With the Nov. 7 Election Day just around the corner, local voters face a packed ballot.
Santa Fe city residents will fill half the seats on the City Council, elect a new municipal judge, weigh a 3% excise tax on high-end home sales and decide on amendments to the city charter. Plus, one seat on the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education is up for grabs, along with a seat on the Santa Fe Community College Board. Voters will also weigh tax questions to benefit entities.
As of press time, the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office reports 8,832 people have cast ballots, including 6,414 in-person and 2,418 mailed ballots that have been returned. Voters may take advantage of early in-person voting on weekdays from 11 am to 7 pm through Friday, Nov. 3; and from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, Nov. 4. Polling places are open from 7am to 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
For locations, visit santafecountynm.gov/clerk/elections
See all SFR’s election coverage at sfreporter.com/elections
Read on for a summary of candidates’ backgrounds and platforms (appearing in the same order as their names appear on the ballot), as well as details about those long columns of questions.
Geno Zamora: Zamora has a long background in government, including as chief counsel under former Gov. Bill Richardson and as former Santa Fe city attorney. His campaign talking points include promises to expand alternative response units; recruit high-wage employers and address housing affordability, among other ideas.
Katherine T Rivera: Rivera lives on the same street she grew up on near Rosario Hill. She spent 33 years in operations and product management before returning to Santa Fe and launching her bid for City Council. If elected, she plans to focus on new infrastructure ideas such as visible medians at night; to minimize encampments; and to introduce stronger anti-graffiti efforts.
Brian Patrick Gutierrez: This election is the second council bid for Gutierrez, owner of a scrap metal recycling buy back center and a former member of the city’s Planning Commission. He says some of the biggest issues Santa Fe faces are open drug use; water resources; infrastructure; and financial responsibility in government. He also wants to restore the obelisk on the Plaza.
Alma Castro: Before taking over as Café Castro’s owner, the Santa Fe native worked as a labor organizer and mariachi instructor in Chicago. Castro recommends investing more heavily in alternative response units; developing housing-first models of wraparound services for those experiencing homelessness; working to create a new water treatment plant and expanding solar programs.Note: This is the only race in which voters may choose to rank candidates under a 2018 change to balloting. The voting system requires the winning candidate in fields of three or more to receive 50% plus one vote of the total number of ballots cast. If no candidate surpasses that threshold in the first round, the candidate who received the lowest number of first-place rankings is eliminated and voters who cast first-place ballots for that candidate have their votes counted instead for their second choices. The runoff rounds continue until a candidate reaches the 50%-plus-one mark.
Phillip Allen Lucero: Bike activist and Planning Commissioner Lucero works as a climate educator. In his first campaign for elected office, he says he will work to expand the city’s bikeability; create more services for substance abuse and mental health treatment; and support affordable housing.
Michael J Garcia: Garcia was elected to the seat in 2019 and serves on the Quality of Life Committee and the Public Works and Utilities Committee. If elected for a second term, he says he will work to create more youth services and opportunities; promote transparency in government; and expand affordable housing in the city.
Louis A Carlos: A former city police officer who also briefly served as chief in Española and a current private investigator, Carlos ran for Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education in 2013 but this is his first attempt for City Council. His platform includes what he calls an “aggressive approach to criminal activity”; fiscal responsibility and accountability in government; and a focus on finding solutions to the city’s growing unhoused population.
Pilar F H Faulkner: Faulkner owns her own government relations consultant firm, where she has served clients including Rodeo de Santa Fe and advocates for public banking. She’s a member of the city Planning Commission. If elected, she wants to focus on increasing the amount of affordable housing in the city; equalizing access to resources for the Southside; and creating more youth services.
Joel M Nava: Nava currently works in security at the New Mexico State Capitol building and coaches youth sports. His campaign for his first attempt at public office includes proposals to create more youth services; ensure accountability in government; and curb crime.
Jamie Alexandra Cassutt: Incumbent Cassutt is a single mom with a master’s degree in public health and an interest in land-use policy. She was one of two councilors to propose a 3% excise tax to support affordable housing also on the ballot. If reelected, Cassutt hopes to expand affordable housing opportunities; to invest in sustainability and educational programs for about the topic; and to improve parks and unsafe roadways.
Chad Chittum: A familiar face in the courthouse since 2016, Chittum started out as the city prosecutor before he became the staff attorney for the court in 2019 and the pro tem judge in 2021. During his time as municipal judge, he plans to establish a targeted court for people between the ages of 18 and 25; certify the court’s DWI drug program and more.
High-End Home Excise Tax
Sometimes dubbed “the mansion tax,” this proposed amendment to the city charter would impose a 3% fee on the portion of any home purchase within the city limits that exceeds $1 million. Revenue would support the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. For example, a home priced at $1.2 million would require the buyer to pay $6,000, or 3% of the $200,000 that surpasses the million-dollar threshold.
