New Mexico's primary election is right around the corner on June 2, though many residents have already received their ballots by mail at the urging of election and health officials. SFR rounded up the candidates running for state House District 45 to uphold our tradition of quizzing them about their knowledge about New Mexico and the seat they hope to fill now that longtime officeholder Rep. Jim Trujillo is retiring.
Five of the six candidates for the seat are Democrats, which means they will be going up against each other in this primary to compete for a space on the ballot in November. Only registered Democrats can cast a vote. We've also included Helen Milenski, a Libertarian and the only non-Democrat of the lot here, who is running unopposed. No Republicans qualified for the ballot in this race. Candidate Yolanda Louise Sena, a Democrat, did not respond to repeated attempts to reach her.
SFR asked candidates to rely only on their own knowledge to answer our trivia questions, without turning to their phones, computers, or companions for help. Here's how they fared:
- What percent of the state budget comes from oil and gas, and name some uses of that money?
- What was the first executive order signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham?
- Name at least one project located in your district that received state capital outlay funding in the last legislative session.
- How many sovereign Pueblo nations are located in New Mexico, and can you name them all?
- 39% in 2020. Almost half goes to public education. Revenues also go to the general fund for state infrastructure, public safety are other expenses.
- The governor’s first executive order was titled, “Directive to the State Public Education Department to immediately take the steps necessary to begin transitioning away from use of the standardized test termed the “partnership for assessment of readiness for college and careers” (“PAARC”) and to work with stakeholders to identify and implement a more effective method for assessing school performance.” Signed January 3, 2019.
- Examples include the Southside Santa Fe Teen Center, $3,910,000; Department of State Police facility $9,000,000; Santa Fe Recovery Center Facility Expansion $2,090,600. The Mary Esther Gonzales Community Center and Santa Fe Community College infrastructure improvements were funded via general obligation bond.
- There are 19 sovereign Pueblo nations in New Mexico. These are the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zuni and Zia. Three Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation are sovereign nations also located in New Mexico, but they are not Pueblos.
Patrick ‘Pat’ Varela
Patrick 'Pat' Varela is currently serving his second term as Santa Fe County treasurer and can't seek reelection due to term limits. He has served two terms as the president of the NM Association of Counties Treasurers Affiliate, a role that led him to help write various state legislation related to finance.
- 20%, I believe it was a 7.65 or 7.5 recurring budget. So that goes into the general fund and is reappropriated into various entities such as courts, human services, department of health and so on.
- I’m not sure.
- Let me think about that… to be honest I didn’t really look at the capital outlay projects in the area. I know in the past some has gone to the Santa Fe Boys and Girls Club, but I know that as a Santa Fe delegation they all choose projects that they can all put their money towards.
- There’s eight northern and there’s, I believe, 12. So you’ve got Pojoaque, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, um, Ohkay Owingeh, Taos, Santa Domingo, Santa Clara, then you’ve got the Navajo Nation, You’ve got the Zuni Nation, Zia, the Jicarilla, the Mescalero… let’s see there’s um… I’m trying to think of the ones in the south… Isleta, that’s all I can name right now off of the top of my head.
Carmichael A Dominguez
Carmichael A Dominguez formerly served as a Santa Fe City Councilor for three terms and as a Santa Fe School Board member for a term. He is a retired cartographer with the state Department of Transportation.
- Um, the percentage of the state’s budget that comes from oil and gas is… 30%. That money is used for education.
- I do not know.
- So the teen center at Zona del Sol is one.
- Oh you want me to name them too! I wanna try to know if I want to do this geographically, alphabetically… 20 or 22 I believe. I say that because 20 came to mind but I think that’s not enough. Okay there’s Sky City [another name for Acoma], there’s Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, um… Sandia, San Felipe, um… oh god. Did I say Laguna, I said Laguna already I think. Did I say Nambe? Then there’s Okhay Owingeh, Picuris, Santa Ana, San Ildefonso, Santa Domingo, Santa Clara, Taos, oh shoot I’m forgetting Tesuque it’s right there next to us! So Tesuque… Um…Zuni, Zia…I don’t know, is the Navajo Nation considered?… There’s Jicarilla, Mescalero…I think I’m missing one, I cannot think…ah, I can’t think of the last one, sorry.
