Pop Quiz: 2024 Primary Election

The former and current district attorneys compete for the seat—we find out what they know

The First Judicial District Attorney prosecutes cases in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. In the primary Democrat race, incumbent Mary Carmack-Altwies hopes for a second term as she faces her predecessor Marco Serna. The two worked together during Serna’s time heading the office.

Per SFR’s ground rules, the candidates agree to not use any sources besides their own knowledge to answer the quiz questions. SFR records the conversations and reports the answers verbatim. Early voting in the June election began May 7. Find voting locations and additional information at

First Judicial District Attorney questions:

  1. How much does it cost to file a restraining order or a name change?
  2. According to an early 2024 study from the University of New Mexico, how many DWI convictions were there in Santa Fe County in 2022?
  3. What percentage of those were repeat offenders?
  4. Which New Mexico statute prevented charging Rust star Alec Baldwin for the injury director Joel Souza sustained in the Oct. 21, 2021 shooting that killed Halyna Hutchins?
  5. Explain the constitutional concern that has been raised regarding the creation of a rebuttable presumption against pretrial detention.

First Judicial District Attorney answers:

  1. $132.
  2. The study reports a total of 212 DWI convictions in Santa Fe County for 2022.
  3. Fifty-six people received a repeat DWI conviction—roughly 46% of all convictions that year.
  4. NM Stat § 30-3-5 defines aggravated battery as “the unlawful touching or application of force to the person of another with intent to injure that person or another,” meaning there had to be intent on Baldwin’s part to receive that charge.
  5. Per a committee report, the Attorney General’s Office, the Administrative Office of the Courts and others have said taking such action could violate Article 2, Section 13 of the state constitution, which requires a prosecutor to prove “by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.” The New Mexico Legislature has unsuccessfully taken up the issue multiple times. The state Supreme Court issued revised pretrial detention rules on May 8, after these interviews were conducted.

Mary Carmack-Altwies, 46 (60/100)

Carmack-Altwies took over the First Judicial DA’s Office in January 2021. Her priorities for another term include working with the Children, Youth and Families Department and schools to identify at-risk children and offer early intervention services and continuing to focus on DWI convictions, a rate she says has “soared” in recent years.


  1. A restraining order is free. A name change—the last time—well actually, when I did it, it was $120, but that was down in Albuquerque and it was more than 10 years ago. (10/20)
  2. I don’t know the exact number, but I can tell you that that study—because I know which one you’re talking about—included municipal cases and cases that were not subject to my DWI policy. And so we wouldn’t have studied those. SFR: Do you want to give a ballpark estimate? Convictions I would say in 2022, there were around between 200 to 250, I believe. It’s actually a little more than that: Between 250 and 300. (10/20)
  3. Again, I don’t know. If it’s the study I’m thinking of, I don’t recall that that was even a part of it. But again, I would wonder about that metric because we studied DWI misdemeanors, not felonies. I know there was a 100% conviction rate on our felony cases. (0/20)
  4. Well, it would have been the aggravated battery and that requires specific intent, whereas our involuntary manslaughter statute does not require intent. It’s more based on a negligence standard, but aggravated battery statute does require specific intent so it wasn’t covered under an accidental or negligent or reckless standard. (20/20)
  5. Oh, sure. It’s what’s called burden shifting. And so when you have a rebuttable presumption, the words in themselves implies that the defendant is required to rebut, meaning they are required to give evidence to show that they can be released safely. So it’s against the presumption of innocence. (20/20)

Marco Serna, 41 (30/100)

Serna, who previously served one term as district attorney from 2016 to 2020, looks to take back the seat from Carmack-Altwies. Prior to his newest bid for office, Serna unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020. The former DA cites issues with DWI prosecutions as a primary reason for his candidacy.


  1. The typical cost of filing is right around $40, so I’m willing to guess it’s right around $40 approximately. (0/20)
  2. 2022 convictions—I’m going to estimate approximately 180. (15/20)
  3. I’ll say 20%. (0/20)
  4. I know that this is the statute that was originally charged that indicated that the charge was improper having to do with the firearm enhancement, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. (10/20)
  5. So this, I believe, goes back to the constitutional amendment that passed right around my first campaign or prior to doing essentially away with bonds and releasing people to their own recognizance. In the event that there were dangerousness concerns or fight and or flight risks, a rule 5409 was created for preventative detention. (5/20)
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