Political action committees have lined up for and against the measure. Advocates predict the tax could generate $4.5 million per year based on housing sales data, while detractors have described the tax as “divisive” and questioned how money generated would be spent. The pro-tax PAC United for Affordable Housing has raised over $67,000, while anti-tax PAC the Santa Fe Housing Opportunity Partnership reports $50,000 as of Oct. 10 campaign finance reports filed with the city.
Percentage of Voters for Petitions
The city charter spells out how officials determine the required number of signatures for direct democracy petitions for referenda, initiative and recall using the number of voters who cast ballots for mayor in the last election. This ballot question asks whether, instead, the city should count any voter who cast a ballot in the last election that included the office of mayor—a change that would count, for example, voters who chose city councilors in their districts but didn’t pick a candidate for mayor.
Reducing Signature Requirements for Voter Initiative and Referenda
This topic will appear as two separate questions on this election season’s ballot. As recommended by the Charter Review Commission, both would reduce the number of signatures for voter initiatives, or the proposal of new laws, and referenda, or the removal of laws already in place, from 33.3% of voters who participated in the latest mayor’s race to 15%. Las Cruces and Albuquerque have similar requirements.
Charter Review Commission Resources
Every 10 years, the city appoints a Charter Review Commission to consider changes to the city’s charter, or local constitution. The most recent commission raised concerns about resources the city provided for the job. As a result, the commission recommended the city add language into the charter to ensure there was a budget and staff “adequate for its functions.”
SANTA FE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION
Carmen Gonzales: Gonzales, a lifelong educator who has taught in elementary school classrooms in Albuquerque and college lectures at New Mexico State University, is running unopposed for re-election, with a campaign focusing on finding solutions to declining enrollment in the district and furthering career and technical education within the public schools.
Patricia Ann Vigil-Stockton: CFO of her family business and a former administrator for Calvary Chapel Christian Academy, Vigil-Stockton says if elected, she aims to improve student outcomes through a higher level of parental involvement in the district and an evaluation system to hold students back a grade if they are not academically proficient. She has been endorsed in the nonpartisan race by the Republican Party of Santa Fe County.
John T McKenna: McKenna spent 12 years teaching at Catholic high schools in his home state of Massachusetts before he moved to New Mexico in 1997. He taught at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque for two years and spent another two years substitute teaching at SFPS. McKenna, now a Cerrillos saddlemaker, hopes to make improvements in the school district’s budget if elected. He cites his experience working with Catholic schools he says were run “on a shoestring budget” but boasted high graduation rates.
Sarah Boses: Incumbent Boses is an oncology nurse who says she has applied her medical background to promote a “mentally, physically and emotionally” healthier learning space in the district since her 2019 election. This year, her focus is on boosting the district’s “reimagining process” created to address declining enrollment, and she hopes to work on keeping students engaged in the public school system from “pre-K to graduation,” chiefly through improving the district’s middle schools.
Roman “Tiger” Abeyta: Abeyta is unopposed for re-election after being appointed to the board in July of last year. The Capital High graduate and former Santa Fe city councilor who works as executive director of the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust says he wants to involve more community members in the schools, noting strides the district has made with other organizations, such as its recent partnership with Apple Creative to promote digital literacy; digital equity; and coding and creativity.
Tax, Levy and Lease
The school district’s proposed tax, levy and lease purchase would continue to levy a property tax of $1.50 per each $1,000 of taxable property each year from 2024-2029 for the purpose of acquiring up to $55 million worth of technology equipment including network devices, data storage, and digital communications equipment; plus for training and technical support.
Schools Improvement Act Tax
Santa Fe Public Schools has imposed a property tax under this state law for a decade, and keeping it in place will allow the district to use tax revenue over the next six years to pay for repairs, maintenance, playgrounds, fields, landscaping and custodial contracts at all the district’s schools. The tax requires property owners to pay based on the value of their home and business properties—$2 per each $1,000 of net taxable value each year, the same rate they’re paying now.
SANTA FE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Lina S Germann: A science educator who founded STEM Santa Fe seven years ago, Germann tells SFR she wants to leverage her experience as a teacher into service on the board. Germann has hosted several math and science-oriented programs with STEM Santa Fe at the college, and she wants to focus on three major categories on the college board: expanding STEM education, postsecondary opportunities and making SFCC a “hub for the community.”
Lorenzo Dominguez : A communications professional who moved to Cerrillos two years ago, Dominguez gained experience in local education by serving on the board at Turquoise Trail Charter School, where he says he had a part in reviving the school’s parent-teacher organization and increasing community engagement through “consistent communication with families.” He says he hopes to support the needs of students, staff and faculty by improving internal communications.
General Obligation Bond
A vote to allow the Santa Fe Community College to bond for $23 million will allow the school to embark on renovation and maintenance such as stucco repairs for some of its spaces, as well as technology upgrades for classrooms, workshops, laboratories and remote learning identified in its 2021 master plan. The amount of the college’s debt service won’t change from current levels if the bonds are issued, and property owners will see a slight decrease in property tax mill rates from 3.501 this year to 3.470. The school’s last bond issue in 2017 was for $17 million.