Lisa Dawn Martinez
This is the first time Lisa Dawn Martinez has run for office. She is trained as an architect and is currently a designer and a general contractor. She was formerly the city's Land Use director and has been endorsed by Trujillo.
- 60%, and oil and gas revenues are used across the budget for capital outlay, for state expenses across the board so that would cover everything from state employee salaries to leases by the state and general expenditures carried by the state of New Mexico. … Actually I think my answer was wrong. I remember reading something the other day and if I could change my answer on the percentage of the state budget for the oil and gas, instead of the 60% that I originally said I would like to change that to 40%.
- I believe the first order had to do with early childhood education programs.
- I believe that there was capital outlay funding provided for a senior care facility here in Santa Fe. The exact name of that facility is not coming to me but it may have been the Mary Esther Gonzales Community Center.
- Alright let me think if I can name all of them, I’ll do my best here. Starting up north in northern New Mexico, we have Taos, we have Nambe, Pojoaque, Santa Clara, Santa Domingo, Tesuque, we have Jemez, Cochiti, also up north Okhay Owingeh, Sandia, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Zuni, Acoma, Picuris, Isleta, okay how many do I have here? 17… oh there’s also Zia Pueblo… those are the ones that come to mind so I’m going to say there’s 18.
Linda Michelle Serrato
Linda Michelle Serrato has also never run for office before, but she worked in several positions for US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and has a career for herself as a consultant in the political realm. Recent projects include work with a national group to increase Latino outreach in 2020, and to increase grant funding for New Mexico nonprofits.
- 45%. Education is the primary one that I always go back to and think about.
- I’m trying to remember. It was a funding one, I can’t remember. It takes me back to 2018 but I can’t remember.
- So within the district there have not been a huge number of capital outlay funds that are directed in here. But a number of ones if I remember correctly went to the community college which is just outside our district but that one’s nearby. And there was another if I remember right that was for the Genoveva Community Center again that’s right on the border of the district so I think that one is probably the closer one but that one happened as well.
- 17 and then the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache are in New Mexico, and then you have Cochiti, Zuni, Acoma, Zia, Taos, Santa Domingo… is it okay if I write these down? It’ll help me track what I’m saying. Is that okay with the rules? There’s 17 and I’ve already lost track of what I said so I just want to make sure I can keep track. So Acoma, Zia, Jicarilla Apache but that’s a nation it’s not a Pueblo, and then the Navajo Nation, also not a Pueblo but also included. Cochiti, Santo Domingo, Laguna… um… Pojoaque, and across from Pojoaque is… Tesuque… This is hard… When I do this I usually have my cheat sheets with me… Santa Clara?… Isleta… I’ll stop there.
Helen M Milenski
Helen M Milenski ran for county councilor in Los Alamos County in the last election cycle. She is a technician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in material science research.
- Okay, my understanding is a large percentage of our economy is now based on oil and gas. The exact percentage I don’t know, but I do know it goes for a variety of different things, such as education, and… yes. So there’s the free college tuition initiative that the governor was sponsoring, and my understanding was that most of that was going to be funded out of the oil and gas industry, that’s one specific example of the use of the income that we get out of the oil and gas industry.
- I don’t know.
- I know that there is, um, funding from the state capital and I believe it’s in the state outlay budget that is going for the maintenance and upkeep of the Rail Runner that runs through my district.
- There are, oof, that’s a good one. I’m thinking there’s 13, Pueblos, actually there’s more than 13. Not quite 20, it’s less than twenty. I think it was 19 Pueblos, and I could take a stab I know most of the Northern Pueblos such as San Ildefonso, Jemez Pueblo, Santa Clara, Pojoaque, the Nambe Pueblo, Zia, Isleta, Bernalillo, oh yes and the Navajo Nation is not one of the nineteen pueblos but that area over there would constitute also the Acoma Pueblo, and I don’t believe the Jicarilla Apache are constituted as a Pueblo but I’m not certain. I know the Pueblos of Northern New Mexico are very instrumental in working with the state government and like I said the Northern Pueblos are the ones I’m most familiar with.