero.
“I have taken the time to understand the Aamodt settlement agreement inside and out, and the roadway issues inside and out. I’ve held … 30-40 town hall meetings since I’ve been elected. … It’s my obligation as a state representative to inform the constituency what it actually meant for them and their families,” he tells SFR. He’s gone to the Office of the State Engineer on behalf of, he says, some 500 people who don’t live on Pueblos to defend their right to pump water from the Nambé, Pojoaque and Tesuque Basin.
“I was fighting for a system that would preserve a community that would look like it did when I grew up, and for people to continue to be able to use farmlands, seeing people able to water fruit trees and small gardens,” he says.
A materials scientist at LANL, Trujillo has taken joy into digging into issues that require an in-depth look.
Trujillo insists there is much in motion when it comes to the sexual misconduct allegations against him and stands by his denials. For her part, Romero says she has never talked to the woman who’s made the claim.